In a game in which he was without his starting center and top two receivers and his All-Pro tight end was limited by an apparent leg injury, Jimmy Garoppolo predictably wasn't at his best against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. And yet, he and the 49ers still had an opportunity to end Week 1 on a high note with a game-winning drive.
He and they didn't capitalize on it, though, and now the reigning NFC champions are in an 0-1 hole.
"Just unfortunate a lot of things didn't go their way," NBC Sports Bay Area's Jeff Garcia summarized. "It was a tight ballgame. It came down to the wire. They had a chance to win it, but in those situations when an opportunity presents itself, you gotta be able to strike, and unfortunately Jimmy missed on two key throws late in the game."
Of the two missed throws Garcia referenced, one would have gone for a go-ahead touchdown if completed, and the other ultimately squandered the 49ers' last chance. In both cases, Garoppolo's footwork might have had something to do with it.
"He plays the game flat-footed," Garcia said. "A lot of how he plays is kind of how he learned in New England watching Tom Brady. But even Tom I think is just better at his timing, getting his feet going in the right direction. I think Jimmy relies on his arm a lot and often times too much, in the sense that when you're making throws to the flat, when you're making quick-out throws or outside-breaking route throws, you need to get your body going in the direction of the throw."
Trailing 24-20 with 1:14 remaining in the game, Garoppolo took a shot to Kendrick Bourne on the right side of the endzone on 1st-and-10 from the Cardinals' 21-yard-line, but the pass hung in the air too long and was deflected by the trailing defender. On the last play of that same set of downs -- which proved to be San Francisco's final offensive play of the game -- Trent Taylor ran an out pattern in the right flat on 4th-and-5, but Garoppolo's throw was late and inaccurate. If either pass is completed, there's a good chance the 49ers emerge from Week 1 with a win.
"First of all, he was late on his decision," Garcia explained about the fourth-down incompletion. "He should have been much better with his timing, as far as getting the ball out to that throw earlier, and then he was flat-footed. He didn't have his feet really facing in that direction. He's throwing with his arm, and that's often times when you get into trouble, especially when it comes down to being precise and accurate. Your feet are going to help you. If they're going in the direction of the target, your arm is going to follow, you get more velocity on the ball. And that's what happened on the stutter-go.
"Again, he throws the ball flat-footed. He doesn't drive it, he doesn't get any hips into the throw. That ball should have been driven when Bourne broke open. Limited space, you throw it to the back endline, you drive it, take the air out of the ball and you get a much more precise throw. And it didn't happen. He fluttered it out there and the defender was able to recover and make a play on it."
Garcia also referenced another missed opportunity in the third quarter, in which Garoppolo had Bourne wide-open on a deep post. Garoppolo, though, didn't appear to even look Bourne's direction and checked it down instead. In Garcia's eyes, that was emblematic of a general mental error Garoppolo made throughout the game -- which possibly resulted from not having his full supporting cast available.
"In a lot of ways, I think he started to predetermine his decisions," Garcia said. "He saw the ball going to the flat or to the running backs right away, thinking easy completion instead of eyes downfield, seeing what the defense is doing, seeing if you have an opportunity for a throw. ... So those type of situations, to me, are he's predetermining where he's going with the football because he doesn't trust that he's gonna have a winner with the outside. Well, these guys are pro athletes.
"You've got to have some trust, you've got to build some trust, you've got to believe that they're going to make some plays for you, and you can't rule that out. If he can do that moving forward, then that's going to be so much better for him and the offensive system. You cannot predetermine in the National Football League. When you start looking for easy completions, everything gets that much harder."
As the 49ers head to the East Coast for the next two weeks, there is reason for optimism. George Kittle says he feels "fantastic", and there's a good chance No. 2 receiver Brandon Aiyuk and center Ben Garland are able to play on the road trip.
Those developments obviously would be welcomed by Garoppolo and the 49ers, but regardless, there's no question he must be much better than he was for San Francisco to have a legitimate chance to return to the Super Bowl.