Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan: Defense, run game made Jimmy Garoppolo’s knee an afterthought; 49ers have unfinished business

Jul 27, 2020 at 1:39 PM--

Jimmy Garoppolo is entering the 2020 season with little or no concern about the ACL injury he suffered on September 23, 2018. There are other concerns, of course, like COVID-19 and the lack of an offseason's worth of practices, but his knee is not among them anymore.

Garoppolo should still have one of the league's best defenses and a top rushing attack to support him. Those two things were key in last season's division championship, and Super Bowl run.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan also pointed out that the defense and run game were crucial in Garoppolo's return from his injury, and helped take much of the pressure off the quarterback.

"Our defense carried us at the beginning of the year," Shanahan told his friend, Chris Simms, on the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast. "And then our run game carried our offense in the beginning of the year to where we didn't have to do much and put a lot on Jimmy, or we didn't have to call a lot of passes.

"During that time, though, it allowed us to be undefeated while all of a sudden, I think, Jimmy never thought about his ACL come Week 6, 7, 8. It allowed us to weather that storm that so many players have to go through when they come back from an injury like that. We were able to go through it without even really having to address it because of how good our defense was and our running game."

Then the 49ers traded for a veteran receiver, Emmanuel Sanders, and that helped Garoppolo take his game to another level. It was perfect timing too because there came times when the 49ers had to rely on him more to win games.

"And now, our defense had a couple of bad games, and Jimmy was ready," Shanahan continued. "He was just being the quarterback he could be, and he wasn't the guy coming back from an ACL. And that's kind of when [we knew] we've got a whole team. It's everything."

Everything started to click. The receivers, including rookie Deebo Samuel, started to step up with Sanders providing a veteran influence. Running back Raheem Mostert started to emerge. The Niners were rolling.

The team was even able to overcome what seemed like devastating losses. Both of its starting offensive tackles, Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey, missed time with injuries, replaced by a player from the AAF and a sixth-round draft pick in Daniel Brunskill and Justin Skule. The offense didn't miss a beat.

"We still won those games." Shanahan said. "It just gave everyone a confidence like, 'Oh my God, it doesn't matter who's out there, we are just a good team.' When we lost (George) Kittle, and Ross Dwelley came in and played great, it was just our team kind of fed off it because it was real. Everyone, all of a sudden, felt good.

"That carried us for a while, and that's why we were very confident going into all those playoff games and to the Super Bowl. We ended up being the second-best team, and we have some unfinished business with that, and hopefully, we can change that this year."

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