San Francisco 49ers

49ers QB Garoppolo missed targets in season opener, and it showed in his passer rating

Garoppolo: ‘It feels good to be back’

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo talks about how it feels to be back under center for his team.
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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo talks about how it feels to be back under center for his team.

Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t had any setbacks with his surgically repaired left knee, but he’s still getting treatment.

“Soft tissue work, getting flushed and everything like that,” the 49ers quarterback said when asked about his maintenance after playing his first full game since tearing his ACL. “It’s not too bad, actually. The flight (afterward) probably did more damage than the actual game.”

Garoppolo’s game, like his knee, is still not all the way back. And San Francisco hopes his production returns to pre-injury form to make a playoff run because the defense won’t supply 14 points via interception returns each week, as it did in the 31-17 season-opening victory over Tampa Bay.

That process continues this week as the team practices in Youngstown, Ohio, for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals, who limited the Seattle Seahawks to 232 yards in their one-point loss. Widely picked to be an AFC cellar dweller, first-year coach Zac Taylor’s team played far better than many expected in a tough environment on the road.

Garoppolo threw a pick-six in the second quarter at Tampa Bay after dealing with questions about interceptions throughout August. He was also inaccurate, failing to connect with George Kittle, Marquise Goodwin and Kendrick Bourne, who were open on three throws that could have gone for big gains.

“Those are physical mistakes. There’s nothing mental really about it,” Garoppolo said. “I don’t know. Little things. You try and break it down as much as you can. Whether it’s a defender in his face, the pocket, whatever it is. You just got to make those throws. We try to push ourselves, we try to be perfect, you try to make mistakes, but you try to eliminate them.”

The battle for Garoppolo is not to press, because things aren’t coming as easily as they did in 2017. He can fall back on the fact the 49ers are 1-0 under Kyle Shanahan for the first time since he became coach. Garoppolo completed 18 of 27 passes (67 percent) for 166 yards and a touchdown. His 80.2 passer rating was the second worst of his 11 career starts to the 2018 opener, when he tossed three interceptions against the Vikings.

Garoppolo was asked Wednesday about being exasperated about things not coming as easily as when he joined the team.

“It’s not frustrating. I know what the process is,” he said. “You try to perform your best, you try to be perfect every single week. And I think, as a team, that’s what we always try to do. It’s real football, so you’re never going to be perfect. You shoot for that, but it’s a way to keep pushing yourself.”

Garoppolo didn’t get much help from his supporting cast. The 49ers had three touchdowns negated by penalties. Rookie receiver Deebo Samuel had two costly mistakes. He lost a fumble before halftime when San Francisco was in field-goal range and a false start on a play in which Shanahan said he would have been open for a sizable gain.

“I didn’t think we were very consistent,” Shanahan said. “I thought we missed too many opportunities, and I think we’ll be better ... next week.”

The good news is Garoppolo could be playing opposite a defense that’s much improved over last season. He didn’t have much time to reflect on his mistakes on the sideline because the 49ers had three interceptions against the Buccaneers after having two all of last year.

“It’s a good problem to have, for sure. We try to get over there and look at the pictures as quickly as we can with Shane and the rest of the QBs,” Garoppolo said, referring to quarterbacks coach Shane Day. “But when the defense is getting turnovers like that, though, you’re never going to be upset about that.”

It’s clear the 49ers are banking on their defense to perform like it did in Tampa, based on what Garoppolo said about his focus this week as the team prepares for Cincinnati.

“Complementing the defense,” he said. “When they make a big play, how do we answer that up and everything once we get the ball.”

Perhaps that won’t be the answer when, and if, Garoppolo gets all the way back.