SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Forty-four points against the team with the league’s stingiest defense. MVP chants for the quarterback who has single-handedly changed the mood around the San Francisco 49ers.
The legend of Jimmy G is showing no signs of slowing down.
Jimmy Garoppolo threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third score against the defense that allowed the fewest points in the league, and the 49ers won their fourth straight behind their new quarterback, beating the Jacksonville Jaguars 44-33 on Sunday.
“It’s awesome. Things are going good right now,” Garoppolo said. “There’s a buzz in the air. You can feel it as soon as you walk into the stadium. The crowd’s going nuts just in pregame. It’s exciting. It’s a nice thing to be a part of.”
Garoppolo has been the major reason for the turnaround for the 49ers (5-10) since being inserted into the starting lineup earlier this month following a midseason trade from New England.
He has led San Francisco to four straight wins, but this one might have been the most impressive, considering the quality of Jacksonville’s defense. The Jaguars came into the game having allowed the fewest points and yards passing in the league, while making the most sacks.
“Since Jimmy G got here things have been a lot different,” running back Carlos Hyde said. “Things have been feeling really good around here. It’s been a good vibe. That energy in the locker room right now is really good. Guys are teeing off that and ready to play.”
Garoppolo carved Jacksonville up, completing 21 for 30 passes for 242 yards with TD throws to George Kittle and Trent Taylor as San Francisco pulled away in the second half. Garoppolo improved to 6-0 in his career as a starter.
The day wasn’t a total loss for the Jaguars (10-5), who clinched their first division title since 1999 earlier in the afternoon when Tennessee lost at home to the Rams. But the defeat dealt a big blow to Jacksonville’s hopes for a first-round bye. The Jaguars need to win next week and hope Pittsburgh loses twice to get a bye. They were in no mood to celebrate after the game.
The frustration boiled over into sideline arguments and several personal fouls, and the Jaguars had little to feel good about after the game.
“I still wanted to win this game and come in here and celebrate, but we’ve earned everything we’ve got to this point,” said cornerback Aaron Colvin, who got into a heated argument during the game with teammate Malik Jackson. “”We put ourselves in this position, but it’s not over. It’s cool and all, but we have bigger goals.
Blake Bortles threw three interceptions for the Jaguars, including one returned for a touchdown by Dontae Johnson in the first half, after going three straight weeks without one in the best stretch of his career .
Bortles threw for 382 yards and two touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough for the Jaguars.
“Very weird feeling. Any time you lose, especially the way we’ve been playing, it’s tough,” Bortles said. “But it’s also kind of in the back of your head that we won the division. So that’s pretty cool, but I don’t think anybody’s happy with what went on today. We wanted to win the division by winning today. We weren’t able to do that, so that’s tough.”
Garoppolo got San Francisco off to a fast start by completing 5 of 6 for 75 yards on the opening drive that was capped by his 1-yard TD sneak . That marked the first time the Niners scored a touchdown on their opening drive since Dec. 11, 2016 against the Jets and the first time Jacksonville allowed one this year.
San Francisco scored on its first two drives, leading to the argument between Jackson and Colvin. Jacksonville then committed two personal fouls by Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue on a TD drive in the second half. Jackson then committed a personal foul with 1:43 remaining to give the Niners a key first down.
“Controlling our emotions when we’re on the field, that affects the team and that’s what we have to do a better job of,” coach Doug Marrone said.
The 49ers appeared in control when Johnson returned a deflected interception 50 yards for a TD to put San Francisco up 16-0. But the Jaguars blocked the extra point attempt and Colvin returned it for two points. Bortles then led two straight touchdown drives to close the half, while Garoppolo was intercepted in the end zone by Barry Church after getting hit on the pass to leave the game tied at 16 at the half.
Jaguars left tackle Cam Robinson (abdominal strain) and linebacker Blair Brown (concussion) left in the first half and didn’t return. … 49ers LB Reuben Foster left the game with a stinger.