49ers

How 49ers' offense remained calm on game-winning drive to beat Saints

How 49ers' offense remained calm on game-winning drive to beat Saints

NEW ORLEANS -- Drew Brees and the high-powered New Orleans Saints offense left too much time on the clock for 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and tight end George Kittle on Sunday.

The 49ers’ defense, which has been dominant this season, could not protect the team’s lead late in the game. New Orleans marched 76 yards on seven plays to take the lead on Brees’ 18-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith.

But the 49ers still had 53 seconds to respond. And it turned out to be more than enough.

The offense came up big, setting the stage for Robbie Gould’s 30-yard field goal as time expired for a 48-46 victory over the Saints at the Superdome.

“It wasn’t anything different than usual,” Garoppolo said. “I thought everybody was calm on the sideline. We were all in a good state of mind. We went out there and executed. That’s really what it comes down to in those situations -- execution.”

A week earlier, the 49ers failed on a fourth-and-1 pass play in the late stages of their 20-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Again, the 49ers faced a critical fourth-down play with less than a minute remaining with the Saints leading by one point.

“Coach Shanahan said as an offense we feel like we lost the game last week,” Kittle said. “Fourth-and-1, we just couldn’t get it done. We have to learn to not put our defense in those positions. I think we did that today.

“It came down to us having to win the game, and I’m just happy we could get it done.”

Faced with a fourth-and-2 situation from their own 33, the 49ers had to use a timeout to set up the play because of difficulty dealing with the crowd noise.

“The guys kept battling,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “We had to call a timeout right before. It was hard to hear the right play calls in the huddle just because they couldn’t hear through the microphone. I had to use a timeout there, and it quieted down so we could call that. It ended up being worth it because Kittle made a hell of a route, broke that tackle and taking it down the sideline.”

Garoppolo hit Kittle on a pass play for the first down when he got open with an outbreaking route against rookie C.J. Gardner-Johnson. After Kittle slipped through Gardner-Johnson’s tackle attempt, Kittle set his sights on safety Marcus Williams.

“Once he caught it and turned upfield and squared the guy up, I didn’t know what he was going to do, but I knew the guy was in a bad situation on the other side,” Garoppolo said. “George is a beast with the ball in his hands, so it’s just get him the ball in space, let him go to work.”

When it was over, Kittle had rumbled 39 yards while carrying Williams for the final 20 yards with him. Williams finally brought Kittle down with the use of his facemask to add another 15 yards onto the play to set up Gould’s short field-goal attempt.

“George is a beast,” 49ers right tackle Mike McGlinchey said. “It took them to almost rip his neck off for them to bring him down. He’s the best in the world.”

[RELATED: Kittle fulfills promise to Yorks with 49ers' win in NOLA]

Veteran tackle Joe Staley said the game reminded him of the playoff matchup against the Saints at Candlestick Park in January 2012. There were four lead changes in the final four minutes of that game. The 49ers took over trailing with 97 seconds remaining and pulled off the 36-32 victory on Alex Smith’s last-second touchdown pass to Vernon Davis.

“It was kind of eerie how they scored late and we still had that time to come down and get some points,” Staley said. “We were fortunate we had enough time left on the clock. And we were able to execute ... and we got George Kittle.”

49ers arrive in Miami ahead of Super Bowl 54 matchup against Chiefs

49ers arrive in Miami ahead of Super Bowl 54 matchup against Chiefs

The party is just getting started.

After a week of practice and preparation, the 49ers departed the Bay Area for Miami on Sunday.

The NFC champions touched down in Florida around 7 p.m. ET to a hero's welcome.

As you can imagine, the players were pretty hyped about their arrival in Miami.

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Can’t wait!!!

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[RELATED: How things fell into place for 49ers, Jimmy G]

The 49ers have eight players with prior Super Bowl experience, so this is a new feeling for most of the team.

Both the 49ers and Chiefs will spend the upcoming week putting the final touches on their game plans, and then they will meet on the field Sunday, Feb. 2 at Hard Rock Stadium.

For now, though, the players can enjoy the achievement of reaching the pinnacle of their sport.

Jed York reflects on 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo trade before Super Bowl 54

Jed York reflects on 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo trade before Super Bowl 54

SANTA CLARA -- 49ers CEO Jed York in 2017 was looking for an offensive-minded head coach who could get the most out of his quarterback.

But when the 49ers hired coach Kyle Shanahan, the organization did not have any quarterbacks under contract at the time free agency began.

General manager John Lynch and Shanahan informed Colin Kaepernick he did not fit the team’s offensive plan and would be released, so Kaepernick opted out of his contract. The 49ers had no interest in re-signing Blaine Gabbert, either.

Instead, the 49ers signed Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley at the start of free agency. C.J. Beathard was drafted, and Nick Mullens signed as an undrafted rookie.

But the 49ers did not add the quarterback they knew would be their answer until the middle of the 2017 season when New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick offered QB Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers for just a second-round draft pick.

“When we made the trade in the middle of the season, Kyle was probably the most conservative with it,” York said. “Everybody from Mandy Shanahan (Kyle’s wife) to all our fans were ready for him to start Day 1.

“But we had to make sure that we did it the right way. And we didn’t do something just because it was going to get the fans fired up. We wanted to put Jimmy in the right situation to be successful.”

York said Shanahan told Garoppolo he might not take a snap in a game for the rest of the season, as Garoppolo had to learn at least the basics of the offense. Shanahan told Garoppolo that he was not on an audition.

Garoppolo was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and the club was going to, at least, put the franchise tag on him for more than $23 million to keep him around for the 2018 season.

[RELATEDHow Shanahan, Lynch make 49ers CEO York's job easier]

Garoppolo got his first chance to start in Week 13, and it began a remarkable stretch of success for the 49ers. The club began the season 0-9, and after five consecutive victories with Garoppolo as the starter to finish the season, the 49ers finished at 6-10.

Five weeks later, York signed off on a five-year, $137.5 million contract for Garoppolo. The 49ers got little return on that investment in 2018 when Garoppolo sustained a torn ACL in Week 3.

This season, Garoppolo flourished as a starter in all 18 games en route to Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday in Miami.

Garoppolo earned immediate trust and confidence from his teammates and the entire organization since his arrival in Santa Clara, and he has done nothing to give anyone in the organization reasons to doubt him ever since.

[RELATED: How Jimmy G's impact on 49ers goes beyond the numbers]

“If you don’t have a quarterback who can win in big games and big moments, it’s really, really hard to get to this point,” York said. “And Jimmy, obviously, exceeded any expectations in those games that you could ever ask for a player coming into an organization.

“And he’s continued to improve, he’s continued to work, he’s continued to get better. If you don’t have a quarterback, to me, you just don’t have a chance. It was a must.”