Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers find new offensive gear in win over Cardinals
If Jimmy Garoppolo’s gonna be this good, the rest of the NFL is in real trouble.
The San Francisco quarterback, taking full advantage of new target Emmanuel Sanders, sliced and diced the Arizona Cardinals defense on Halloween to send the 49ers to an 8-0 start with a 28-25 victory.
It was a breakout night for Garoppolo, who threw for a career-high four touchdowns while completing 28-of-37 pass attempts for 317 yards. And the 49ers needed every bit of it to stave off a late Cardinals rally to remain undefeated.
49ers put NFL on notice
For a team that boasts an elite defense and the NFL’s second-ranked rushing attack, the performance was an emphatic statement: There are no weaknesses in San Francisco.
Garoppolo hasn’t been bad up to this point. He just hasn’t looked like the second coming of Tom Brady that he was billed as when he backed up the Patriots quarterback in New England.
He completed 69.8 percent of his passes while average 212 yards per game with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions though San Francisco’s first seven games — standard game-manager numbers for a team that relies on strengths elsewhere.
New look offense with Sanders?
But the addition of Sanders — who arrived via trade from the Denver Broncos two weeks ago — has breathed new life into San Francisco’s passing game.
No longer is tight end George Kittle Garoppolo’s only high-level downfield receiving threat. Now he has a two-time Pro Bowler and legitimate No. 1 receiving option lining up wide.
Sanders finished the night with seven catches for 112 yards and a touchdown.
With scat back Matt Brieda a threat to catch passes and break a big play every time he touches the ball while Tevin Coleman handles work inside the 20 and in short-yardage situations, the 49ers now boast a bonafide dynamic offense.
Garoppolo: Skill players make ‘it easy’
“The receivers — those guys, their body language, how they are at the top of routes, they beat guys,” Garoppolo told Fox’s Erin Andrews after the game. “It makes it easy for me. We’ve got skill-position guys like that that are just winning on routes. It’s awesome.”
With all due respect to a more-hyped Patriots unit, the 49ers will gladly line up their defense up next to anyone’s.
It all adds up to a team without a weak spot that looks ready to carry its new mantle as the team to beat in the NFC.
Murray, Drake stand out of Cardinals
The 49ers offense wasn’t the only one to impress on Thursday, as Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray showed flashes of what made him the top pick in the draft while putting pressure on San Francisco late.
Trailing 28-17 late in the fourth quarter, Murray lofted a perfect pass on a crossing route over the outstretched hands of 49ers cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, who had man coverage on Cardinals receiver Andy Isabella.
Isabella hauled in the second-and-18 pass and outran the San Francisco secondary for an 88-yard touchdown.
A two-point conversion cut the San Francisco lead to a field goal, but Garoppolo answered by leading San Francisco on an 11-play, 4:53 drive with three first downs to run out the clock and fend off the upset.
Murray finished completing 17-of-24 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns while picking up 34 yards on the ground without a turnover — a standout performance against one of the league’s best defenses.
Running back Kenyan Drake, acquired in a trade deadline deal from the Miami Dolphins, made the most of his desert debut, racking up 110 rushing yards and 52 receiving yards while scoring the game’s first touchdown.
But it wasn’t enough to overcome a night where San Francisco’s offense carried the load.