Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan believes 49ers players stepping up has helped Jimmy Garoppolo, talks crowd expectations in Mexico

Nov 20, 2022 at 8:45 AM--

Jimmy Garoppolo is turning in one of the better seasons of his career. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback stepped in for an injured Trey Lance in Week 2 and has once again asserted himself as the leader on offense.

Garoppolo has played well in the last two games. He hasn't thrown an interception in those matchups—a 31-14 win over the Los Angeles Rams and a 22-16 win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

Tight end George Kittle has been one of Garoppolo's biggest supporters and had a theory as to why the quarterback has impressed over the last few weeks.

"I think one of the biggest [reasons] is we just have more guys around him that are stepping up and making plays," Kittle said this past week. "[WR] Brandon [Aiyuk] is doing really well. You have [WR] Deebo [Samuel], you have me, you have [RB Christian] McCaffrey. [RB] Elijah [Mitchell] is there, [FB Kyle Juszczyk] is there.

"Guys are just making plays when their numbers are called, and that helps Jimmy look like he's playing better because he is, and you don't have guys dropping the ball and stuff like that."

Shanahan was recently asked about Kittle's comments and Garoppolo's play in recent weeks.

"When Jimmy's been healthy, and he's been out there, Jimmy's played at a high level," Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area while the team was in Colorado Springs getting acclimated to the altitude. "I agree with George in the fact that I think the guys around him these last few weeks have been playing better. I think George has gotten healthier, and he's gotten out there, and he's been a lot more consistent.

"Our running backs have been good, especially after adding Christian, getting [WR] Jauan [Jennings] back, getting Deebo back. Aiyuk's been stepping it up here. He's stepped it up all year, but the last month, I've felt him each week taking another level to it."

While Shanahan claims to have a lot of confidence in Garoppolo, the coach admits that he doesn't want to put everything on the quarterback's shoulders. However, there will be times when Garoppolo has to step up in games.

"And Jimmy's a veteran. He knows how to play," Shanahan continued. "And I think he's always been pretty consistent. When we make it a type of game that's good for the Niners, usually, it's good for Jimmy.

"There's going to come a time when it can't be that way, and he's done it before, but sometimes he's going to have to put everyone on his back and do it. We try to make it to where it's not that way. We try to make it a team game. When we do that, I think we're a pretty hard team to beat."

Mexico crowd expectations

Next up for the 49ers are the Arizona Cardinals. The two teams will play at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City on Monday night. While it's technically a home game for the Cardinals, early estimates suggest that 49ers fans will overwhelmingly outnumber Cardinals fans. Over 80 percent of the fans could be cheering for the Niners.

The reports of 49ers fans taking over Estadio Azteca aren't surprising to the 49ers head coach.

"Our Mexican fanbase is strong," Shanahan said. "I can feel that in California. I can feel it wherever I go. I feel it in Cabo when I visit there. So I think they're going to be rocking in Mexico City. I think that is going to be a cool experience."

Shanahan admitted that the team did work on the silent count this week—just in case. The coach asked Alfredo Gutierrez, his practice squad offensive lineman from Mexico, if the fans know not to cheer when the offense is facing a third down and situations like that.

"He told me, 'Yes,'" Shanahan said. "I'm kind of taking his word for it, but I still think we've got to be prepared. ... We've got to be prepared for anything, and we are."

Cardinals QB uncertainty

The 49ers still don't know which quarterback they will face on Monday night. The Cardinals' starter, Kyler Murray, didn't play against the Los Angeles Rams last weekend due to a hamstring injury. Arizona listed him as "questionable" against the 49ers.

Colt McCoy started in Murray's place against the Rams. He injured his knee in the game and was limited in practices this past week. However, he did not appear on the Cardinal's injury report for Monday's game.

"I think the thing that helps us the most is that we faced both of them last year," Shanahan shared. "Last year, you've got to get so ready for Kyler because of his skillset that's as unique as anyone on the planet. And then we prepared for him the next game, and he ended up not playing. We knew Colt had a chance, but we thought Kyler was going to play. And then you get ready for Colt.

"Now, seeing both, you get ready for them the same way. It's not like the offense is drastically different. They do what they do. They get the ball in their playmakers' hands a lot. Colt doesn't have the same 40 [time] as Kyler. Neither does anybody, so nothing against Colt. So some of that stuff is different, but he executes that offense at a high level, and we found that out last year."

The Cardinals swept the 49ers last season and have won three of their last four meetings.

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