Kittle pinpoints Jimmy G trait that keyed 49ers' turnaround

Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle

Oh, how the tables have turned.

One month ago, the 49ers had just lost their fourth game in a row, and Jimmy Garoppolo's days under center appeared to be numbered after a rough outing against the Indianapolis Colts. The 49ers sat at 2-4 and their season was on the brink.

But that might as well be ancient history.

After Sunday's blowout win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, the 49ers now have won three of their last four games to get back to .500 and put themselves in prime position for a late-season playoff push.

Ever since the loss to the Colts, Garoppolo has been the most efficient quarterback in the NFL and one of the most accurate. Kyle Shanahan's game plan to focus on the run game and to get the ball out of the quarterback's hands as quickly as possible has the 49ers' offense humming like a well-oiled machine.

The story of the 49ers' resurgence starts with Garoppolo getting his groove back.

"I think Jimmy's confidence comes from when Jimmy throws me a ball, and it's contested, and I catch a touchdown," George Kittle said after the win. "Or when [Brandon] Aiyuk is open in the red zone, Deebo's [Samuel] running the ball at a high level, and our offense is blocking, that's what gives Jimmy confidence.

"That's what gives our team confidence."

The 49ers, in general, are a more confident team than the outfit that was washed away by the Colts and then embarrassed two weeks later against a short-handed Cardinals team. Over the past two weeks, the swagger of a team that believes it is one of the NFL's best is starting to return.


"I think a lot of the confidence comes from having really good practices, and I think the guys Jimmy is throwing the ball to, and our run game, we're making it easy on him," Kittle said. "We're not putting all the pressure in the world on him. We don't want to throw the ball 40 times. We want to run the ball. We want to run some play-actions, and we're going to hit those big shots, and move the chains consistently, and have those long drives, and Jimmy does a fantastic job of that. 

"He gets us in the right play calls when we have a bunch of options. Like when we have to change the play at the line of scrimmage, he does a great job of that. He just gets us in the right calls and allows our best players to take advantage of those plays, whether it's the run game or it's the pass game."

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Garoppolo got off to an OK start this season before injuring his calf in Week 4. He missed Week 5 and was less than 100 percent when he returned in Week 7 against the Colts. But Garoppolo appeared to turn a corner in his Week 8 homecoming against the Chicago Bears, and the 49ers' offense has been locked in during the last week in which they notched blowout wins over the Los Angeles Rams and Jaguars in a six-day span.

At 5-5, the 49ers sit on the outskirts of the NFC playoff picture. But a win Sunday against the 5-5 Minnesota Vikings will see them recapture a wild-card spot with six games to play.

A lot of things have been different about the 49ers over the past few weeks, but it all starts with the trigger man whose confidence is infectious.

"When Jimmy's rolling, I think we're rolling," Kittle said. "He's a hell of a leader out there, and he really inspires us to play our best ball."

The 49ers are doing just that and have the look of a team, especially with a confident Garoppolo at the helm, that no one will want to play come January.

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