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Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Film room: Jimmy Garoppolo’s wild ride

Sep 12, 2018 at 7:03 AM

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Today we look at Jimmy Garoppolo's performance in the overall context of the offense against the Vikings in Week One.

The 49ers offense in general, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in particular, had a wild ride of ups and downs against what is possibly the NFL's number one defense in the Minnesota Vikings. Garoppolo finished the game 15/33 for 261 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. At first glance it would appear the blame could be pinned on him and him alone, after all, one of his interceptions went for a pick-six.

Heading into the game, though, the 49ers were without running back Jerick McKinnon (who's done for the season too) and lost receiver Marquise Goodwin for most of the game, severely limiting their options on offense by not having a deep threat and not being able to stretch the field with a viable running game. The 49ers had to rely solely on the arm of their new field general (the fourth opening day starter since 2015 and fifth starter in two years) and against the Vikings, that proved to be a daunting task. Fans, coaches and players expect nothing but perfection but it was never going to remain true that Garoppolo would stay undefeated as a starter. On Sunday, it also wasn't entirely his fault, though he shoulders a chunk of the blame.


For the 49ers offense to take the next step, and Garoppolo, they would need to be technically perfect in every phase of the game. And for the most part the defense held up its end of the bargain, holding a potentially explosive offense to just 17 points. Still, the defense did what it was asked to do, putting the ball in the hands of its star quarterback. And he had moments to shine and gave his team chances to score.

First play: 2nd quarter, 3rd and 6 at SF 46, 8:13

The drive appeared to stall the play before this one as running back Alfred Morris was stopped on a third and one rushing attempt. However, a flag for a false start on tight end Garrett Celek walked the offense back five yards and it got another chance at redemption.

The 49ers line up in 11 personnel with Garoppolo in the gun and running back Matt Breida (no. 22) to his right. The play has two different concepts for Garoppolo to choose from and he likely determined where he was going during the pre-snap process. To his right, the combo is a dig or curl-flat concept with Breida running the flat route and receiver Pierre Garçon (no. 15) running the dig or curl depending on the coverage.

The opposite side of the formation is running the levels concept with receiver Trent Taylor (no. 81) running the shallow dig, receiver Dante Pettis (no. 18) running the deep dig and tight end George Kittle (no. 85) clearing out down the seam.

Garoppolo takes the snap and determines that his pre-snap recognition was correct, the Vikings are in man coverage. Garçon runs a dig route instead of curl to keep the defender in trail while Breida clears out to the flat and opens up the underneath hole in the middle of the field. Garoppolo hits the top of his drop, hitches, and throws on time to Garçon.

Garoppolo throws Garçon open with a low pass away from the trailing defender, which also has the added benefit of protecting Garçon from the safety coming up to make the hit. The play goes for 11 yards and converts the third down to a first down and is a great example of how accurate at the intermediate ranges Garoppolo typically is.

Second play: 3rd quarter, 2nd and 8 at SF 20, 10:54

Last season Garoppolo had issues throwing deep passes and was 4-16 over five games. This season that needs to change and the signs were encouraging in the first game.

Out of 21 personnel, the 49ers run the tight end throwback or "boot U/Y wheel". It's a tough play to react to because it gets the tight end wide open and Shanahan loves it for this reason. In Shanahan's tight end throwback, the line steps laterally to sell the outside zone while the quarterback executes a play fake and rolls out naked the opposite way before pulling up and throwing back to the tight end who leaked out down the opposite sideline.

The action of the offensive line and fake hand-off really help sell the the play.The front of the defense chases the run action while the secondary chases the boot pass crossing routes, leaving Kittle wide open as he leaks out down the sideline from the opposite side of the formation.

The fake works to perfection and Garoppolo faces zero pressure before he throws to a wide open Kittle. Garoppolo hits him in stride but the thinkable happens and Kittle drops the pass (as he often did last year). At the very least if he catches it, the play goes for a large gain or possibly even a touchdown if Kittle beats the safety coming across.

Instead, the drops makes it 3rd and 6 and leads to a disastrous sequence of events in which the Vikings would intercept a pass in the flat after a six-man pressure and return it for a touchdown. Still, the fact Garoppolo can hit a receiver in stride deep down the field is a positive sign. He was accurate on four of five deep passes (21+ yards).

Third play: 3rd quarter, 2nd and 15 at MIN 22, 00:40

If the 49ers were going to have any shot to get back in this game, then Garoppolo needed to be near perfect. After the pick 6, he led the 49ers on a scoring drive where the catalyst was a deep throw in stride to fullback Kyle Juszczyk down the right sideline 35 yards in the air and a 54 yard gain to set up a field goal. The Vikings answered back with touchdown of their own. Then the 49ers would.

The 49ers are in 11 personnel and motion running back Alfred Morris (no. 48) out to the wide side of the field outside Taylor and Pettis. Garçon and Kittle are out to the left of the formation. They're running a post/dig combination from the inside with Pettis on the dig and Taylor on the skinny post.

Garoppolo drops back to throw and gets ready to step into a pass to Pettis over the middle. I'm not so sure he would've completed the pass because Pettis is blanketed by three Minnesota defenders. But the rush prevents him from getting the throw off anyways and he breaks out of the pocket to his left. The scramble is on.

