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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Saints’ Emmanuel Sanders defends 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo, Kyle Shanahan

Mar 24, 2020 at 3:28 PM--

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Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders joined ESPN's First Take this week. Host Stephen A. Smith asked if the decision to join the New Orleans Saints had anything to do with choosing between Drew Brees and his former quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers, Jimmy Garoppolo.

Smith, of course, has been critical of the 49ers quarterback for a while now.

Sanders wasn't baited by Smith's question. He acknowledged that Brees' presence did influence his decision to join the Saints, but clarified that it had nothing to do with his former quarterback. Sanders has praised Garoppolo at every opportunity.

"Hey, I love Jimmy, man," Sanders told Smith while smiling. "Look, I know the media is always hard on Jimmy, and I don't get it. I've got to make a case for my guy because I love my guy.

"This is my guy's first year really starting, and (he) took us all the way to the Super Bowl. Literally, if we would have made a couple of plays down [at the end], you all would be talking about Jimmy Garoppolo [being] the greatest thing since water. That's just how the cookie crumbles."

Max Kellerman asked Sanders about the fourth-quarter overthrow against the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. It was a play that could have sealed the win for San Francisco, bringing a sixth Lombardi Trophy to the Bay Area.

"Me and Jimmy, on that play, we both (feel) that could have been a legendary moment for the both of us," Sanders responded, "but at the same time, believe in destiny, and it just didn't happen. We made several plays -- if you think about the Los Angeles Rams game, it was the fourth quarter and a third down, and we completed that pass. It just happens."

Sanders is referring to the 49ers' second meeting of the season against the Rams. Garoppolo converted two 3rd-and-16 plays on the team's final drive to get the offense into range to kick a game-winning field goal. The first went to Kendrick Bourne, and the second to Sanders.

"As far as people [being] on Jimmy, and saying this one play determines this guys' -- pretty much trying to break down his career based off of one play, that's not fair because this guy made several throws for us down the stretch," Sanders continued. "This guy made several plays to even get us in that position.

"At the end of the day, it's one play, and I expect Jimmy to be the baller he's been all last year, all this year. And hopefully, we see those guys in the NFC Championship."

Smith later shifted focus to Kyle Shanahan, asking Sanders if the 49ers head coach's play-calling was too predictable in the Super Bowl loss.

"Not at all," Sanders responded. "If you go back and you really dissect that game, you will see that it was plenty of plays where Kyle Shanahan -- where we had them dialed up, and [the Chiefs] just made plays. It was two plays in which George Kittle -- one of them -- was running wide open, and the D-lineman just bats the ball down. And he's running wide open, and that's a play call that Kyle drew up.

"A lot of people are going to say, 'Oh yeah, it was Kyle. It was that throw. It was this,' but they just played well, and it was their time."

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