49ers can’t afford to have Jimmy Garoppolo shoulder the load vs. Cowboys
By Peter Panacy
The 49ers got a great bounce-back performance from Jimmy Garoppolo against the Rams. But if he’s called upon to do a lot versus the Cowboys, it’s trouble.
There were plenty of San Francisco 49ers fans and analysts who were harsh on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo over the first half of the Niners’ eventual Week 18 overtime win against the Los Angeles Rams.
Deservedly so. Garoppolo wasn’t good early on and was a big reason why San Francisco fell behind 17-0 in a must-win game.
Yet Garoppolo bounced back despite his injured thumb, particularly on that game-tying drive with less than two minutes to go in regulation and with no timeouts, delivering some key passes and looking much more like a high-caliber signal-caller than just a mere game manager.
Great for him. Especially in the wild context that has been the 2021 season.
Garoppolo deserves a lot of credit for how he responded, especially in a game where he threw two interceptions and looked awful early.
That win propelled Jimmy G and the 49ers into the playoffs, and they’ll now face off against the 12-5 Dallas Cowboys in the Wild Card round, a team boasting the league’s No. 1 offense in both points scored and yards gained.
Despite what Garoppolo managed to do against the Rams in Week 18, the Niners may be in trouble if he ends up being tasked with shouldering the offensive load versus Dallas.
49ers won’t be able to afford Jimmy Garoppolo mistakes vs. Cowboys
Garoppolo partially bucked the trend of losing games when he tosses an interception. Entering Week 18, San Francisco was 1-6 when Jimmy G threw a pick. Now it’s 2-6 after his two interceptions, but that’s still not a good trend.
And it’s further complicated by the fact the Cowboys lead the league in defensive takeaways with 34, and their plus-14 turnover differential is tied for best in the NFL during the regular season, too.
Not exactly good news for Garoppolo, whose 2.7 interception-percentage rate matches his career mark.
Dallas went 11-2 in games where it forced a turnover this season, so those odds don’t stack up well for Garoppolo despite what he was able to do against Los Angeles.
Particularly knowing the 49ers’ top objective on Wild Card weekend will be ball control and keeping that potent Cowboys offense off the field.
Can Jimmy Garoppolo go toe-to-toe with Dak Prescott?
Dallas’ quarterback, Dak Prescott, has been inconsistent this season, yes. And some may question the nature of the Cowboys’ 12-5 record, given the substandard nature of the NFC East.
Garoppolo has won shootouts before, and that memorable road game against quarterback Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints back in 2019 certainly comes to mind. The only problem, though, is performances like that have typically been the exception from Garoppolo’s standpoint.
Not the norm. And one of the key ways the Niners could easily wind up losing this game is if they’re asked to match Prescott and Co. score for score, which plays into Dallas’ strengths.
Read More: 4 advantages Niners have over Cowboys in Wild Card round
A Cowboys weakness? Stopping the run. They’re averaging 4.5 yards per carry this season, which is 23rd in the league, and that fits right into how San Francisco pulled off victories over both the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers during the postseason after that memorable Saints victory.
Garoppolo, as you might recall, was awfully limited in terms of his passing efforts. It worked.
Perhaps it’s best explained by Good Morning Football’s Kyle Brandt, shown at the tail end of the video below, breaking down how Garoppolo can’t be “the guy” when the 49ers and Cowboys square off this Sunday:
In all honesty, it makes sense. The Niners need to win Wild Card weekend around Jimmy G, not solely because of him.
If anything, Garoppolo needs to tap into ball-protection mode where San Francisco went 7-0 in games he didn’t turn the ball over, further aided by that strong running game and the limiting of Garoppolo’s passes to no more than 25 during the contest.
Should Garoppolo have to pass for more than that, the 49ers could easily be in trouble.
The Niners and Cowboys kick off their Wild Card matchup on Sunday, Jan. 16 at 4:30 p.m. from AT&T Stadium.