(CBS Local) — The San Francisco 49ers are back in the top spot in the NFC playoff standings thanks to Sunday’s 48-45 shootout victory over the New Orleans Saints. With the win, the team moved one step closer to locking down a playoff berth and answered a lingering question in the process.
Throughout much of the year, the praise surrounding the team has focused on a defensive unit that ranks among the league’s best in every statistical category. But a question remained as to whether the offense, and more specifically, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, could lead the team to victory in the off chance that the defense faltered. Well, Garoppolo threw for 349 yards and four scores on Sunday, leading the team on a late scoring drive that sealed the win.
The performance was arguably Garoppolo’s best of the season, and it came against a Saints defense that ranks in the top 10 of defensive efficiency. With injuries piling up on the defensive side of the ball, the team will likely need more of these kinds of games from the 28-year-old QB. NFL Today and Inside The NFL analyst Phil Simms believes that he is more than capable of providing just that.
“He is capable of leading them deep into the playoffs because they have a couple things. They have a great designed offense, one of the best in the NFL. He has a good offensive line in front of him, good weapons to throw it to. So no matter what the score is, the 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo, on the offensive side, can keep them in it,” said Simms.
The offensive line did take a hit with the loss of center Weston Richburg for the season due to a torn patellar tendon. But tackle Joe Staley was back in the lineup against New Orleans and, when paired with Mike McGlinchey, gives the team two of the better tackles in the league. Add with a passing game that has shown explosiveness when tight end George Kittle and wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel are in the lineup, there is plenty to like about this offense moving forward.
Garoppolo hasn’t received a ton of praise for the team’s 11-2 start, but after last week’s performance, there will likely be more eyes on him as the team gears up for what it hopes will be a Super Bowl run.
You can catch Phil Simms along with Ray Lewis, Brandon Marshall, Michael Irvin, and host James Brown on Inside The NFL every Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime.