The game started off with a bang: Raheem Mostert literally shot out like a canon ball, zipping down the field at mach speed, to put the 49ers up 10-0 over the Cardinals. It's what we all expected, right?
They looked as though the #RevengeTour was actually a REAL, tangible thing. My Super Bowl hangover had lifted off my shoulders and I felt like a new woman—slightly vulnerable, but ready to get back out into the world again. Maybe slap on some lipstick and smile at the new boy in the park with the cute puppy.
Then Jimmy Garoppolo struggled to throw the ball. He left open receivers High & Dry like a terrible Radiohead cover band.
Now, everyone rips on Jimmy Jawline more than any other QB in this league. It’s like any quarterback who played under Bill Belichick can excel, yet only knows how to do so when Belichick’s at the helm (cough, cough Tom Brady in Tampa was a major flop—at least Jimmy didn’t throw an interception...although he was close). Let's be real. Garoppolo looked a little lost. His feet would prance around when he should have kept his ground. And when he should have moved, his feet were glued to the field.
He lacks confidence in himself.
Last year, we saw Jimmy break out of his lil shell after the team went 8-0. You know how I know? Look at the smile he flashed Erin Andrews in that interview.
When he said, “feels great, baby,” you KNOW he meant it.
Garoppolo carried that cheekiness with him into BIG games. Cue Week 14 and the Saints. We saw a shooting match. We saw a side of Jimmy G that made Stephen A Smith do a double-take.
The 49ers need that Jimmy.
They need him to start “feelin’ himself” in order for him to trust himself. It's not that Shanahan doesn’t trust him—Jimmy doesn’t trust himself. And coming off the heartbreaking loss of the Super Bowl, he's been playing through a hell of a lot more adversity than ever before (BLM, COVID, and whatever other BS goes on behind closed doors). Pair that with the sheer disrespect Garoppolo has endured after the loss.
It’s truly a mental game. And from the looks of it, Jimmy is a very mental QB.
He wouldn’t dance like that in the pocket or shy away from throwing to his receivers—like they have friggin' cooties—for nothing.
Food for thought: after a heartbreak, you go through all the stages. Sadness. Anger. Denial. Acceptance. Usually, you have a decent off-season to heal. You give yourself the “hot bod summer” to try to feel some sense of self worth.
But instead, a pandemic literally stood up and was like, "Hold my beer," so there was no hot boy summer for Jimmy Garoppolo.
Rather than enjoy the offseason, feel the emotions, and get back to work to heal, Jimmy had to overcome even more adversity, while trying to mask the Super Bowl hangover with the distraction of the #RevengeTour.
And that’s fine.
But Jimmy needs to heal.
Maybe that’ll be tough to do without the love of the faithful fans around the stadium. Maybe it’s an adjustment. But he will adjust. He’ll feel the loss of the Cards game. He’ll feel the overthrows and missed timing in his throws. And he’ll compare that to the SB loss.
Now, at this point, he’ll either tap into that fire inside and wake up the monster we saw against the Saints—and he’ll bring that every game going forward. Or he’ll have another bad game and be yet another sloppy headline in sports media.
But please, give him the time to heal. Let’s see what Jimmy can do without starting the season 8-0; let’s see what he’s made of when it doesn't feel great, baby.
Another takeaway: the receiver corps was underwhelming. I’m looking directly at Kendrick Bourne and Dante Pettis.
Bourne was open, and Jimmy was to blame on a throw or two in there, but Pettis, man? As much as I love the guy, he needs to step up. To watch a receiver blatantly not give any effort to reach out his arms for a throw, when the game is basically on the line, is pathetic. I’ve played flag football and specifically one game in particular I can remember that was a scratch game, since the other team had to forfeit. Guess what I did in that game? I DOVE for a catch. And I caught it. In a game that didn't even matter...
When you step out on that football field—no matter what level of play—you decide how much you want to give.
You decide how great you can be.
And I think Pettis has a lot of great in him. He just looks scared to fail. So rather than dive for the ball or reach out his arms, he looks like a four-year-old soccer player who just wants to be on the field so he can feast on free orange slices at halftime.
If your coach benches you in a Super Bowl game, and then somehow gives you another shot the following season, you need to step up. You need to prove your worth. Because Pettis is worth it. Shanny sees a light in him. And I can feel it when I look at him. But I didn’t feel it against the Cards. Pettis, man. You need to play with that do-or-die passion every single game, especially when you’re in the hot seat. Play like the WR we all know you can be.
Let's move on. The defense looked fire in the opening minutes. I was literally jumping up and down on my couch like a mad woman. I even tweeted "49ERS ARE GOING TO DISNEY WORLD!" because the D looked so spicy, so determined to put a stop to every Arizona drive.
And they did.
But then they got too cocky. After that whack-ass special teams play by Ari, the momentum shifted and it’s like our special teams fell apart. They let the Cards get into their head. They were sloppy on plays, which led to multiple wide open lanes for Kyler Murray to take off and burn too many defenders. Richard Sherman should have been on Hopkins like a bunny. Emmanuel Moseley had moments where he could have capitalized, but the team as a whole couldn’t adjust. Robert Saleh couldn’t adjust.
So instead, they crumbled. And then it’s as if they looked around, hoping one of their teammates could pick up the pieces. But this team never used to be about that.
This team used to play like a family.
That’s what was missing more than anything in this game. They didn’t take care of each other the way we saw last year. That might be the Super Bowl hangover, but it could also be the "The Great Joe Staley Depression". Dude was part of the organization for 13 seasons. That’s a seasoned leader. Gone. Someone Kittle—who damn near went out with a leg or knee injury after a sloppy Jimmy throw—had looked up to. And as much as you don’t want the vibe of a team to change after certain players leave, it’s pretty normal for there to be a hole in the heart of what used to be this unbelievably strong brotherhood of a team. You can blame it on no preseason games, but that’s BS, too. Just refer to what Sherman said.
Nah, this team came out hot, but forgot to get the last minute oil change necessary before stepping on the field.
They misjudged Arizona and they looked like a bunch of excited/anxious puppies just trying to grow into their big, old paws. The fire in this team—the family mentality—is there. But leadership needs to step the heck up. And i’m looking at Captain Jimmy, George, and Sherman to do so.
All around, the team was lacking conviction in their plays. It just wasn’t the team we saw most of last season. Luckily, this is the first game of the season. There’s a lot more football to play. And at least Jimmy G has thrown two less interceptions than Tom Brady thus far.
On the flip: the run game is just as amazing as we left off. If Jimmy needs to lean a bit more on Mostert, Tevin Coleman, and Jet McKinnon (a healthier and more "warmed-up" version), they can at least ease Garoppolo into the mental aspect of the game by gaining his confidence with some easy touchdowns on the ground. Mostert will continue to have monster performances for the team, but at the end of the day, he can’t carry them every week.
Side note: I’m pumped for Fred Warner. He’s going to be a star linebacker. I get the same butterflies in my tummy like the days of watching Patrick Willis. He’s exciting to admire and though he wasn’t a complete difference maker in the loss, he looked primed and ready to compete this season.
Zebras and Hopkins-being-open-all-the-flippin'-time aside, Niners just ate some humble pie and they’re going to come back hungrier than ever next weekend.