Even after Trey Lance acquitted himself well in the 49ers' Week 17 win over the Houston Texans, Kyle Shanahan had no doubts about who would be the starting quarterback Sunday in Los Angeles against the Rams. He said so after the win vs. the Texans and stuck to his guns Sunday.
With their season on the line, if Jimmy Garoppolo could play through a Grade 3 sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament on his right thumb, he would start.
Shanahan didn't reveal who his starter would be prior to kick-off Sunday, but he explained his decision to go with a less than 100 percent Garoppolo over Lance following the 49ers' playoff-clinching 27-24 overtime win vs. the Rams.
"It was really easy just because of how Jimmy made me feel throughout the week," Shanahan said after the win Sunday. "Just how he was talking, how he was doing. I mean, I felt very confident with him. I was real happy with what Trey did the week before. If Jimmy was going into that game to where he felt he couldn't play up to his ability then I would have gone with a different decision. He isn't 100 percent. He is hurting. But he still was able to play at 100 percent of his level, so that's why the decision was easy for me."
Despite not playing last Sunday vs. the Texans, Garoppolo knew early on that he wouldn't miss the all-important Week 18 game.
"Tuesday we did a throwing session, tested it out and kind of turned it into a game scenario," Garoppolo said of build-up during the week. "I kept being aware of it during the week, but I had a pretty good feeling on Tuesday that I was going to be able to do it. Was just a matter of pain tolerance, really."
Garoppolo and the 49ers' offense were abysmal in the first half Sunday in Los Angeles. Needing a win or a New Orleans Saints loss to clinch a playoff berth, the 49ers trailed the Rams 17-3 at halftime.
But Garoppolo and the offense turned it around in the second half, scoring on each of their first two possessions to knot the game at 17. After the Rams took a late 24-17 lead, Garoppolo engineered a five-play, 88-yard drive, hitting Jauan Jennings for a 14-yard touchdown with 26 seconds left to send the game to overtime.
After the 49ers opened overtime with a 12-play, 69-yard drive that ended in a Robbie Gould field goal, rookie cornerback Ambry Thomas picked off Matthew Stafford to end the game and send the 49ers to the playoffs.
Garoppolo, bad thumb and all, finished the day going 23-for-32 for 316 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
It wasn't perfect, but Garoppolo rewarded Shanahan's faith, steadied the ship in the second half, made sure the 49ers lived to fight for at least one more week and showed why he has the confidence of his teammates.
"I didn't hear Jimmy complain about his thumb all day," Deebo Samuel said after the win. "Or all week. I just knew he was going to go out there and ball."
The NFL is a results-based business, so Shanahan's "easy decision" proved to be the right one as the 49ers left Southern California with a season-saving and season-extending comeback win. Now, Garoppolo and the 49ers will head to Dallas to face the No. 3-seed Cowboys in the wild-card round.
Bum thumb and all, Garoppolo was all smiles with the 49ers heading back to the postseason.
"It feels great right now," Garoppolo said of his thumb."After a win, of course."