Santa Clara, CA – On Christmas Eve the 49ers fans got an early Christmas gift, a promising quarterback. Jimmy Garoppolo has been more than a quarterback trying to fit into an unknown system. Garoppolo spent the last two seasons apart of a winning organization with the New England Patriots. Today he proved to be the franchise quarterback of the future.
San Francisco’s 44-33 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars was astounding to say the least. A top ranked defense that highlights defensive end Calais Campbell, defensive tackle Malik Jackson, and cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J Bouye were completely outshined by the 49ers.
“My D-linemen were getting pressure and making guys cut back,” said linebacker Reuben Foster. “All of us played a big role in this game.”
With Garoppolo as the starting quarterback, the 49ers have gone 4-0. He finished the day 21-for-30 completions for 242 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. On opening drive Garoppolo led San Francisco with 10 plays for 79-yards before he rushed for the 1-yard touchdown making it a 7-0 game.
The 49ers extended their lead when Robbie Gould kicked a 27-yard field goal. Off to a fast start against a stout defense that hadn’t allowed a first-drive score all season. He took chances when he needed like going back-to-back with passes to both Louis Murphy and George Kittle (for 17 and 21 yards) setting up Gold’s field goal.
“It’s important. You don’t want to fall behind and let that puss rush get rolling on you,” Garoppolo said on fast start. “Jumping on them early, getting that first score especially and putting them in passing situations. It all played out pretty perfectly today. That’s how we want to play.”
Garoppolo continued to slice through the Jaguars defense. But not without help from the defense. A total of 3 interceptions which included a pick 6 were the highlights of the day. Dontae Johnson picked off Blake Bortles and rushed it back for a 50-yard touchdown. Bortles pass was intended for Keelan Cole, but Johnson was the open receiver in the right place.
“It was an under route,” said Johnson. “I just ran underneath and I was driving it anticipating a catch and tackle because he was running away from me. It was over thrown and I was very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. Once it was in my hands, I knew that I was in the end zone.”
Gold’s extra point was blocked, and Aaron Colvin recovered the ball and returned it for 58 yards for the safety. Jacksonville made it a 16-2 game scoring their first points of the game. Leonard Fournette rushed for a 1-yard touchdown to extend their lead 16-8. But it was San Francisco’ offense collapse late in the second that led to the Jaguars tying the game before halftime.
Bortles pushed his offense downfield, then threw a pass to Fournette that was deflected and landed in the hands of Jaelen Strong for the 5-yard touchdown. That play made it 16-16 game to end the half. By the third, Jacksonville extended their lead with a 45-yard field goal from Josh Lambo.
“When K’Waun made that play I feel like it got the momentum back in us and everyone fed off each other,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said.
Unfortunately, for the Jaguars they didn’t anticipate the 49ers defense playing so well. The second interception of the day came by way of K’Waun Williams. He intercepted Bortles and went 27 yards. Garoppolo found Kittle for the 8-yard touchdown and the 49ers went back on top with a 23-19 lead.
An unreal matchup, no one saw coming. Penalties late in the third carried over to the fourth with the Jaguars fighting themselves. That frustration and lack of confidence fueled the underdog, San Francisco showed no mercy in the fourth. Garoppolo and his offense took full advantage of Jacksonville’s mistakes.
“We have to do a better job with our composure, obviously, with the penalties,” said head coach Doug Marrone. “We have to give credit to San Francisco. They made plays, there’s no doubt about that, and we didn’t make plays. In the end, we had three turnovers that resulted in 21 points, which is difficult.”
Garoppolo connected with Trent Taylor for a 3-yard touchdown after multiple penalties by the Jaguars that pushed the 49ers into great field position. Another interception, this one by Ahkello Witherspoon that setup Carlos Hyde’s 6-yard rushing touchdown. After that Jacksonville made their comeback. They scored two touchdowns in a span of two minutes.
The Jaguars got a 1-yard touchdown from T. J. Yeldon and then got the two-point conversion making it a 37-27 game. Jacksonville recovered their own onside kick, Bortles made a short pass to Strong for 19 yards, scrambled for 11 yards then found J. O’Shaughnessy for an 11-yard touchdown. Lambo’s extra point was no good yet the Jaguars cut the lead 37-33.
Another onside kick but this time, the 49ers were ready. Two back-to-back penalties by Jacksonville moved San Francisco down the field with ease. Hyde rushed for 7 yards and Matt Brieda rushed for a 30-yard touchdown sealing the 49ers win. Brieda rushed for a career-high 74 yards including one touchdown on 11 carries.
San Francisco has won four consecutive games for the first time since 2013, when the team won six straight from Weeks 12-17. The 44 points were the most points scored on the Jaguars this season and the most since Sept 27, 2015 (51 at NE).