49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo as stoic as ever after loss to Colts — even as team crumbles around him

49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo as stoic as ever after loss to Colts — even as team crumbles around him

SANTA CLARA — The last pass Jimmy Garoppolo threw Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts was a medium-deep pop fly apparently intended for Jauan Jennings, although it was tough to see at first since the 49ers wide receiver was surrounded by four defenders.

Safety Khari Willis came down with it just after the two-minute warning, and whatever was left of a rain-soaked half-capacity (at best) crowd made its way to the exits to begin hydroplaning home after a thoroughly desultory 30-18 49ers loss at Levi’s Stadium.

Afterward, jaw set and as stoic as ever, Garoppolo described how he was feeling after the 49ers fell to 2-4, losing to a team that improved to 3-4 and like themselves aspire to .500 before they can even think about being a playoff contender.

“I didn’t get on top of it, didn’t finish the throw, so it sailed high,” Garoppolo said. “The whole night, it’s tough playing in that weather to begin with, the mental toughness you have to have. But when things are going wrong like that, it makes for a very tough night.

“We have playmakers, we’ve got players, we’ve got good coaches, and we’ve got to stick together at this point.”

Pretty much everything Garoppolo said is up for debate at this point as the 49ers came out of their bye week and added a fourth game to their losing streak. There weren’t enough playmakers, players or coaches to get it done. It was Indianapolis, a team that plays in a stadium with a retractable roof and doesn’t play home games in the rain, that conquered the elements and the 49ers.

And it was Carson Wentz, a quarterback on the comeback trail after seeing his own career flame out in Philadelphia, who made mistakes but turned out to be the best quarterback on the field in a game the 49ers and Garoppolo desperately needed to remain a credible threat in the NFC.

There were two series on offense where the 49ers actually looked like the contenders they were purported to be. On their opening drive, 78 yards in eight plays for a touchdown in 4:48. Elijah Mitchell, who gained 57 yards rushing on the drive (he would gain 50 more yards the rest of the night and finish with 107) scored on a 14-yard run.

Garoppolo had a pair of bootlegs to his left, completing a 9-yard pass to Deebo Samuel on the game’s first play and then a 9-yard pass on the same call later to Trent Sherfield.

In the fourth quarter, out of nowhere, Garoppolo completed consecutive passes of 29, 27 and 14 yards to Samuel, Charlie Woerner and Samuel again for a touchdown and closed within 20-18.

SANTA CLARA, CALIF. – OCT. 24: San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) is slow to get up after taking a hit in the first quarter of their NFL game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

And that was pretty much it for Jimmy G. He finished 16 of 27 for 181 yards, one touchdown, plus two interceptions — the ball that sailed to Willis and another by Xavier Rhodes with 5:26 to play. It didn’t matter that Samuel was wearing Rhodes like a rain slicker. Garoppolo threw it anyway, Rhodes made the play and the turnover set up a 28-yard scoring pass from Wentz to Michael Pittman that put the game away.

In all, the 49ers went three-and-out seven times, including all five possessions in the second quarter. After starting with a 9-0 lead, the 49ers found themselves down 13-12 at halftime and never led again.

Shanahan said he thought Garoppolo’s decision-making was fine, but acknowledged “some missed throws. Obviously the ball got away from him a few times.”

Which begs the question of whether it will be Garoppolo or Trey Lance will be the starter when the 49ers visit the Chicago Bears in Week 8. Asked if it would be Garoppolo, Shanahan said “I would guess so. We’ll have to watch tape and see if guys are healthy.”

Lance, with a left knee strain, wasn’t healthy enough to be active and there’s no guarantee he’d be ready to face Chicago, either.

The hard truth is that after spending the bye week searching for answers on issues like converting on third down (1-for-11), myriad pass interference penalties (three more for 97 yards and one that wasn’t accepted) and a running game that comes and goes, the notion of the 49ers being a playoff team is laughable.

Arizona (7-0) and the Los Angeles Rams (6-1) both won again Sunday, so you can rule out the division title. And going through other contenders at this point brings to mind the old Jim Mora “PLAYOFFS?” reaction.

Garoppolo didn’t have any answers, nor did anyone else. He wore gloves for the first time and said he could still “spin it”, then struggled to complete passes.

“We just didn’t execute. Too many mistakes stacked on top of each other,” Garoppolo said. “You can’t do that and win games consistently. We’e just got to get back to the drawing board.”

The drawing board was where the 49ers were supposed to be during the bye week after three tough losses to better teams than the Colts.

Garoppolo didn’t flinch when reminded as the quarterback of a team with a four-game losing streak, he was going to take the heat. He kept stressing the togetherness of his teammates.

“We’re a tight team right now,” Garoppolo said. “It starts with me, no doubt about it, but we’ve got a good group of guys and we’ve got to go back to work now.”

Getting back tackle Trent Williams this week would help, and tight end George Kittle is eligible to come off the injured reserve the week after.

But with the Cardinals and Rams on the horizon after playing in Chicago, there appears to be no letup in the rain any time soon. The 49ers look like a team that could lose 10 games with Garoppolo as the backup quarterback on a team to be named later in 2022.

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