SANTA CLARA — During the late stages of the fourth quarter, and during the 10-minute overtime period of the San Francisco 49ers’ 27-24 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Jimmy Garoppolo threw a trio of passes that should have been intercepted.
Hitting Seattle defenders in the chest and hands, it appeared as though the Seahawks knew what passes were coming and where they would be thrown. That may not be too far from the truth.
According to a report from NFL insider Jim Trotter, several players on the Seahawks defense picked up on Garoppolo’s keys as the 49ers quarterback was tipping plays at the line of scrimmage. This came as news to Garoppolo on Wednesday, unaware that this was occuring.
“I did not see that,” Garoppolo said. “I think our coaches do a good job [of mixing things up] week in and week out … I didn’t see that report but we’ll have to work harder I guess.”
Garoppolo was far from his best on Monday, completing just 52% of his passes and finishing the game with a 66.2 passer rating — his second lowest this season.
And while Garoppolo didn’t get any help from his receiving corps, which dropped at least six catchable passes over the course of the game — one resulting in a second-quarter interception — the third-year 49er didn’t help himself either.
Per Trotter, Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner was able to pick up on Garoppolo’s pre-snap adjustments, listening to his calls at the line of scrimmage. This gave the Seattle linebacking unit a chance to jump routes and get to where the ball was being thrown before it even left Garoppolo’s hands.
“Because they run so many different things, it’s a game where you have to be disciplined and you just have to read your keys. It becomes kind of like simple football,” Wagner said. “Once we started reading keys, me and [LB] KJ [Wright] started hearing the calls and picked up on the checks [Garoppolo] was making, and it allowed us to break faster.”
On the 49ers’ final drive in the fourth quarter that led to a game-tying 47-yard field goal from rookie kicker Chase McLaughlin, Garoppolo threw a pair of passes that hit both Wagner and Wright in the hands.
Fortunately for San Francisco, both would-be interceptions were dropped, and the game headed to overtime.
In the extra period, Garoppolo completed just one of his four passes, including a ball that was tipped at the line of scrimmage and another drop from wide receiver Dante Pettis as a pair of Seattle defensive backs closed in on the pass before the ball got to his hands.
“What goes on in the quarterback’s mind is way beyond my paygrade,” 49ers right tackle Mike McGlinchey joked. “They had a really good game plan. We felt as though we had a good game plan. We had chances to execute.”
“I don’t know if they had any idea or not,” 49ers center Weston Richburg added. “We just have to continue doing what we’re doing.”
Moving forward, Garoppolo said that it will be on himself as well as the 49ers coaching staff to correct this issue if, in fact, he was giving away his reads, checks and keys on the field.
Considering that these two teams will play each other at least one more time this season — with potential playoff seeding at stake — San Francisco will have to clean up these tipping issues if they want a chance at winning the NFC West division for the first time since 2012.
– According to Shanahan, on Wednesday, starting left tackle Joe Staley underwent surgery to repair a broken finger suffered against Seattle.
Sunday’s start was Staley’s first game back after missing six games with a broken fibula suffered against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2.
While Staley was unavailable for comment, McGlinchey gave some insight on the 13-year veteran after speaking to him on Tuesday.
“I talked with him closely over the last couple of days and obviously it’s an unfortunate thing,” McGlinchey said. “He didn’t even realize that it happened and I think it was a finger that he had already had some issues with.”
According to McGlinchey, the finger was initially an afterthought until it “ballooned” up on Staley on Tuesday morning. An X-ray later revealed the finger was broken.
Rookie tackle Justin Skule is expected to step into Staley’s place as he did during the six games the 35-year-old missed earlier this season.
– Starting tight end George Kittle will miss another game as the 49ers take on the Cardinals on Sunday.
Kittle was injured on the first play of San Francisco’s game against Arizona on Halloween night. Taking a helmet to the knee, Kittle returned to the game only to leave once more in the fourth quarter.
Like Staley, Kittle was also unavailable for comment Tuesday but was walking without a noticeable limp before walking past his locker to avoid a media session.
– Other criticism being leveled at the 49ers after their first loss of the season was that of Kyle Shanahan’s game management with less than two minutes to play in overtime.
Shanahan called for three straight passes, including a pair of short, six-to-seven-yard throws and a deep fade to Deebo Samuel. Only 25 seconds came off the clock. Russell Wilson got the ball back with 1:25 to play, drove seattle 40 yards and set up the game-winning, 42-yard field goal.
“From the top to the bottom we didn’t want to play for a tie,” Richburg said. “We did what we did. I’m not a coach. We just do what we’re supposed to do. We obviously want to win the game.”
The perceived alternative for the 49ers would have been to run the ball on either first or second down to drain some of the time off of the clock in the event that they would be forced to give the ball back to Seattle.
“I look back at that and wish we had the clock moving,” Shanahan said. “We had incompletions and that took it over. I should have called a play that we didn’t have an incompletion on. That would have kept the clock going.”
“It’s tough. You have to trust the coaches,” Garoppolo said. “As a player you have to go out there and execute. Whatever they decide, we’ll back them 100 percent.”
“It’s hard to play for a tie,” he added. “I don’t know if I’ve ever done that before. I’m glad we went for the win.”