Kyle Shanahan still expects the San Francisco 49ers to be able to trade Jimmy Garoppolo but acknowledges "that's not a guarantee".

Garoppolo's departure from the Bay Area was widely expected following the 2021 season, creating space for last year's third overall pick Trey Lance to flourish.

Lance was restricted to only two starts in his rookie season as Garoppolo remained the 49ers' first-choice quarterback.

But having given up three first-round picks to move up and take Lance, the 49ers are ready to make him their main man.

That would mean moving on Garoppolo, yet shoulder surgery in March halted any trade discussions – and Shanahan says talks have not since advanced.

There remains hope the 49ers can do a deal that satisfies all parties, but they are having to bide their time.

"Nothing's changed since that surgery," coach Shanahan said. "Where we were at before that, and then he got the surgery, so everything went on hold.

"I expect him at some time, most likely, to be traded, but who knows? That's not a guarantee.

"It's been exactly on hold when that happened. When he's healthy, we'll see what happens."

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo expects to be traded and wants to join a contender.

The 30-year-old QB's future at the 49ers has been a hot topic of speculation following the side's 20-17 NFC Championship Game defeat to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.

Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan declined to discuss Garoppolo's future in the aftermath of their playoffs exit, but it is widely expected Garoppolo will leave the 49ers this offseason with 2021 Draft third pick Trey Lance coming through.

Garoppolo, who has been with the 49ers since 2017, admitted he expects to leave the franchise this offseason.

"I was talking to [49ers general manager] John [Lynch] yesterday about finding the right destination and whatever the future holds, just doing it the right way," Garoppolo said during a Zoom news conference on Tuesday.

"I've got a long career ahead of me. I'm excited about it. I'm excited about the opportunities to come. I just want to go to a place where they want to win.

"That's really what I'm in this game for. I'm here to play football, win football games and as long as I've got that and good people around me, I think the rest will take care of itself."

Garoppolo reinforced his likely 49ers' exit when he signed off from the Zoom call by addressing the side's fans.

"It's been a hell of a ride," Garoppolo said. "I love you guys. See ya."

Garoppolo, who played with a torn ligament in his right thumb for the final five games of the 49ers season, threw 3,810 yards with a 68.3 per cent completing rate for 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions this season.

"As far as the whole trade situation, John has been very clear with it," Garoppolo said. "I think they're trying to do the best for me, I'm trying to do the best for them and we're working together.

"We haven't really made too much progress on it but I think things will start happening here pretty quickly."

On his thumb injury, Garoppolo added: "If I can avoid surgery, that's really what I'm hoping for but we'll see."

Kyle Shanahan insisted he would not be making a "farewell statement" to Jimmy Garoppolo in the wake of the San Francisco 49ers' defeat to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship game.

The Rams rallied to win 20-17 on Sunday at SoFi Stadium to seal progress to the Super Bowl, where they will face the Cincinnati Bengals at the same venue on February 13.

Los Angeles quarterback Matthew Stafford starred on the one-year anniversary of his trade to the Rams, leading three straight scoring drives to erase a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter, while Cooper Kupp caught two touchdown passes.

Aaron Donald's defensive work proved crucial in pressuring Garoppolo, who had a late, desperate throw intercepted by Travin Howard as the Rams became the first team fighting for a place at the Super Bowl to trail by double digits heading into the fourth quarter to then win a game.

Speculation is swirling over Garoppolo's future. The 30-year-old joined San Francisco for a record-breaking, $137.5million deal in 2017, and led them to the Super Bowl two years ago.

San Francisco are 35-16 when Garoppolo starts and 8-31 when he does not, yet it seems that the 49ers may well part ways with the quarterback, who has a year left to run on his deal. They traded up to three in last year's draft to bring in Trey Lance, who threw for 603 yards and five touchdowns across six appearances this season.

Shanahan, however, refused to confirm that Garoppolo had played his last game for the Niners.

"I love Jimmy," Shanahan said in his post-game news conference.

"I'm not going to sit here and make a farewell statement or anything right now. It's the last stuff on my mind. Jimmy has battled his a** off.

"He battled today. He did some unbelievable things today. I love coaching Jimmy."

Garoppolo completed 301 of his 441 passes in the regular season, for a completion rate of 68.3, ranking him sixth in the league. His 8.64 yards per pass attempt ranked second.

He completed 16 of his 30 passes on Sunday (a completion percentage of 53.3) for 232 yards and two touchdowns, though the sole interception proved crucial.

"[The emotions] hit pretty hard in the locker room," Garoppolo said.

"I think these next couple of days it will really start to settle in a little bit. Emotions are high after a game win or loss, and it's one of those things you've got to be glad it happened, smile from it, and think about the good things.

"We'll see what happens in these next couple days, weeks, whatever, but I love this team. Just the fight and the battle in this team throughout the entire year has been really impressive. I love those guys.

"I've got no regrets from this year."

The Los Angeles Rams rallied from a 10-point three-quarter time deficit to clinch a spot in Super Bowl LVI with a 20-17 NFC Championship Game victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

The Rams will face the Cincinnati Bengals at their home, SoFi Stadium, on Sunday February 13.

Matthew Stafford completed 31 of 45 attempts for 337 yards, combining with Cooper Kupp for two crucial touchdowns, including one in the fourth quarter alongside two Matt Gay field goals to overturn the deficit.

Gay put the Rams ahead from 30 yards with 1:46 left, before Aaron Donald pressured Jimmy Garoppolo into an interception for Travin Howard to practically end the game with 1:09 remaining.

Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr was excellent for the Rams too, with nine catches for 113 yards.

