Garop­polo fi­nally takes loss, 49ers fall to Vik­ings

Manteca Bulletin - - Sports -

MIN­NEAPO­LIS (AP) — Sooner or later, Jimmy Garop­polo was go­ing to lose a game.

This was his tough­est test yet as San Fran­cisco’s start­ing quar­ter­back, fac­ing a fierce Min­nesota de­fense that re­fused to let him pass.

With two touch­down passes by Kirk Cousins in his de­but and three in­ter­cep­tions of Garop­polo in the sec­ond half, the Vik­ings had enough to hold on for a 24-16 vic­tory over the 49ers in the sea­son opener on Sun­day to stick Garop­polo with his first loss in eight games as an NFL starter .

“None of us did good enough to win to­day, es­pe­cially on of­fense,” coach Kyle Shana­han said.

Garop­polo won twice for New Eng­land in 2016 dur­ing Tom Brady’s sus­pen­sion. He guided the 49ers to five straight wins to fin­ish 2017 af­ter he ar­rived in a trade with the Pa­tri­ots and the team had fallen to 1-10, but the NFL schedule this year did his streak no fa­vors.

The Vik­ings used their star-stacked de­fense to fin­ish 13-3 and reach the NFC cham­pi­onship game last sea­son, lead­ing the NFL in fewest yards and points al­lowed and third down con­ver­sions against.

Min­nesota’s U.S. Bank Sta­dium is one of the loud­est places in the league for op­po­nents to play, too, and the crowd was cranked up on ev­ery one of San Fran­cisco’s 13 third downs. The 49ers con­verted five.

“We knew it was go­ing to be a tough chal­lenge with the en­vi­ron­ment, go­ing against a tough team. They stood up to ev­ery­thing we thought they would, but with all the things that went bad we still had a shot at the end there,” Garop­polo said. “Just a tough way to end it.”

The 49ers’ de­fense forced three straight three­and-out pos­ses­sions by the Vik­ings in the fourth quar­ter, giving Garop­polo an op­por­tu­nity for the come­back. Af­ter the first of those punts, with Min­nesota lead­ing 24-13, Garop­polo’s pass for Dante Pet­tis sailed past the rookie and to Xavier Rhodes for a one-handed in­ter­cep­tion .

With San Fran­cisco trail­ing 24-16, Har­ri­son Smith snagged Garop­polo’s over­throw for Trent Tay­lor at the 29-yard line to seal the game.

“You have to force it, but you have to be smart about when to force it I guess,” Garop­polo said. “It’s tough backed up like that.”

In the third quar­ter, when Ken­drick Bourne lost his foot­ing on a side­line route, Garop­polo’s pass sailed straight to Vik­ings rookie Mike Hughes for a 28-yard in­ter­cep­tion re­turn for a touch­down and a 17- 3 lead. Garop­polo was par­tic­u­larly ag­i­tated on the side­line. When asked if he was up­set with Bourne, he didn’t deny it.

“What are you sup­posed to say at that point? It’s an ‘it is what it is’ kind of thing. It was both of our faults, but when­ever you throw an in­ter­cep­tion it’s al­ways on the quar­ter­back,” said Garop­polo, who fin­ished 15 for 33 for 261 yards.

With three back­ups al­ready on the in­ac­tive list, the 49ers lost two right guards to left foot in­juries dur­ing the game. Af­ter Mike Per­son (sec­ond quar­ter) and Joshua Gar­nett (third quar­ter) went out, rookie right tackle Mike McGlinchey had to slide over for the first ac­tion at guard of his life as Gary Gil­liam en­tered at right tackle.

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