Pa Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports NFC West Writer
Confused. Out of sync. Disabled.
Here’s how San Francisco 49ers“crime looked and played in 11-10 road loss yes Denver Broncos on Sunday evening.
San Francisco turned the ball over three times. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo committed by Dan Arlovski after being called for a safety as he stepped out of the end zone to avoid pressure from a Broncos defensive lineman Mike Purcell. If Garoppolo hadn’t come out, his errant pass was destined for a running back Jeff Wilson Jr. would be picked off and returned for a score by Edge Rusher Bradley Chubb.
Even worse, the Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams sprained his ankle during the game and could be out four to six weeks, according to San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan.
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The Niners went 1-of-10 on third down and scored just 10 points in an embarrassing game. Garoppolo only gave up 76 yards in the second half. He was fired four times.
“I thought we made too many mistakes,” Shanahan said. “We had our opportunities in the first half and I thought we should have had a lot more than we did. We missed them. We came back in the second half and the defense kept it going. The offense had a chance early. We started with bad equipment, and after that we never succeeded.”
Added tight end George Kittle: “We didn’t execute. We didn’t do anything on third down. We had three turnovers and a safety. It’s hard to win football games [like that].”
Just a week earlier, the Niners celebrated the return of Garoppolo as the spark plug of the offense after his second year in the pros Trey Lance struggled and then suffered a season-ending broken ankle Seattle Seahawks.
After coming in as a backup and playing well against a Seattle defense that has struggled so far this season, Garoppolo faced a talented Denver defense that had a week to prepare for him.
“In the second half, we were out of rhythm at all,” Garoppolo said. “You could feel it. You could see it. We talked about (it) aside. I thought about it. It was my first week with these guys and I just got into a rhythm with them.”
Garoppolo later said that the offense was in a good rhythm last year and that the Niners should get back to that. And this means that the 30-year-old defender needs to return to where he was.
Coming off offseason shoulder surgery, Garoppolo hasn’t participated in organized team activities or training camp, working on the sidelines while Shanahan tries to accelerate Lance’s development.
“My arm can feel it right now,” Garoppolo said. “This is different. You try to go through all the practice and preparation in the side, being the No. 2. And then you’re just thrown into it. I didn’t go through OTAs and training camp.
“I’m not trying to make excuses or anything, but I just have to get into game shape and start rolling.”
Garoppolo needs to do it quickly, with the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams came to town for a nationally televised Monday Night Football game. He can take solace in his 6-1 record against Los Angeles. However, the Rams won the last game, a 20-17 victory in last season’s NFC Championship game.
As Garoppolo transitions to Lance, Shanahan and the Niners need to get back to what made Garoppolo successful during his six seasons as the team’s starter — playing fast, running the football and making plays down the middle of the field.
According to Next Generation Stats, Garoppolo was the only quarterback last season to average more than 10 yards per attempt (10.5) on passes. He also had 874 passing yards over the middle of the field in 2021, No. 4 in the league.
Last week, Garoppolo started the game 4 of 5 for 45 yards and a touchdown targeting inbound routes. Going back to the start of last season, Garoppolo is targeting broken routes on 48% of his pass attempts. No other subscriber exceeds 38%.
Shanahan is certainly aware of Garoppolo’s strengths and abilities in specific situations; it’s just a matter of getting his quarterback and offense on the same page this week.
“You have to focus on everything,” Shanahan said. “And that’s what we do every week. First down, second down, third down, cadence, movement, lining up, making plays, covering the beat, all those things go into it.
“That’s why it’s a lot more than what the eye can see, but we have to clean up a lot of things.”
The Niners have until Monday, October 3rd at 8:15 PM ET.
Eric D. Williams has covered the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.
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