Jimmy Garoppolo’s return to Gillette Stadium exceeded his expectations, but maybe not for the San Francisco 49ers, whom he engineered into the Super Bowl last season.
Never did could he comprehend sending Bill Belichick to his worst loss as coach of the New England Patriots in Foxboro.
“It really was never in my mind,” Garoppolo said after imposing his will upon the New England defense and leading San Francisco to victory. “I obviously wanted to come here and get a win. To me it didn’t matter if we won by one or 100. It was go and get the win. That was the mindset.
Garoppolo completed 20 passes for 277 yards — without a TD toss.
“It was a cool week, just a lot of emotions, a lot of memories,” Garoppolo said of his return to Foxboro. “Coming back here, seeing the same stadium, hearing the same songs they used to play, a lot of memories came back. A lot of emotions out there.
“It was a fun night.”
Garoppolo was a most-efficient 14-or-19 passing in the first half, good for 174 yards, guiding the 49ers to four scoring drives, to 23 points and a 20-point advantage over the Patriots.
Garoppolo completed all four of his passes on San Francisco’s opening drive for 59 yards, resulting in a touchdown.
Garoppolo completed two of his four tosses for 27 yards on the 49ers’ third series, resulting in a field goal.
Garoppolo used the first of three interceptions of Cam Newton passes to direct the 49ers on z 38-yard scoring drive, completing one pass for eight yards.
The next time that the football was in the hands of Garoppolo in the first half, the former Patriot guided San Francisco on a seven-play, 84-yard scoring sequence, completing all four of his passes for 53 yards.
So efficient was Garoppolo and the 49ers that San Francisco totaled 16 plays of gains of 10 yards or more; had a 40-16 edge in offensive plays; a 22:30-7:30 advantage in time of possession; and a gaudy 301-59 advantage in yards, resulting in an 18-4 first-down margin.
And for good measure, on the 49ers’ first drive of the second half, Garoppolo took San Francisco 79 yards on six plays — completing all three of his passes for 64 yards — and another touchdown, creating an unforeseen 30-6 advantage in points on the Gillette Stadium scoreboard.
“When we got them down, we got to keep them down, don’t want to give them any chance to breathe,” Garoppolo said of never allowing New England to find ways to win. “The O-line (Jeff Wilson rushed for a career-best 102 yards) set the tempo up front. The backs ran hard — started from the first snap and carried its way throughout the whole game.”
Garoppolo knows the New England defense as well as Belichick knows Garoppolo’s tendencies.
“They were mixing it (defensive coverages) up a lot,” Garoppolo said. “They mixed in the zone, they mixed in the man, gave us some different fronts we weren’t expecting. I thought our guys handled it really well. The coaches on the sideline, the adjustments we had to make, whatever it was, the communication was real clean.”
Even San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan was in awe of his team in its ability to impose its will upon New England.
“Going against a good defense is always a challenge, the challenge going against someone like Bill (Belichick),” Shanahan said. “How good he is, how good their team is.
“Any time you can play well against a team coached by him, it means a lot. But it wasn’t that tough from my perspective.
“I mean, the way our guys ran the ball, how hard they played. The way our O-line (Garoppolo was sacked once) was playing, everybody, it’s a pretty easy game for me to just sit back and watch our guys.”
And it was just as easy for Garoppolo to hand the ball off (37 times) and pick his time to throw the ball.
“We’re in a good spot right now,” Garoppolo said. “We’re playing well, all three phases. We’re playing together. I think it’s just a mindset that we have as a group. You could feel it, felt it in the locker room from the guys, felt it all week in practice.
It’s a good feeling when you’re in that groove.”