Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was along for the ride Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.
His major contributions to the 49ers’ win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game consisted of receiving the snap from center Ben Garland, turning and handing off to running back Raheem Mostert.
Bob Griese made a Hall-of-Fame career out of it. But that was a long, long time ago and football has changed dramatically.
That is why Garoppolo’s stat line looked so out of place for a 21st century NFL game played in perfect California weather. He took every snap in the 49ers’ 37-20 victory over the Packers and completed six of eight passing attempts for 77 yards.
And that’s all that was required from Garoppolo in order to advance the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs in Miami on Sunday, Feb. 2.
“I mean, we were running the hell out of the ball tonight,” Garoppolo said. “It made my life very easy back there. I think we had, like, eight pass attempts. A fun night.”
Garoppolo did just about everything that was asked of him. It’s just that not a whole lot was put on his shoulders, as Mostert rushed for 220 yards and four touchdowns. The 49ers had 285 yards rushing as a team, including Garoppolo three minus-1-yard kneel-downs at the end to run out the clock.
Garoppolo’s 104.7 passer rating was 20 points higher than what Joe Montana and Steve Young achieved in their first victories in NFC Championship Games.
Montana threw three interceptions in the 28-27 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Jan. 10, 1982, a game that will forever be known for his throw and Dwight Clark’s leaping catch. Montana was the Super Bowl MVP two weeks later.
And 25 years ago, Young completed just 13 of 39 pass attempts for 155 yards in a 38-28 win over the Cowboys that moved the 49ers into Super Bowl XXIX, where Young threw a record six touchdown passes to lead the 49ers to a blowout win over the San Diego Chargers in Miami.
If there were any questions about Garoppolo’s ability to put the team on his back, those answers seemingly came late in the season when the 49ers pulled out critical victories at New Orleans and Seattle.
If the 49ers would have lost either of those games, they would not have earned home-field advantage in the playoffs and their road to Miami would have gotten a lot more difficult. The 49ers felt at the time that playoffs began in December. Each game was crucial, as the 49ers aimed for a bye week in the playoffs and the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
Through it all, Garoppolo appeared to be unflappable.
“Jimmy has played in some pretty big games and anyone that’s around him in those game and talks to him and stuff it’s not much different in those game with him as a preseason game,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “He stays the same.”
Garoppolo threw for 349 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-46 win over New Orleans on Dec. 8. Three weeks later, he completed 18 of 22 pass attempts for 285 yards in a 26-21 win at Seattle. He finished the season with 3,878 passing yards, fourth-most for a single season in 49ers history.
“We’ve had a couple of late games this season that just felt like playoff games starting with Seattle here, Baltimore, New Orleans, all those games,” Garoppolo said as the 49ers entered the playoffs. “We’ve said it throughout the entire season, we think it’s going to help us going forward.”
Eight of the 49ers’ final nine games in the regular season were tight and taut, coming down to the closing seconds. But, then, the 49ers rolled to 17-point playoff victories over Minnesota and Green Bay to make it through the NFC without really breaking a sweat.
The 49ers certainly will require more than eight passing attempts from Garoppolo on Super Bowl Sunday.
It will be a theme next week in Miami: Can Garoppolo deliver the goods?
Every quarterback has been questioned before big games and continues to be questioned until the big game turns into a big win.
This is why the 49ers acquired Garoppolo in a trade from the New England Patriots during the 2017 season.
And it is why -- based on his demeanor, attitude, work ethic and impeccable five starts to conclude that season -- the 49ers signed him to a five-year, $137.5 million contract in February of 2018.
The 49ers feel confident their quarterback will do whatever it takes to get that big win.
Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (5:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 6:00 p.m. Friday).