Jimmy Garoppolo made his first start with the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, having been acquired from the Patriots at the trade deadline. The 49ers have been patient while they allowed Garoppolo time to get up to speed with a new system, but he was forced into action last week when rookie C.J. Beathard was injured. Garoppolo promptly threw a touchdown on his second pass as a 49er.
That forced the 49ers’ hand, and Garoppolo became the starter against the Bears. He completed 70 percent of his passes, going 26 of 37 for 293 yards and an interception. While those numbers aren’t necessarily impressive, it was a strong outing for Garoppolo, who displayed an impressive command of the offense given how little time he has had to learn it. Early indications suggest he’s a perfect fit for what Coach Kyle Shanahan wants to do offensively.
Garoppolo is mobile enough to run the traditional Shanahan play-action game, with bootlegs incorporated off the outside zone running scheme. One of his first passes came on such a play.
Here, Garoppolo fakes the outside handoff to the right before rolling to his left on the bootleg. He quickly turns his body around and resets his feet to throw to the tight end on an underneath crossing route.
Shanahan also likes to hit in-breaking routes off play-action fakes. He’ll use shorter routes such as slants and digs as well as deeper routes such as overs and posts off play-action, which forces linebackers to bite on the run, leaving a gap behind them in the middle of the field.
On this play, the 49ers have receiver Marquise Goodwin run a quick in-breaking route on the back side of a play-action fake. However, a Bears linebacker manages to gain depth in his drop into coverage. Garoppolo spots this and adjusts the trajectory of his throw to find Goodwin over the middle for a first down.
While these are base concepts in Shanahan’s system, Garoppolo displayed not only a knowledge and understanding of the system, but the confidence to change the play at the line of scrimmage if he didn’t like a certain look.
The 49ers line up in base personnel (two backs, one tight end, two receivers). Garoppolo doesn’t like what he sees from the defense and stands up to call an audible. He checks the 49ers into a play-action pass, with the fullback releasing to the flat while the tight end runs an underneath crosser from the back side. The Bears pick up the fullback in the flat, but Garoppolo calmly and quickly works to the tight end and picks up a first down.
Those play-action passes are central to the Shanahan scheme, going back to the days of Mike Shanahan and the Denver Broncos’ Super Bowl-winning teams. But Kyle Shanahan’s offense has evolved from his father’s schemes in recent years. During his time with the Falcons, Shanahan liked to empty the backfield and motion running backs outside to spread out the defense and manipulate matchups. He hasn’t been able to do that as much this season, but Garoppolo had experience doing it in New England.
As Garoppolo directs running back Carlos Hyde to motion outside to the left, he reads the defense. The Bears have a linebacker follow Hyde outside, suggesting it’s man coverage. The defense is forced to show its true intentions, with a safety rotating down over the slot receiver. Garoppolo spots that matchup and finds his slot receiver on a slant route for a first down.
On his interception, Garoppolo was somewhat unfortunate.
Here, Garoppolo is looking to find his receiver on an in-breaking route from the right. His throw is slightly behind his target, but is catchable. The receiver actually makes a good adjustment to bring in the catch, but as he falls to the ground, Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller rips the ball away from the receiver and secures possession as he hits the ground.
The throw from Garoppolo certainly could have been better, and with more time to learn the intricate details of how his receivers like to run their routes, he likely will deliver a more accurate pass. But he was unfortunate to have that ball stripped away from the receiver in the process of falling to the ground.
One of Garoppolo’s best throws of the game came late in the third quarter.
Facing third and eight on the edge of field goal range, Garoppolo knows he needs a positive play to give his kicker a chance. The Bears run a stunt up front, which gets the better of the 49ers’ protection and allows a defender to rush freely up the middle. Garoppolo knows the hit is coming, but delivers the pass anyway. The ball is slightly higher than he’d like, but that happens when falling away from an impending hit. Most importantly, it finds his receiver over the middle in between two defenders. Not only does the throw put his team in field goal range, it picked up the first down and allowed them to continue the drive.
Overall, there were plenty of positives to take from Garoppolo’s first start with the 49ers. He appears to be an ideal fit for Kyle Shanahan’s offense, able to run the traditional aspects carried over from Mike Shanahan’s schemes as well as being capable of running the newer, more recent wrinkles. He was able to move the offense better than they have for large parts of the season and lead the 49ers to just their second win of the season. He should only improve as he learns more and more of the offense.
Read more on the NFL: