SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) — As confetti flew and cheers rang out at the parade for the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs halfway across the county, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo stood in Levi’s Stadium Wednesday, cleaning out his locker and answering questions for the final time this season.
Garoppolo said it was difficult watching the film of the 49ers fourth-quarter collapse that ended with a 31-20 loss. At one moment, he was riding high as he led San Francisco to a 20-10 third-quarter lead. And then came Patrick Mahomes fourth-quarter onslaught.
“It is what it is, you got to own it, you got to be a man,” he said of the postgame criticism for going just three-of-11 passing for 36 yards in the fourth quarter. “You just have to attack it (the criticism) right down the middle. Right in the face. Just look back at the season. There’s lot of good memories from this year. This team, the players, coaches. It was a great group to be around … It was a terrible ending. You got to take the good with the bad.”
One throw still haunts Garoppolo. With 1:39 left and his team trailing 24-20, San Francisco wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders beat Charvarius Ward off the line, got behind the safety and started sprinting toward the end zone. Garoppolo’s toss was just out of Sanders reach and feel harmless into the end zone.
“At some point you got to move on from it,” he said of the memories of the missed toss. “It sucks. Obviously, some throws I wish I had back, some throws that I could have made definitely. The one to E (Sanders) missed him, put a little too much on it. You got to be a man, you gotta own up to those things.”
Sanders, who came to San Francisco from Denver in a mid-season trade, becomes a free agent in the off-season and Garoppolo left little doubt that he would love to see him re-signed.
“You can even describe it (Sanders impact on and off the field),” Garoppolo said. “What E did, coming in the way he did, never asking for the ball, never doing too much. He was exactly what we needed on this team … I would love to have E back.”
Of his fourth quarter woes, Garoppolo understands the criticism is just part of being an NFL quarterback.
“It is what it is, if you just look at the stats like that,” he said. “As an offense, as a team, we’ve been in that situation multiple times and always answered the bell. It’s tough when it’s that one time you didn’t. That’s what people will remember. It’s the world we live in.”
As for using the loss as motivation for the off-season and next year, Garoppolo said he has made a mental image of the signs, sounds and feeling as the game end.
“I keep telling myself you got to remember that feeling,” he said. “When all the confetti is coming down, just remember that moment. Let it fuel me for the off-season.”
As for getting back to the Super Bowl, Garoppolo believes nothing is guaranteed but the team’s young roster gives the 49ers a good chance.
“It will be hard to get back here,” he said. “Looking around this room, looking at all the guys, we have the pieces for it. Guys who have the right mindset for it.”
The 49ers remarkable turnaround season from 4-12 doormat to 15-4 Super Bowl contender came in Garoppolo’s first full year as a starter. Last year, his season was lost to a torn ACL.
“Last year I was here (at the end of the regular season) at this time, it was raining every day,” he said. “Trying to learn how to run and all that stuff. It will be a more productive off-season. Fine-tuning the little things. It will helps us next year.”