Jimmy Garoppolo rues missed chances in 4th quarter

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When the third quarter of Super Bowl LIV came to a close, Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers were up by 10 points, coming off a scoring drive and had not punted all game.

An hour later, they were slinking off the field at Hard Rock Stadium as losers of Super Bowl LIV, 31-20, as red and gold confetti rained down, not for them, but the Kansas City Chiefs.

For Garoppolo and the Niners' offense, the loss came quickly and out of nowhere. While Kansas City scored on three straight fourth-quarter drives, San Francisco punted twice (for the first times all day), turned the ball over on downs and turned it over via interception. The Niners finished just one fourth-quarter drive in Kansas City territory, one yard from midfield.

Garoppolo was particularly poor, completing just three of 11 passes for 36 yards and the game-sealing pick plus taking a critical sack on fourth down while down four points. Jimmy G threw two interceptions on the night and finished with 219 passing yards and a TD pass to go with the turnovers.

"We just didn't make the plays when we had opportunities to," Garoppolo told reporters. "It's a tough way to go down but it is what it is."

San Francisco totaled just 59 yards and went 0-for-3 on third downs in the final frame. The 49ers' 11-point loss was their largest margin of defeat this season (7, 3, 3) and their only loss not decided in the game's final seconds.

For Garoppolo, that fact was more indicative of how special San Francisco's season was than how disappointing the loss was.

"Those are the moments you dream of and everything. We got off, we got rolling on a right note and just couldn't finish it off," Garoppolo said, "but it's been a hell of a year with these guys, everything we've been through from the very start, it's an incredible story."

Jimmy G's story was close to closing with a happy ending. After winning two Super Bowls as Tom Brady's backup in New England, Garoppolo was traded to the Niners in 2017 and signed a long-term extension with San Francisco the following offseason. But Jimmy G didn't get a full season under his belt as Niners franchise quarterback until 2019, after he suffered a season-ending ACL injury early in the 2018 campaign.

Garoppolo improved his career regular-season record to 21-5 by guiding the 49ers to a 13-3 mark and the No. 1 seed in the NFC. A natural in Kyle Shanahan's offense, Garoppolo completed 69.1 percent of his passes and threw for a career-high 3,978 yards. And he was one quarter away from lifting a Lombardi Trophy he could claim as his own.

But it wasn't meant to be, at least not this year.

"It's been wild. First full season as a starter, coming back from the ACL, it's a lot of things wrapped into one. So there are some positives," Garoppolo said after the defeat. "At the end of the day, it's about wins and losses."

Garoppolo's latest loss, just the sixth of his career, will linger over him for an entire offseason and perhaps his career if he never reaches this game again. The next comeback Jimmy G will have to endure is San Francisco's year-long hopeful return to the Super Bowl, one that begins in earnest Sunday night.

"The feeling of the locker room, it's an unreal feeling. It's something I've never felt before, I'm sure none of these guys have felt before," Garoppolo concluded. "The one positive you can take out of it is guys care about, guys care about each other, guys care about this organization. Lot of good came from this year. It's hard to look at it right now and see that good, but a couple days down the line maybe look back and look back on it a little bit."

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