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Jimmy Garoppolo, other 49ers players react to leaving Aaron Rodgers, Packers time on the clock

Sep 26, 2021 at 10:50 PM


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Levi's Stadium was celebrating after watching fullback Kyle Juszczyk haul in a Jimmy Garoppolo pass and force his way into the end zone for what seemed to be the game-winning touchdown. Celebrations took place on the field and in the stands. However, there were still 37 seconds left on the clock, and when you have Aaron Rodgers on the other side of the field, that is too much time.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was conscious of the time remaining and the opponent at hand. Still, touchdowns in the NFL are tough to come by and the 49ers offense seized its opportunity for what could have been a play to remember for a long time.

Rodgers led the Packers offense down the field on the ensuing drive, just far enough for Mason Crosby to connect on a game-winning field goal in the closing seconds. The mood in the stadium went from exhilaration to agonizing stress to heartbreak in a handful of plays as players, coaches, and fans watched Rodgers and the Packers dissect the 49ers defense for the 30-28 win.

"Well, you're always conscious of [the clock]," Garoppolo told reporters after the game. "In that situation, there's a lot of different things going on. But yeah, game clock, you're always trying to get it as low as you can. It's just tough when you've got a guy like Aaron on the other side. You leave him any amount of time, you never know what can happen. I mean, the dude did it in 36, 37 seconds. You've got to tip your hat to him sometimes."

Juszczyk was just focused on doing everything he could to lift his team to a win. When he saw an opportunity to score, he took advantage.

"I didn't really have a lot of time to think about it," Juszczyk said in his post-game presser. "I think the entire team was swarming me, so I didn't even know how much time was left on the clock, to be totally honest with you. And it really wasn't something that was on my mind during the play as well. We were down six, we needed a touchdown, so I was trying to score."

Garoppolo felt his team had momentum, despite the many mistakes throughout the game. It was moving down the field for what probably should have been the game-winning score.

"We were kind of in a good rhythm," Garoppolo said. "That's where you toe the line of you've got the defense on their heels. I mean, it's really hard to score down there in the red zone as it is. Do you want to let them catch their breath and that type of thing? When a guy catches it and makes a play like that, you're not going to be upset at him for scoring. ... You want to toe that line with it. It's tough."

The 49ers' All-Pro tight end, George Kittle, wasn't really thinking about the game clock either in the seconds following the score. Even if he were, he has a lot of faith in his defense, despite it missing cornerbacks Josh Norman and K'Waun Williams.

"I was just celebrating in the moment," Kittle shared. "It was a hell of a play by Juice, breaking two tackles, trucks a guy falling into the end zone. I mean, there's always too much time on the clock if there's ever time on the clock, especially with Aaron Rodgers.

"I think we have a really good defense, though, and I don't really have any worries when our defense is out on the field. But like I said, it was Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams. They have a lot of good playmakers over there, and they did what they had to do to win."

The touchdown and time remaining left the game in the hands of the 49ers defense, and it could not capitalize. It felt up to the challenge, though.

"Obviously, we're telling each other that we've got to win this game," Warner said. "It's all on us and just kind of taking it one play at a time. And we obviously didn't get it done."

Warner had an opportunity to end the game single-handedly but couldn't get between the Rodgers-to-Adams pass that got the Packers to mid-field and was crucial in the march at the end to get into field goal range. The linebacker's hands ended up about a foot under the football as it sailed over him.

"That one stings probably the most, knowing that I was that close, I could have sealed the game on that one play," Warner admitted. "I look at myself and [ask], 'How could I have played that better?' There were a few plays I wanted back in that game. That's for sure one of them.

"I'm going to take a hard look at it, see how I can get better because I've got to be better for this team."

The 49ers have to move forward because there is no other choice. There are 14 more games to be played, and a lot can happen along the way. For now, the team fumbled an opportunity to keep pace in the NFC West and now sits behind the still undefeated Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams.

What was the feeling in the locker room after squandering the big opportunity?

"Not too good," defensive end Nick Bosa said. "We had plenty of opportunities as a defense to close it out, and we didn't, so it's tough."

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