What a difference a week can make.
Last Sunday, Jimmy Garoppolo was benched at halftime of the 49ers' loss to the Miami Dolphins after going 7 for 17 for 77 yards and two interceptions. Still hobbled by his high ankle sprain, Garoppolo had trouble planting, leading to poor mechanics, missed throws and turnovers.
Adding insult to injury and poor performance, Garoppolo had to spend all week hearing about all the ways the 49ers could replace him in the offseason -- Matt Ryan, Sam Darnold, Aaron Rodgers, Trey Lance. The list goes on. So, naturally, Garoppolo came out Sunday night in a must-win game and delivered a W over the division-rival Los Angeles Rams.
Garoppolo went 23-for-33 for 268 yards and three touchdowns in the 49ers' 24-16 win on "Sunday Night Football." A week after naming Garoppolo as his "Goat of the Week," NBC's Peter King listed Garoppolo as one of his Offensive Players of the Week.
Yes, Garoppolo played well while still being less than 100 percent. He got the ball to his playmakers, didn't turn the ball over and got the hell out of the way.
Just how coach Kyle Shanahan always drew it up.
It's OK to pat Garoppolo on the back while acknowledging this was a victory born out of scheme and not needle-threading throws.
Shanahan went into his bag, turned back the clock and the 49ers looking, at least on offense, like the 2019 version of themselves. A much-maligned offensive line dominated the Rams' vaunted defensive front physically as the 49ers rushed for 122 yards, which might have been more had Raheem Mostert not left early at halftime.
Shanahan dialed up short, safe and efficient throws to get his quarterback in rhythm and then just kept calling them. Garoppolo's average depth of target Sunday night was 4.39. Of his 269 passing yards, 222 came after the catch. Deebo Samuel caught all six of his targets behind the line of scrimmage and gained 98 yards after the catch on what was mostly glorified handoffs.
None of this is a dig at Garoppolo. He executed the game plan flawlessly and his balky ankle no doubt had something to do with it. He did recognize when the Rams were in Cover 0 in the second quarter and hit George Kittle on a slant for a 44-yard touchdown. It was a great throw. Almost everything else was a pop pass, a screen, a swing or a short throw designed to get the ball out of his hands and not near danger.
There's nothing wrong with that. I expect it to be a formula going forward and doubt it will change much until a team forces the 49ers to throw the ball down the field. Unfortunately for the 49ers, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are up next and they won't let the 49ers beat them that way.
Belichick takes away what you do best and makes you go to Plan B and C in order to beat him. Shanahan will undoubtedly have some tricks up his sleeve, but it's hard to see the 49ers going to Foxboro and beating a Belichick defense with pop passes and screens.
He'll make Garoppolo prove he can throw it down the field to win.
Watching the game unfold was just like rewatching last year's NFC Championship Game. Shanahan knew what he was comfortable letting Garoppolo do and never was forced to stray from the plan.
It's got the 49ers back in the playoff picture and with a stronger heartbeat as November nears. But the road for Garoppolo and Shanahan only gets more difficult from here on out.