TAMPA, Fla. — Jimmy Garoppolo’s first regular-season appearance since tearing his ACL in Week 3 of 2018 certainly wasn’t pretty. But the 49ers quarterback said it still feels good to get a win, as he did enough to lead San Francisco to a season-opening 31-17 victory over the Bucs.
“There were some ups and downs, obviously some things to learn from but it’s always good to start the season 1-0,” Garoppolo told reporters in his postgame interview.
Garoppolo completed 18 of his 27 passes for 166 yards, one touchdown and one interception that Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves returned for a touchdown. Garoppolo provided no excuses for that prominent mistake.
“Just a dumb decision, got to see the corner flat-footing out there and move on,” Garoppolo said. “To the field like that, the ball is in the air for a long time.”
Garoppolo also is aware that the defense helped the team get the victory by counteracting not only his pick-six, but also a fumble by rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel.
“This whole game is complementary football,” Garoppolo said. “Defense gets a turnover, what do we do with it? Them helping us and us helping them; special teams mixed in there. Everyone plays a role, so I think we did a good job of that today.”
The 49ers were penalty prone throughout the game, as they racked up 11 flags for 87 yards. Remarkably, three different 49ers touchdowns were taken off the board in the first half because of infractions.
“Yeah, it was tough,” Garoppolo said. “You hate to see those, all the penalties you want to wipe them away. I think we responded well. Get rid of the penalties for next week and move on.”
Garoppolo and the offense also may have to adjust to preparing without running back Tevin Coleman in the backfield. Coleman left the game due to an ankle injury and could miss several weeks. Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert shared the carries in the remainder of the game, and Garoppolo was impressed with their performances.
“It put a lot more pressure on the other guys and I think those guys stepped up,” Garoppolo sais. “Breida and Raheem, especially down the stretch started running real hard. Towards the end there when we needed a couple yards here and there or a clutch first down, those guys were getting it for us.”
But Garoppolo himself was tested in the running game as well, as he elusively scrambled away from a Bucs defender in the fourth quarter (on a play ended up being nullified by a 49ers holding penalty). That moment marked another significant step for Garoppolo as he overcomes the mental hurdles that exist when returning from a significant injury.
“Not really a flashback,” Garoppolo said, referring to the scrambling play where he tore his ACL last season. “I saw a lot of open space, I felt the guy coming from behind and kind of got caught in an awkward spot; didn't know whether to slide and I couldn't really get out of bounds so it is what it is.”
Regardless of the issues that challenged the 49ers, Garoppolo sees the game not only as a notch in the win column but also as a personal victory. It has been a while since he has made it through four full quarters with his teammates.
“It feels really good,” Garoppolo said. “It feels good to get back, it has been a while since I have been out here with the guys for a full game and it was fun out there today.”