It’s true that Jimmy Garoppolo did not exactly target Jerry Rice and John Taylor with the game on the line on Sunday, but here’s the thing: Backups Kendrick Bourne and Trent Taylor made a reasonable impression on the 49ers’ famous duo.
It was Garoppolo who looked like a second player.
The 49ers quarterback had two bad throws on his last four attempts, and better accuracy on both could have changed the result in a 24-20 season-opening loss to the Cardinals.
Only at first down from Arizona’s 21-yard line with 1:21 left, Garoppolo threw Bourne, who was open in the final zone after freezing both All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Chris Banjo with a sweet trunk step at 1
“This is on Jimmy Garoppolo,” Fox analyst Chris Spielman said during the repeat, “because this is such a beautiful route by Kendrick Bourne.”
Three snaps later, at fourth-and-5, Garoppolo’s sad and off-target sideline throw against Taylor, which was briefly open, meant a first drop that turned into a game-sealing interruption by cornerback Byron Murphy Jr.
“I think the route is fine,” Spielman said. “I think the passport is bad. I mean, the pass is bad because it’s late and it’s behind. ”
After Sunday’s match, head coach Kyle Shanahan remarked without asking that Garoppolo’s passport was behind Taylor when asked about the poor production from his wide receivers. And he acknowledged that Garoppolo had to “play better”, even though he beat his QB along with the entire offense.
However, Shanahan took some pain Monday to protect Garoppolo from criticism when asked if the two throws were simply “bad passes.” Shanahan began by saying that Bourne should have jumped into the end zone to make contact and pull a flag on Peterson, who had his back to the ball.
“It would have been nice, I think, if Bourne had done something about it,” Shanahan said. “I think we would have had (pass interference). So it’s something he wants to learn from it because he (beat) him. ”
And Shanahan said Taylor adjusted his route, disrupting the rhythm of Garoppolo’s last pass.
“Their timing was a bit of it,” Shanahan said. “He made a little extra move at the top, and Jimmy just hesitated a bit and tried to recover with his arm and left it a little behind. We just need to get better at throwing and catching. ”
Still, it was more about throwing than catching on both passes. So what did Garoppolo do wrong?
“The ball was thrown a little off,” Shanahan said. “Balls are thrown all the time. You do not always beat guys perfectly in steps. You knock a ball over and it does not make it perfect, so a receiver has to make a game and they did not. There is no more to it. It’s pretty simple. He just threw a hair at them both. The guys still had chances, but it would have been a really good game if they did. ”
Shanahan is among a host of offensive thoughts that can be harsh on their QBs. On Monday, for example, Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians publicly appeared to be asking for Tom Brady when he suggested that the QB with six Super Bowl rings was not ready for prime time in a 34-23 loss to the Saints Sunday.
“He looked like Tom Brady in practice all the time, so it’s a little unusual to see that in a ball game,” Arians said. “Because they did not do things that we were not ready for.”
Of course, Garoppolo does not have Brady’s resume. And he could need more of a tailgate than a blister after an offseason that was heavy on his late-game Super Bowl performance.
Garoppolo’s 2020 season has begun as his 2019 season ended: He overturned a lasting, game-winning touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders in Super Bowl LIFE before throwing Bourne on Sunday.
As with the Super Bowl, Garoppolo’s finish obscured bright spots.
He completed 18 of 29 passes for 254 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions before his last four attempts, good for a 113.3 pass rating. It looks more impressive considering he played without two top wideouts – Deebo Samuel and rookie first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk – and All-Pro tight-end George Kittle suffered a sprained knee in the second quarter and had a zero-catch second half.
In addition, Garoppolo, who was dropped for three sacks, occasionally dealt pressure in the middle. The 49ers interior offensive line included third-string center Hroniss Grasu and right-back Daniel Brunskill, who was about to make his third career start on the post.
However, Shanahan largely complimented the offense on Monday after the 49ers cleared 10 points in the final 55 minutes and went 2-for-13 on the third and fourth downturns of the game.
Shanahan was “pleased” with the execution of the offensive line, said the farce “did their job”, said Kittle did “hell with a job” in the second half and said starting pitcher Raheem Mostert had a “good game.”
That, of course, left Garoppolo, who fell short in the end.
And that meant the best thing Shanahan could do for him was offer protection, not praise.
Eric Branch covers the 49ers for The San Francisco Chronicle. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @Eric_Branch