While the numbers don’t say so, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was actually quite solid in the team’s Week 3 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. And the film tells the tale.
His line? A so-so 23-of-32 passing for 277 yards, one touchdown against two interceptions and a passer rating of 82.4.
Garoppolo was charged with two fumbles, yes. And those aren’t the kind of plays where he’s entirely vindicated. But when looking at his passing efforts under center, the game tape and advanced analytics tell a different story than what the traditional numbers suggest.
In reality, Garoppolo played quite well.
According to Pro Football Focus, Garoppolo was pressured on 10 of his 33 dropbacks. And Pittsburgh blitzed him a whopping 21 times, too. Not surprisingly, those are the plays Garoppolo tossed his interceptions.
On San Francisco’s first offensive drive, Garoppolo attempted a short dump-off pass to running back Matt Breida. While Garoppolo didn’t quite lead Breida, the pass was still squarely in the numbers. Breida, however, couldn’t hang on and the ball ended up in the hands of Steelers EDGE T.J. Watt:
Can’t exactly fault Garoppolo on that one.
But the following interception is a bit more telling. With 4:52 left in the first quarter, Garoppolo felt the interior rush, yet he stood in the pocket prepared to take a big hit. The only real target he had was wide receiver Dante Pettis, whom Garoppolo targeted. Any further delay, including a check to his left, would have resulted in a sack and a 3rd-and-long.
The pass is slightly out of Pettis’ reach, yes. But the fact the ball was deflected right into the waiting arms of Steelers defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick is more chance than anything else:
And this wasn’t the only time Garoppolo stood tall in the pocket to make an accurate throw despite being split seconds away from taking a huge hit.
Speaking of that game-winning touchdown, the 5-yard strike to Pettis with less than two minutes remaining in regulation, it was set up by this play where Garoppolo had to evade some serious pressure, only to have Pettis not haul in the would-be touchdown grab:
Pittsburgh was penalized, however, which gave the 49ers a fresh set of downs and a chance to reclaim the lead.
But what’s more impressive is Garoppolo’s agility and poise despite having to evade three separate Steelers defenders.
Two plays later, Garoppolo put his trust in Pettis again, this time for the score:
This is the definition of a tight-window throw. An errant pass likely falls incomplete, or just as possibly, into the hands of the two Steelers defenders covering Pettis. Pay attention to the quick release, too. A longer windup would have given Pittsburgh a better chance to react and anticipate.
Instead, Garoppolo put the pass right where Pettis could get it, nowhere else.
While the stats don’t necessarily back it up, Week 3’s efforts against the Steelers showcase why the win was one of Garoppolo’s best on the young season.
Sure, there were mistakes and gaffes, and there will be more as the weeks roll on. But Garoppolo showed some excellent signs on Sunday.