The nightmares of Super Bowl LIV may still haunt Jimmy Garoppolo. In his first game since the blown fourth quarter lead in the Super Bowl, Garoppolo had a performance that rivaled the last time he was in that situation.
The San Francisco 49ers were trailing the Arizona Cardinals by four points when Garoppolo got the ball with 5:03 left, a chance to live up to the player that actually led the NFL with four fourth-quarter comebacks last season. Instead, Garoppolo made two crucial mistakes on the 49ers' final possession -- including a pass behind Trent Taylor on fourth-and-5 in a 24-20 loss to the upstart Cardinals.
Garoppolo didn't play bad by the numbers --19 for 33 for 259 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions -- but his performance on the final drive was costly.
"Yeah, he had some good plays in there, but just like the entire offense, just missed a number of opportunities that it was going to take to win that game. We had a couple there, but he's got to play better," said 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. "We've all got to play better on offense, especially, and it starts with me."
Shanahan took part of the blame, but Garoppolo was 5 for 8 for 27 yards on the final drive. Garoppolo's problems started once San Francisco got to the Arizona 21-yard line, as he had Kendrick Bourne open in the corner of the end zone for what would have been the go-ahead touchdown with 1:21 to play. Garoppolo floated the pass too high, allowing Patrick Peterson to catch Bourne and break up the pass. Garoppolo has made that clutch throw in the past, but that miss was similar to the play where Garoppolo had Emmanuel Sanders wide open that would have given San Francisco the lead late in Super Bowl LIV.
"There was a couple of different options, but yeah, K.B. just, I left that one just a hair short.," Garoppolo said. "That's one I wish I had back, but when you get opportunities like that, you've got to take advantage of them."
Three plays later, Garoppolo threw a fourth-down pass behind Taylor that Cardinals safety Budda Baker broke up to give Arizona the victory. If Garoppolo hit Taylor with an accurate pass, the 49ers quarterback might have his fifth fourth quarter comeback in his last 17 regular season starts -- the most in the NFL.
More important, the 49ers would be 1-0.
"Yeah, I think the throw, DB made a nice play, got his hand on it last second. Got to tip your hat to him, but yeah, I don't think we got into a very good rhythm," Garoppolo said. "Just one drive would be great, one drive would be not so good. Like I said, I said this earlier, but the consistency that's what wins games in football, especially in the NFL. It's just the more consistent you could be, starting with myself, it's going to make everything a lot easier."
Garoppolo completed 69.7% of his passes with six touchdowns and one interception and a 105.6 passer rating in the fourth quarter last season. He also completed 72.7% of his passes with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions for a 115.7 passer rating when trailing in 2019, so he's clearly done this before. He even had a go-ahead touchdown pass in the fourth quarter -- a 5-yard strike to Jerick McKinnon -- in Sunday's loss that put the 49ers up 20-17 before Kyler Murray and the Cardinals offense responded with a touchdown drive of their own.
The 49ers need the clutch version of Garoppolo to return soon, or they could wind up in the basement of a very talented NFC West.