The NFL’s Best Defense: No Problem for Jimmy G, by Chuck Strom

In the buildup to last Sunday’s game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Jacksonville Jaguars, even the most gushing admirers of rookie 49er quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo anticipated a rough time. The Jaguars had allowed the fewest points and passing yards of any team in the NFL, and their defensive line, nicknamed “Sacksonville,” was so good that they rarely needed to blitz with extra rushers on passing downs. If there was a time for Jimmy G to come back down to earth, this seemed to be it.

Garoppolo wasted no time in shattering that conventional wisdom, taking the 49ers to the first opening drive touchdown that the Jaguars had allowed all season and rarely letting up for the rest of the game, which the 49ers won 44-33. The Jaguars managed only one sack all game, on a play where Garoppolo uncharacteristically held the ball too long, and otherwise he seemed to have no trouble keeping their pass rushers off balance, often with designed roll-outs. Even more than last week against the Titans, Jimmy G made quarterbacking in the NFL look easy.

The excitement that he has brought to San Francisco is palpable, especially at Levi’s Stadium, which previously had been justifiably one of the most listless venues in the league. The crowd was loud all game, and barely a sentence seemed to be uttered by the fans around me without some mention of Jimmy G and his magic. One fan I encountered on a restroom trip was so excited that he was planning to fly down to Los Angeles to see Garoppolo one more time while he had the chance. I never saw either Joe Montana or Steve Young play in person during the franchise’s glory years of the 1980s and 1990s at Candlestick Park, but I imagine that those experiences were a lot like what I saw last Sunday. Barring injury or a reversion to franchise incompetence, I expect a lot more games like this for the next decade, and being at Levi’s Stadium for the last home game this season felt very much, as the old saying goes, like being present at the creation.

Chuck Strom

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