49ers

Jimmy G, 49ers deliver game-winning drive after near-misses

49ers
Jimmy Garoppolo

CINCINNATI -- Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers had been there before. Game on the line, ball in their hands. It just hasn't gone their way.

In Week 3 against the Green Bay Packers, Garoppolo drove the 49ers down the field and hit Kyle Juszczyk for a 12-yard touchdown to give the 49ers a 28-27 lead with 37 seconds left. That was 37 ticks too many for Aaron Rodgers, as the Packers star quarterback got Green Bay into field goal range with two flicks of his wrist, and the Packers left Levi's Stadium with a 30-28 win.

During the 49ers' Week 13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Garoppolo had four chances to tie the game from inside the Seahawks' 10-yard line but came up short.

The 49ers have been on the wrong side of the game-winning drive roller coaster this season. But they flipped the script Sunday in Cincinnati.

After the Bengals erased a 20-6 fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime at Paul Brown Stadium, it appeared the 49ers were headed for a disaster loss that would deal a severe blow to their playoff hopes. But the 49ers' defense held Joe Burrow and the Bengals to a field goal in overtime, giving Garoppolo and the 49ers' offense another chance to ride the game-winning drive roller coaster.

With past failures in the back of their mind, Garoppolo calmly marched the 49ers down the field. He hit George Kittle for 8 and Jauan Jennings for 25. Then, he found Kittle for 21 more, JaMycal Hasty for 3, and Kittle for 9 more to get the 49ers down to the 12-yard line. Head coach Kyle Shanahan dialed up the next play to get the 49ers in close for the kill shot.

 

Garoppolo faked a handoff to Jeff Wilson Jr. and booted back to the left. Brandon Aiyuk came across the formation, and Garoppolo dumped it off to him. The second-year wide receiver saw he had the edge on the cornerback. Aiyuk turned on the jets and somehow tight roped his way along the sideline before reaching the ball across the goal line to give the 49ers a walk-off 26-23 win after replay confirmed the score.

"We kept saying on the sideline, we have been in this situation before," Garoppolo said of the game-winning drive after the win. "No one blinked. It was a calm feeling on the sideline. You could kind of feel the presence of that moment. Like I said, guys stepped up, guys were making plays. The O-line stepped up huge there, there was no pressure on any of those. It was all those little things coming together."

Sunday's game-winning drive felt especially important coming off the heels of last Sunday's loss in Seattle, and after a brutal fourth quarter that saw Garoppolo get sacked four times and throw what would have likely been a game-ending pick-six that Bengals safety Jessie Bates III dropped with 24 seconds left.

The 49ers train that had stabilized after winning four out of five before the loss in Seattle appeared to be ready to fall off the tracks again.

Facing a situation in which they have failed numerous times before this season, Garoppolo and the 49ers rallied to keep their playoff plans on schedule.

"No magic words," Garoppolo said of what changed between the fourth quarter and overtime. "I think just guys looking each other in the eyes. Guys knew we had been here before, we have done this before and we just have to go finish the game."

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Garoppolo has been under fire all season. Every throw he makes is dissected. Every mistake he makes has become a referendum on Shanahan's decision to start the 30-year-old veteran over rookie Trey Lance.

But what was clear Sunday in Cincinnati is that no matter his flaws or past failures, the 49ers' offense trusts Garoppolo when he walks into the huddle with the game on the line.

"Jimmy's a dog. He's a dog," Aiyuk said after the win. "When we're all in the huddle, and the quarterback has no doubt that we are going to go down and win games, everybody feels it."

"I have confidence in Jimmy no matter how he plays," Kittle said. "I know that he is very good under pressure and has that quick release that allows him to hold onto the ball a little longer that allows guys to get to that second window if need be. The fact that he just trusts us to make those plays and gives us the opportunity, I love that."

 

After numerous close calls, Garoppolo and the 49ers' offense came out on the other side of a roller coaster that has dealt them a few heartbreaking losses this season.

It should lift their spirits as they head back to the Bay, knowing all of their goals are still in front of them after Garoppolo, Aiyuk, and Kittle helped them avoid disaster Sunday on the banks of the Ohio River, delivering a win in a way the 2021 49ers desperately needed.

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