Super Bowl 54: Garoppolo key for 49ers

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Ray Burton
Ray writes mostly in-depth analytical pieces covering a range of sports from a more statistical perspective drawing his inspiration from the fanalytics movement. Ray writes on the NFL, Premier League, MLB, NHL, NBA, and NRL.

Having ridden their running game all the way to Miami for Super Bowl 54, Jimmy Garoppolo looks set to become the key factor if the San Francisco 49ers are to win their first Championship since 1995. Throwing just eight passes in the NFC Championship game win over the Packers has seen the spotlight shift to the young QB. And he looks ready.

But the 49ers are clear in their conviction that Jimmy Garoppolo can do much more for them if the situation warrants it, and it most likely will on Sunday.

Super Bowl 54 offers new challenges

While the 49ers have clearly had a run-first approach throughout the playoffs, that doesn’t mean they can’t pass. Coming off his torn ACL in 2018, Jimmy Garoppolo put up 3,978 yards and 27 touchdowns with a completion rate of 69.1%. Posting a rating over 100 nine times during the regular season, Garoppolo has been the model of efficiency and improved in the second half of the season.

Can Jimmy Garoppolo put the 49ers on his back if he needs to? © DAVID ZALUBOWSKI AP
Can Jimmy Garoppolo put the 49ers on his back if he needs to? © DAVID ZALUBOWSKI AP

Critics, however, will point to the Niners prolific running attack and say without that, San Francisco wouldn’t be at Super Bowl 54. There’s no denying the 49ers three-headed backfield has dominated most of the season, posting 100+ yards rushing in twelve of their 16 games. But in the four games they were held under 100 yards Garoppolo led them to three wins.

For their part, the Kansas City Chiefs shut down the leagues most dominant back over the last half of the season. Derrick Henry had put up seven 100+ rushing games in his last eight games going into the AFC Championship game, but the Chiefs throttled him back to a mere 69 yards at 3.6 yards per carry.

With Henry out of the game, it fell to Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill to fill the offensive void, and Super Bowl 54 will likely follow much the same pattern. Expect the Chiefs to rotate their safeties to get eight men in the box early, and challenge Jimmy Garoppolo to beat them with the deep ball.

I hear all the stuff and everything, but you can’t put that all out there all the time. You have to do with it what you will and take it for what it is. Just at the end of the day, you’ve got to go out there and play football.

Jimmy Garoppolo on criticism of his playoff performances

The problem for the Chiefs is that Garoppolo is a far superior quarterback to Ryan Tannehill, and that’s what makes this an intriguing super bowl matchup. And while the Titans had a dominant rush attack and a solid defence, the 49ers possess higher calibre players and will be much harder to shut down on offence, and are far more disruptive on the defensive end as well.

Super Bowl 54 : Nick Bosa will need to stay fresh for the 49ers to win
Super Bowl 54 : Nick Bosa will need to stay fresh for the 49ers to win

The main worry for San Francisco will be if the Chiefs, notoriously slow starters so far in the playoffs, get off to a good start. As impressive as the 13-3 49ers have looked this season, getting into a shootout would likely take away their two biggest assets: the running game, and Nick Bosa. By keeping their running game going, the 49ers have kept Bosa fresh, and that will be key this Sunday.

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