Former New England Patriots and current San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo earned his first start with his new team this past week against the Chicago Bears. Garoppolo completed 26 of 37 attempts (70.3%) for 293 yards and an interception that was entirely the fault of the receiver.
But more impressively, Garoppolo led the 49ers to a come-from-behind victory, leading a 5 minute, 27 second drive that set up the game-winning 24-yard field goal attempt. And Garoppolo used all of his lessons from his time under head coach Bill Belichick and behind quarterback Tom Brady to achieve the victory.
“I was thinking about [what I learned from Brady and Belichick] on the final drive, when we drove for the winning score,” Garoppolo told SI’s Peter King about the final drive. “We knew we needed first downs and we knew we needed to work the clock. That’s what I learned playing for Coach Belichick. It’s funny you mention that, because I was thinking about that [clock management] on the field. Coach would run through situations like this all the time.”
The 49ers started their drive down 14-12 and any score would win- they just couldn’t give the ball back to the Bears with too much time left on the clock to mount a response. Garoppolo picked up three first downs, moving the ball to the Bears 18-yard line, and drained the clock to the two-minute warning. First step accomplished.
According to King, Garoppolo then told his running backs to make sure to stay in bounds to force the Bears to use their timeouts and the 49ers picked up one final first down to run down the rest of the clock.
“Coach [Belichick] would run through situations during film situations, things you can’t practice,” Garoppolo explained. “You’ve just got to know.”
Robbie Gould chipped in the 24-yard field goal to win the game and Garoppolo won his first start in San Francisco.
How did Brady help Garoppolo? Well, in many ways, of course. But if Garoppolo could highlight just one aspect?
“One thing?” Garoppolo told SI’s Peter King. “I’d say preparation. That stuff that goes unnoticed. Practice. Tom used to say you could get better in practice every day. The time you spend on the things you didn’t do in college—studying, watching film, the little things, everything. I was able to watch him for three-and-a-half years, and I hope to carry those lessons for the rest of my career.”
Brady and Garoppolo texted each other after the game and the 40-yard-old congratulated his former protege for winning a game with his childhood team. It was just one game for Garoppolo, but with a strong performance alongside the terrible state of the 49ers roster, it should be the first of many more to come.