Jimmy Garoppolo completed all four of his pass attempts for 69 yards on the 49ers' opening drive in their 24-16 win over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, despite not throwing a single pass beyond the line of scrimmage. Coach Kyle Shanahan scripted a drive that had the Rams spinning their heads, and the 49ers executed it to perfection.
It set the tone for what amounted to a must-win game for San Francisco, and thoroughly impressed a 49ers' Hall of Famer.
"I was in awe of Kyle through the first quarter," Steve Young said Wednesday on KNBR's "Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks" show. "Is there anybody better -- no one better today -- but maybe like all time that can roll into a game, even a big game, and you know that first drive is something that …"
Young then changed course, recounting his visit to the 49ers' locker room ahead of their big Week 16 matchup with the Rams last season when Shanahan went through the first 20 scripted plays with the team.
"He was going through them, and it was very specific," Young explained, "and all the reads felt really simple. Like, it was one-two, one-two, one-two, one-two. And I, as a quarterback, you're like, 'I like this simplicity. This is good. I like this."
Young noticed one thing was missing from Shanahan's instruction, however. At no point did the 49ers' opening game script seem to account for a blitzing defense.
"At the end," Young continued, "I went over to him, and I was like, 'Hey, those are great plays. I love those plays. It's really simple but kind of difficult, cool, kind of unique ways to attack the defense that can cause some problems with the defense, but for you, pretty straight forward.' I said, 'What about blitz? What about all the looks?'
"He said, 'Oh, it's good against everything.' I was like, 'What? It's good to go?!' That's when I changed. I had always sensed that the game had changed, and we were more college-like … That's where I changed because I was like, 'Wait a second. We're going up in a big game -- it was a big game against the Rams -- and you're telling me in the first 20 plays, those 11 passes you just went through are one-two reads, and there's nothing to worry about in blitz? Sign me up!'"
It took some time for the 49ers to find their groove in that Week 16 game, but once they did, the Rams had no answers -- and ultimately lost to San Francisco, 34-31.
"They went out and ran those plays and it looked like magic," Young recalled. "The Rams were all discombobulated, George (Kittle) is running around crazy, players were flying around and Deebo (Samuel) had a big game. ... And that's when I knew Kyle was special. Like, that's hard to do. Make it hard on the defense, really straight-forward for the offense -- that's genius stuff. Like Bill (Walsh) would do, like [Mike Shanahan] would do. I was like, 'Wow, yes.'
"What I saw (on Sunday) was that same thing. Like, they did it again. And they went right down the field. Guys were open, plays were made, and that's where, as a quarterback, you can really thrive."
The 49ers' offense on Sunday seemingly didn't have the highest degree of difficulty, but as Young explained, therein lies the genius.