New Orleans Saints

Jimmy Garoppolo is first 49ers QB to win Player of the Week since 2012

Jimmy Garoppolo is first 49ers QB to win Player of the Week since 2012

Jimmy Garoppolo, who was at the center of the 49ers’ emotional 48-46 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance.

Garoppolo becomes the 49ers’ first NFC Offensive Player of the Week since Week 1 of the 2013 season when wide receiver Anquan Boldin won the award. He is the first 49ers quarterback to win since Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick both were honored during the 2012 season.

The 49ers have been recognized three times as winner of the NFC Defensive Player of the Week. Nick Bosa won it twice (Weeks 5 and 8), and Fred Warner (Week 12) was honored for his game against Green Bay.

In Week 14, Garoppolo completed 26 of 35 pass attempts for 349 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. His passer rating was 131.7. He also picked up a key first down in the fourth quarter with a 2-yard scramble.

“Jimmy is a baller,” 49ers receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. “You can look at him and see what kind of player he is. He works hard. When you’ve got somebody like Jimmy with the personality that he has, in the clutch moments he’s not going to fold because of all the hard work that he’s put in.”

The biggest play of the game came in the final minute of the fourth quarter, when Garoppolo completed a pass to tight end George Kittle on fourth-and-2 to get the first down. Then, Kittle did the rest by himself, dragging defenders for a 39-yard gain. A facemask penalty put the 49ers in position for Robbie Gould’s game-winning 30-yard kick as time expired.

The 49ers lead the NFC West and own the top record in the NFC at 11-2.

Garoppolo is heating up for the 49ers at the right time. He has produced passer ratings of 110 or better in six of his past seven games. In the past seven games, Garoppolo completed 70.4 percent of his passes for 1,931 yards with 18 touchdowns and five interceptions.

[RELATED: Jimmy G putting up historic stats among 49ers quarterbacks]

The Saints pressured Garoppolo on 34.2 percent of his dropbacks, the second-highest pressure rate he has faced this season, according to Zebra Technology, the official on-field tracking technology of the NFL. He completed six of eight passes for two touchdowns on passes of 10 yards or more in the air for a passer rating of 156.3.

It did not come easy, either. Garoppolo also threw into tight windows on 22.9 percent of his throws, according to Zebra, which is significantly higher than his season average of 15.5 percent of throws to receivers who are well-covered.

What 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo did to impress Kyle Shanahan vs. Saints

What 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo did to impress Kyle Shanahan vs. Saints

For many reasons, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's performance Sunday in a 48-46 comeback win over the Saints could viewed as his best since being traded to the 49ers during the 2017 season. 

Garoppolo completed 26 of his 35 pass attempts for 349 yards, four touchdowns and one interception -- which came off receiver Emmanuel Sanders' hands. Simply put, he was spectacular, especially when it mattered most. 

But Garoppolo's performance outside of the stats is what truly had coach Kyle Shanahan so excited. The 28-year-old QB seemed unfazed in the Superdome, perhaps the most raucous stadium in the NFL.

"The thing that impressed me the most was just how he handled the noise," Shanahan said to reporters in Santa Clara on Monday. "I've been in that stadium a lot, but it was louder than usual to me. You never can hear at the line, but it was very hard for him to hear in the huddle."

In fact, Saints fans -- and well-traveled 49ers fans -- were so loud in New Orleans that Shanahan had to call a timeout in the most critical moment of the game. With only 39 seconds remaining, and San Francisco trailing 46-45, the offense had to regroup as Garoppolo heard "15" instead of "14." 

"Four and five, you know, and you just couldn't hear it," Shanahan explained. "That stuff was happening a lot and for him to just still keep his poise and try to fix things a lot in the game, he kept our guys pretty cool throughout the whole time."

Luckily for the 49ers, they still had two timeouts left and were able to go over the game plan. The two numbers were much different plays. Shanahan noticed how the offense lined up and quickly made the adjustment. 

With the game on the line, Jimmy G hit tight end George Kittle -- who went full beast mode -- for a 39-yard gain, plus 14 more yards from a facemask penalty. 

[RELATED: What Jimmy G told Kittle before 49ers' biggest play of year]

Garoppolo had full control of the offense in an epic back-and-forth battle in the Bayou. Quarterback and coach were on the same page, remaining calm when they easily could have become rattled. 

The next test comes this Sunday against the Falcons as the 49ers look to keep control of the top seed in the NFC, but this time, they'll be in front of their home fans at Levi's Stadium. 

Chris Simms breaks down George Kittle's catch in 49ers' win vs. Saints

Chris Simms breaks down George Kittle's catch in 49ers' win vs. Saints

George Kittle made the most significant play of the NFL’s Week 14 slate, catching a short fourth-down pass from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and willing his way into field-goal range.

The herculean effort from Kittle set kicker Robbie Gould up for a game-winning 30-yard field goal to give San Francisco a crucial 48-46 victory in New Orleans that propelled the 49ers back to the top of the NFC standings.

Unsurprisingly, coach Kyle Shanahan diagrammed this play for Kittle to be the No. 1 option, and that’s exactly what happened.

“The rookie [C.J.] Gardner-Johnson is matched up 1-on-1 with Kittle,” NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms said. “The beauty of this play is, a lot of times the 49ers will run an in-breaking route off of this, but here he had the option to break out and he breaks out.

“Gardner-Johnson, who’s kind of laying inside for it, now is at a disadvantage and he’s trailing behind and that becomes the completion to George Kittle.”

[RELATED: Injuries continue to pile up for 49ers after extended trip]

Kittle’s wise decision to break outside put San Francisco back into the driver’s seat for the NFC playoffs, but the 49ers will need to keep the momentum going as the final weeks of the season roll on in order to secure the home-field advantage NFL teams so desperately crave come postseason time.