49ers

What 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo has changed to go on recent hot streak

What 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo has changed to go on recent hot streak

SANTA CLARA -- On his recent hot streak, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is giving the 49ers the best of both worlds.

Through his first seven games of the season, Garoppolo threw nine touchdown passes but also had seven interceptions. In the past six games, Garoppolo has tossed 16 touchdown throws while getting picked off just four times.

“He’s continued to make big throws and stuff, but he’s obviously eliminated some of the turnovers, which I think is huge,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said on Wednesday. “Sometimes when guys make a bunch of big plays and turnovers, the only way to get them to eliminate the turnovers is to stop trying to make those big plays. I don’t think Jimmy has done that.

“He’s continued to make big plays, maybe even made more of them, and the turnovers have gone way down, which has been a huge step in the right direction.”

Chalk it up to experience.

Garoppolo had never before started more than five games in any of his first five NFL seasons. This season, he has remained healthy through 13 games – and he is no longer stuck at No. 2 on the depth chart behind one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.

“Confidence comes with that, being able to do it week-in and week-out,” said Garoppolo, who spent 3 1/2 seasons as Tom Brady’s backup with the New England Patriots prior to the trade that sent him to the 49ers in the middle of the 2017 season.

“As a quarterback, that’s what you want to do. You want to be out there for the team week after week. That’s part of your job. I wouldn’t say it’s anything special. It just gives you more confidence, though.”

Garoppolo seemingly has learned from his mistakes without over-correcting and becoming too cautious or tentative.

“The more you’re out there and the more situations you go through, good or bad,” Shanahan said. “It’s how are you going to react to them. What are you going to learn from them? Some people, the more they are out there, the more nervous they get and they go into a shell and just get worse.

“Jimmy, no matter whether a good thing or a bad thing happens to him, I feel it’s made him better each week. He learns from it, he doesn’t overanalyze it and freak out about it. He just learns from it, files it in the bank and then goes to the next week and tries to keep stacking them up.”

[RELATED: Jimmy Garoppolo is first 49ers QB to win Player of the Week since 2012]

Garoppolo said it took him a while to feel comfortable after his 2018 season ended in Week 3 after sustaining a torn left ACL in Kansas City.

“Taking a year off with the ACL and everything, takes a little while to get back into it,” he said.

He was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday after his 349-yard, four-touchdown performance in a 48-46 victory over the New Orleans Saints. He said he has done nothing extraordinary during his hot streak, which has included a 124.4 passer rating over the past four games.

“It’s just going through the game plan, knowing where your outs are, knowing your hots, things like that, and taking what the defense gives you,” he said. “I don’t think it’s doing anything special or anyone making a crazy play. It’s just playing within the offense and following your rules.”

Why Kyle Juszczyk gives George Kittle edge for 49ers' play of the year

Why Kyle Juszczyk gives George Kittle edge for 49ers' play of the year

The 49ers have made it to the Super Bowl, but there were several stops along the way when that outcome didn't appear as likely. Yes, San Francisco was the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC, but only by the slimmest of margins.

Literally inches, you might recall.

Rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw sealed the top seed for the 49ers -- and a first-round bye -- with his clutch fourth-down stop on the goal line in the final seconds of San Francisco's Week 17 win over the Seattle Seahawks. It undoubtedly will go down as one of the most memorable plays in franchise history, but depending on who you ask, it wasn't even the biggest play of the current season.

There are a few additional contenders, but the most obvious would be tight end George Kittle's 39-yard catch-and-run on fourth-and-2 on the 49ers' game-winning drive to beat the Saints in Week 14. 

Fullback Kyle Juszczyk was on the sideline for both plays, and recently offered his opinion as to which is the 49ers' play of the year. 

"Two legendary plays ... season-defining plays, there," Juszczyk told 95.7 The Game's "Jo, Lo & Dibs" on Tuesday morning. "I'm an offensive guy, though, and I can't lie, when you started talking about the biggest play of the season, the first play that jumped to my mind was George's play in New Orleans, so I'm gonna give that one to George with Dre as a close second. Just two guys putting the team on their back and just willing the team to a win. So, both absolutely phenomenal plays."

[RELATED: Why 'defense wins championships' adage applies to 49ers]

Super Bowl LIV will mark the seventh straight Super Bowl featuring two top-two seeds, further indicating the benefit of a first-round bye. Both Kittle and Greenlaw's clutch plays were absolutely essential to the 49ers achieving that high seed, so really, it's impossible to say which was the play of the year, because San Francisco's season looks a whole lot different without both of them.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (5:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 6:00 p.m. Friday).

Teams with defenses like 49ers' have great track record in Super Bowl

Teams with defenses like 49ers' have great track record in Super Bowl

The "Defense wins championships" adage didn't arise out of nowhere. It's a tried and true method tested over multiple decades of different eras of the NFL, and one that bodes well for the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV against the Kanas City Chiefs.

San Francisco finished the regular season with the No. 2-ranked defense in the league behind only the New England Patriots. The Niners have been even better on that side of the ball through two playoff contests, where they've held their opponents to nearly 30 fewer total yards per game. That defense will face arguably its toughest test all year long in Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, but based on history, there is reason to believe it will hold up.

As ESPN's Dan Orlovsky discussed on Tuesday morning's episode of "Get Up", teams with a top-two ranked defense have a very good track record in the Super Bowl. In fact, it has usually taken a Hall of Fame quarterback to overcome that defense.

Kansas City ranked fifth in the NFL during the regular season with an average of 28.2 points per game, but it's worth noting that Mahomes missed two games due to injury, and likely wasn't at full strength for several other contests. He appears to be fully healthy now, as the Chiefs have exploded for an average of 43.0 points per game in the playoffs. For comparison, the 49ers rank second among all postseason teams with an average of 32.0 points per game. While those previous top-two ranked defenses have given up an average of 18 points per game in the Super Bowl, it's unlikely San Francisco will be able to limit the Chiefs' high-flying offense to that degree, but even if they can get close, that might be enough to prove victorious.

[RELATED: 49ers, Chiefs show importance of bye weeks in NFL playoffs]

As great as the historical track record is for the 49ers, that Hall of Fame QB exception to the rule likely will keep the team from puffing its chest too much before the Big Game. Mahomes is only in his third professional season and second as a starting quarterback, but it sure looks like he'll eventually wind up in Canton.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (5:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 6:00 p.m. Friday).