49ers

Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers' offense bemoan blown opportunities vs. Vikings

Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers' offense bemoan blown opportunities vs. Vikings

MINNEAPOLIS -- Through no fault of his own, as well as plenty of fault of his own, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo struggled Sunday against the reigning top defense in the NFL.

Garoppolo completed just 15 of 33 pass attempts for 261 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions in the 49ers’ season-opening 24-16 loss to the Vikings.

“I thought we blew a lot of opportunities that you cannot do versus a good team, especially on the road,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said.

The 49ers scored only one touchdown on their four trips inside the Vikings’ 20-yard line. They settled for two field goals, and running back Alfred Morris fumbled the ball away at the 1-yard line. One of Garoppolo’s three interceptions was returned for a touchdown -- a play that wide receiver Kendrick Bourne admitted was his fault because he ran the wrong pass route.

“They are a talented group,” Garoppolo said of the Vikings’ defense. “We knew that coming into it. We knew it was going to be a tough challenge with the environment, going against a good team. With all the things that went bad, we still had a shot at the end. It was a tough way to end it.”

The 49ers took over at their own 11 with 1:49 remaining in regulation, trailing by eight points. After throwing incomplete for running back Matt Breida on first down, Garoppolo’s pass intended for wide receiver Trent Taylor was intercepted by Vikings safety Harrison Smith to end the 49ers' final hope.

“I will see more when I watch the tape, but none of us did good enough to win today, especially on offense,” Shanahan said.

Throughout the game, the 49ers failed to take advantage of big-play opportunities. Rookie wide receiver Dante Pettis caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Garoppolo late in the third quarter, but he couldn't hold onto a would-be TD pass in the first half against the coverage of Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes.

Wide receiver Pierre Garçon also didn't come down with a potential TD reception when he made a leaping attempt amid a couple of Vikings defenders in the end zone in the second half.

“He did his job as best as he could,” Garçon said of Garoppolo. “We just have to make those plays for him, protect him and help him out.”

Tight end George Kittle caught five passes for 90 yards, but he was agonizing over a deep over-the-shoulder pass that slipped through his hands.

“I misjudged it,” Kittle said. “I thought it was closer to me. I probably ran a bit too far with my arms out. Just a bad play. That’s on my shoulders. It’s a play we hit all the time, so I’m pretty disappointed in myself for that.”

It was the first time in eight NFL career starts that Garoppolo didn't come out on the winning side. The 49ers went on a five-game win streak at the end of last season after Garoppolo replaced C.J. Beathard in their starting lineup.

“You never want to lose,” Garoppolo said. “It sucks. But we’ve got a good group in there. I think we have the right mindset of coming in tomorrow, watching film and bouncing back next week.”

49ers' Kyle Shanahan ranked as 23rd-best veteran head coach by NFL.com

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49ers' Kyle Shanahan ranked as 23rd-best veteran head coach by NFL.com

The first two years of 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan's tenure has been light on wins, yet expectations remain high. 

San Francisco was 10-22 in Shanahan's first two seasons at the helm, searching for a quarterback before acquiring Jimmy Garoppolo in 2017 and scrambling to replace him after he tore his ACL last year. There have been some promising moments, but not enough to move the 49ers out of the top 10 of the NFL draft in either of the last two years. 

Because of that, NFL.com's Elliot Harrison ranked Shanahan 23rd out of the 26 returning NFL head coaches. 

This might not be a fair ranking for a guy who kept the 49ers competitive in the second half of the season while having to play musical chairs at quarterback," Harrison wrote. "The problem here is that Shanahan hasn't really accomplished anything yet as a head coach, which makes the criteria for evaluating his performance somewhat narrow."

To his credit, Shanahan coached up two rosters short on talent. The 49ers finished in the top half of the league in total offense in each of the last two seasons, despite Garoppolo only making eight starts. 

But the 49ers have not had the same success on defense, and heavily invested on that side of the ball over the offseason. The potential for improvement is there in 2019, but San Francisco enters the year having won fewer than a third of its games under Shanahan.

[RELATED: Why Peter King thinks Jimmy G is key to 49ers' playoff hopes]

"That [10-22] record isn't masked by the obvious upside of the roster, or the potential many see in Shanahan," Harrison continued. " ... Shanahan seems to be a good communicator, and is both confident and comfortable with himself. Whether that will translate into contention in the NFC West remains to be seen."

A 2019 turnaround should move Shanahan up Harrison's rankings. After his first two seasons coaching the 49ers, there isn't much room anywhere else. 

Jimmy Garoppolo calls learning from Tom Brady on Patriots 'invaluable'

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Jimmy Garoppolo calls learning from Tom Brady on Patriots 'invaluable'

Jimmy Garoppolo spent three-and-a-half seasons as Tom Brady's backup quarterback in New England. Over that span, the 49ers' current QB appeared in only 17 games, starting two. 

Still, he learned plenty behind the six-time Super Bowl winner. 

More than anything, Garoppolo witnessed the immense amount of preparation Brady put into his game every day.  Garoppolo recently told The Ringer's Kevin Clark that it was "invaluable" to watch the legendary signal-caller as his backup.

"I can barely put it into words. What you learn is playing the game within the game, that’s a big part of Tom," Garoppolo said. "I don’t even know if he told me that [directly], but he would always talk about the game within the game." 

The story has been told time and time again. Brady beat the odds years ago as a sixth-round draft pick who ran the 40-yard dash in quicksand. Garoppolo emphasized that sweating the small stuff made Brady a Patriots legend and an all-time great. 

"The little details and how he ties them all together -- that’s what separates you," Garoppolo said. 

[RELATED: Why Peter King thinks Jimmy G is key to 49ers' playoff hopes]

The two QBs have remained friends after Garoppolo was traded to the 49ers on Halloween in 2017. They were even seen together at the Kentucky Derby this year.

As much knowledge as Garoppolo soaked up from Brady, the 49ers hope it shows in a healthy year this season.