After failing to complete four of his first six passes on the 49ers’ opening drive, it appeared as though the skittish play that plagued Jimmy Garoppolo’s preseason opener had traveled with him to Kansas City.
The next series, he directed a 78-yard drive, capped off by a pin-point touchdown throw to a stretched out Matt Breida.
Garoppolo completed 14 of his 20 pass attempts for 188 yards in the first half of his second and final preseason tuneup, leading San Francisco to a 27-17 win over the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium Saturday night.
“He definitely missed a couple early, which guys do… but you have to rebound from them,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It’s very tough in the preseason games to rebound from stuff because they’re taken out. Fortunately he knew he was playing the whole half and took advantage of it.”
On Monday, Garoppolo experienced his worst outing as an NFL quarterback, in his first live game action after tearing his ACL in Kansas City in Week 3 of last season.
Completing just one of his six passing attempts for zero yards and posting a 0.0 quarterback rating, Garoppolo looked uneasy in the pocket, throwing one interception and having two balls batted down at the line of scrimmage.
“All the hearsay and whatever noise that’s going to go on, you’ve got to ignore it,” Garoppolo said. “Just go play football. And I thought it was a good step coming back here to KC, where it all started.”
Before the game, Garoppolo said that he took a moment to visit the spot where it happened: the 10-yard line where he took an awkward step to cut back in-bounds, ultimately snapping his ACL.
“A lot has happened in the year since then, so I thought it’d be good to go back there and remember everything that I’ve gone through,” he said. “Once I did that, it was over with. Time to move on.”
In San Francisco’s first series of the night, Garoppolo underthrew his targets and panicked at the sight of pressure.
After getting all the way to Kansas City’s 30-yard line, largely thanks to San Francisco’s running attack, Shanahan opted to go for it on 4th-and-1 and put the ball in Garoppolo’s hand to make a play.
Attempting to get the ball to wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, Garoppolo had his pass swatted down at the line of scrimmage by Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones, and the 49ers turned the ball over on downs.
On the next drive, starting has his own 22-yard-line, Garoppolo orchestrated a seven-play march, completing all four of his attempted throws for 73 yards.
The biggest pass was to Brieda, who streaked down the left sideline uncovered as Garoppolo sent a high-arching pass into the back corner of the end zone.
Reaching full extension, Brieda hauled in the 20-yard completion to mark Garoppolo’s first touchdown pass of 2019.
“I wish I could have put it a little closer so he didn’t have to dive for it,” Garoppolo said, joking. “He made a tremendous catch on it.”
With his preseason back on track with seemingly one drive, Garoppolo was able to regain his rhythm. San Francisco’s ability to establish the running game helped.
With 44 yards on seven carries, it was once again Brieda, who showed up for Garoppolo. Along with his stellar yards-per-carry (6.28), the three-year veteran was even clocked in at just over 21 miles per hour as the second fastest player on the field only behind Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
By the end of the first half, the 49ers had generated 244 yards of total offense, as Garoppolo contributed with 188 through the air. Completing 70% of his passes (14-of-20), Garoppolo posted a 116.2 passer rating.
“That’s how football goes sometimes, especially in the preseason. Last week wasn’t nearly as bad as it looked,” Shanahan said. “Today everyone is on the same page a little bit better. Move the chains a couple of times, you just start getting into a rhythm and you start forgetting about things and start playing football.”
With one preseason game remaining, the 49ers don’t expect to play many of their starters as Saturday proved to be an ideal dress rehearsal for the team. And while walking away with their third-consecutive preseason win was nice, having Garoppolo back to his normal self was even better.
“I thought he did a good job today,” Shanahan said. “Hopefully he’ll get a good week of practice and we’ll see how this week goes.”