MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Jimmy Garoppolo came from Super Bowl royalty, even if he wasn’t a direct contributor to the greatest dynasty in NFL history.
But the need to win it all was the lesson taught to Tom Brady’s backup. Garoppolo understood there was only one goal that ever mattered. Which is why this one hurt so bad, especially after he came so close to joining Brady as a Super Bowl champion in his own right.
Garoppolo, traded to the 49ers midway through the 2017 season, was within minutes of etching his name on the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Up 20-10 on the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, he could feel it.
But he could only watch in frustration as his Kansas City counterpart created his slice of NFL history at Hard Rock Stadium. Patrick Mahomes threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to put the Chiefs ahead and Damien Williams added a rushing touchdown to put the final touches on Kansas City’s 31-20 victory.
“We just missed some shots tonight, plays we usually make,” said Garoppolo, who was 20-for-31 passing for 219 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. “It was a tough one out there. Good [Chiefs] team, good defense. You’ve got to give them some credit. We just didn’t make some of the plays we normally make, so it’s a tough one.”
Garoppolo had a chance to bring the 49ers back after the Chiefs took a 24-20 lead, but he was sacked on a fourth-down play near midfield with 1:33 to play. Williams then scored the insurance touchdown on a 38-yard run around left end, giving the Chiefs three touchdowns in a span of 5:01, and Garoppolo was intercepted on the second play of his next drive to end all hope.
“This was an opportunity for us, but we just didn’t take advantage of it,” he said. “You’ve got to give the Chiefs some credit. They’re a good team.”
Garoppolo played well after throwing an interception in the second quarter. He led the 49ers on a seven-play, 80-yard drive to tie it at 10 in the second quarter.
He took advantage of two Mahomes interceptions in the second half, scoring 10 points off the turnovers to give the 49ers a decent lead. But no lead is safe with Mahomes, who was dazzling in the fourth quarter in winning his first Super Bowl title.
“He did some real good things,” coach Kyle Shanahan said of Garoppolo. “But that [Chiefs] team, that’s how they’ve been all year. They’re not a team that does it every drive. They get a little hot and cold. They can score very fast. You know it’s a matter of time. We didn’t convert those third downs in the third quarter. You end up giving them too many chances.”
Garoppolo said the mood in the locker room was morose.
“I think everyone felt the game. It sucks losing,” he said. “You could see the guys’ eyes in there. You’ve got guys who care about what they’re doing.”
Despite the loss, Garoppolo believes in his teammates.
“It’s unlike any team I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade any one of those guys for anything.”
The 28-year-old remains encouraged about what lies ahead.
“We’re a young team,” he said. “We’ve got a bright future.”
And maybe Sunday night’s loss will benefit the team down the road. “We’ve got to remember this feeling,” he said. “Let it fuel us in the offseason.”