The receivers go into a scramble drill and Pettis breaks for the back of the end zone as Garoppolo rolls out and throws Pettis open over the top of the defense.

The throw is perfect as it's placed ahead of Pettis in only a spot he can get it.


Several times on Sunday, Garoppolo was late seeing throws and forced some passes into tight coverage as a result.

Fourth play: 1st quarter, 3rd and 7 at SF 22, 07:27

The Vikings pass defense is really good. And it still got a little help from Garoppolo as he telegraphed some passes into already tight windows.

On a third and seven on the 49ers' first drive, Shanahan dialed up the double dig concept, which gives Garoppolo two inside breaking routes at different levels to beat zone coverage or work away from man coverage with outside leverage. Kittle is running the inside dig (in orange), with Garçon running the outside (deeper dig in yellow). The play also gives the quarterback a chance to work the flats with two halfbacks out of the back field.

The Vikings take away the outside dig by playing Garçon's inside hip and underneath the route. The combination of man and zone coverage takes away the flat routes as well.

However, Garoppolo is locked on to Kittle, and as a result, the linebacker playing the underneath curl zone drops right into the throwing lane as they bracket Taylor across the middle of the field.

Fifth play: 3rd quarter, 3rd and 6 at MIN 15, 09:24

Garoppolo was also unusually late on some throws, like this play in particular.

The 49ers are running a simple sail concept on the left side of the formation on third and six. The sail concept is a sideline levels route concept that seeks to put an outside defensive back into conflict by running a levels combo and forcing him to play underneath or drop under the deep route. Garçon is running the deep corner route while Kittle is running the shallow out route to the flat.

The Vikings nickel defender drops with Kittle as Garçon starts to come open on the corner route. The cornerback running with Breida is step for step with him watching Jimmy's eyes. At this point in the play, Garoppolo is at the top of his drop and through his first hitch. He's not even winding up to throw.

Instead, he winds up to throw as hitches a second time, allowing the defenders to sink under the pass and up-end Garçon as the ball arrives with a vicious hit. Garçon can't hang on and it's a missed opportunity for a touchdown, just one of several missed in the end zone either due to (in this case) quarterback error or receiver error.


There was plenty of blame to go around with the entire offense, but two plays in particular for Garoppolo came at really crucial times in the 4th quarter.

Sixth play: 4th quarter, 1st and 10 at SF 31, 14:43

The 49ers had just come off a scoring drive where Garoppolo hit Pettis in the back of the end zone (the play diagrammed earlier) and the defense forced a quick three-and-out.

On the ensuing drive at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the 49ers line up in a 2x2 with a halfback to Garoppolo's right. They're running the double slant concept where all four receivers are running slants at two different depths.

The pre-snap shows the Vikings strength to be the 49ers' strong side (right side) and they are showing a cover 1 (man coverage with one deep safety) so Garoppolo is going to need to work the left side with Pettis. The throw was determined pre-snap based on this alignment and the timing it takes to throw: three-step drop, plant, throw.

The rookie Pettis, working against All-Pro cornerback Xavier Rhodes, runs the outside slant and puts Rhodes on skates as he sells the outside fade and cuts back underneath. From a clean pocket, Garoppolo had what should have been a routine throw and catch, but his pass was too far in front and too high for Pettis to go up and get.

Rhodes just happened to be in the right spot at the right time as he regained leverage over the top of Pettis. The pass deflects off Rhodes' arm and he intercepts it, going the other way before he's brought down.

Seventh play: 4th quarter, 3rd and 4 at MIN 4, 08:17

The final play occurred on the next drive after Garoppolo's 2nd interception by Xavier Rhodes in the play above. The 49ers drove all the way down the four-yard line with a chance to score and potentially cut the lead to three.

The play call is a pick play with Garçon running the direct slant across the middle and Kittle running at the outside defenders and then cutting across their face back toward the goal post.

Kittle is lined up tight to the line next to the right tackle. The Vikings bounce out a linebacker over the right tackle near Kittle, the safety who takes an outside shade, and the cornerback is over Garçon. The linebacker is there to potentially double team Kittle but at the snap, he's occupied by the underneath crosser.

Garoppolo again had a clean pocket. All he has to do is throw to Kittle in space. But once the field tightened, so did the quarterback and Garoppolo wildly overthrows his tight end for what should've been an easy six points.

The quarterback finished with three interceptions on the day. Both of his right guards went down with injuries and they ended up with rookie right tackle Mike McGlinchey moving to right guard and Garry Gilliam playing right tackle for most of the 2nd half. It was a less than ideal situation. The good news is there is reason to believe he can rebound.

Given how easily Shanahan picked apart the best elements of the Vikings defense and schemed guys wide open, there is no reason to panic over the week 1 performance of Jimmy Garoppolo. The not so good news is that Garoppolo must clean up his process in the pocket and cut down on the amount of reckless passes he throws. He got away with it last year. Last Sunday, he didn't.

The team needs to clean up its mistakes and Garoppolo must work on his and this week there is no better opponent to rebound against early in the season than a beat-up Lions who head into Santa Clara in a few days.

All gifs courtesy of the NFL.

All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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