After a scoreless first quarter Stafford found Kupp, who starred with 11 catches for 142 yards, in the corner for the opening TD. But 49ers running back Deebo Samuel, who had seven carries for 76 yards and four receptions for 72 yards, levelled it up with a remarkable catch and run before Robbie Gould's field goal earned them a 10-7 half-time lead.

The 49ers moved 10 points clear when Garoppolo, who made 16 of 30 passes for 232 yards, threw another TD pass in the third quarter for George Kittle, but the Rams would rally with Stafford finding Kupp early in the fourth to narrow the gap.

Jaquiski Tartt inexplicably dropped a routine pick, allowing the Rams to drive forward for Gay to score from 40 yards. Five minutes later he did it again, before the Rams defense clinched the win.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has plenty to prove after a largely unconvincing postseason, and he will certainly not be short of motivation ahead of the NFC Championship Game with the Los Angeles Rams.

The Niners are on the brink of a second Super Bowl appearance in three seasons but are underdogs against the Rams despite winning the last six meetings between the two teams.

San Francisco's status as underdogs is in part tied to the quarterback matchup, which most see as stacked in favour of the Rams and Matthew Stafford rather than the Niners and Garoppolo.

With the 49ers' defense and running game excelling, the onus has largely been taken off Garoppolo during the playoffs, in which he has completed 61.4 per cent of his passes for 303 yards and two interceptions, a tally that could have been significantly higher as he made several dangerous throws during last week's 13-10 win over the Green Bay Packers at a snowy Lambeau Field.

In two wins over the Rams this season, however, Garoppolo has completed 74.5 per cent of his passes for 498 yards, three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. He has a passer rating of 108.1 across those games.

Garoppolo helped the 49ers come back from 17-0 down in Week 18 to beat the Rams and punch their ticket to the postseason, leading a game-tying drive in the final 90 seconds of regulation with no timeouts to send a thrilling contest to overtime.

The 49ers could face the Kansas City Chiefs again in the Super Bowl having lost to the same opposition on the biggest stage two years ago, when they led 20-10 with seven minutes remaining.

Garoppolo missed a potential game-winning throw to Emmanuel Sanders in Super Bowl LIV, and the prospect of atoning for that defeat is fuelling the Niners' quarterback.

"Since it's happened, it's been a motivator for me," Garoppolo told a media conference of the Chiefs loss. 

"Honestly, it's a feeling that can't be described. It's unlike any other loss I've ever had. And since that moment it's motivated me and it always will going forward.

"But those are the lessons, sports are never going to be perfect. And if you can take those lessons and be better from it, you'll be better off in the long run."

The history books are in favour of the Niners as they prepare to face the Rams for the third time this season.

Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, there have been 22 playoff rematches between teams where one team won both regular-season contests. The sweeping team has won 14 of those games.

Garoppolo, though, does not make much of what is a new experience for the signal-caller.

"This will be my first time. I've never actually done it," said Garoppolo of playing the Rams for the third time. 

"So, it'll be a little different, but these guys know us, we know them. There's really no secrets or anything like that. So it's about going out there, beating your man and executing. Other than that, it's just football."

Kyle Shanahan insists under-fire San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo deserves more recognition for helping his team to the NFC Championship Game.

The Niners will travel to face NFC West rivals the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday as they bid to reach a second Super Bowl in three years.

They need two straight wins at SoFi Stadium – which will also host the Super Bowl on February 13 – to make history.

The play of Garoppolo has come under scrutiny in the playoffs despite San Francisco's advance.

In their two wins over the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, he had zero touchdowns and two interceptions, with passing yard totals of 172 and 131 respectively.

His future has been in doubt ever since the Niners traded up at huge cost to select QB Trey Lance at number three overall in the 2021 draft.

But head coach Shanahan believes the public support shown by Garoppolo's teammates such as George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Fred Warner and Nick Bosa speaks volumes for his contribution.

"It shows what our guys think of him," Shanahan said. "And it also shows our guys probably are on social media [seeing the criticism].

"They probably feel a need to stick up for him. I know his social media probably hasn't been that great, so I'm glad they're sticking up for him because what they say is the truth."

Garoppolo also led the Niners to the Super Bowl in the 2019 season, resulting in an agonising loss to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

He could only play in six games last season as the whole Niners roster was decimated with injuries but led the team in 15 regular season contests in 2021.

"Jimmy is one of the main reasons we're here," insisted Shanahan.

"He's done an unbelievable job. People don't give him enough credit. We win as a team, and that's why he doesn't always have the same stats that some of these MVP candidates have.

"But Jimmy's a very good quarterback - he doesn't worry about any of that stuff. He doesn't worry about social media. That's why he's a little similar to me.

"He never really changes, and I think that's what people respect the most about him.

"He's gone through some ups and downs while he's been here, like most quarterbacks do, but he's the same guy. And that's why people, first and foremost, respect him as a human, as a person.

"And then the way that he goes and battles on the field, everyone knows how tough he is, everyone knows how hard he'll compete running with the ball and our guys also know he can throw pretty well too."

Garoppolo, who arrived in a trade from the New England Patriots in 2017, has a similar view about outside critics.

Asked if he had a strategy to cope, he said: "Well, friends, family, they always seem to remind me of those things, but I don’t know.

"Just knowing yourself and knowing who you are plays a big part of that, because if you get lost in it and start believing some of those things, it could take you down the wrong road.

"So I don’t know, I think it’s just about knowing yourself as a player, as a person, and as long as these guys in this locker room have faith in me and belief in me, that is all I really care about."

The Niners have won six straight games over the Rams in their regular-season series, with a dramatic comeback 27-24 overtime victory over LA in Week 18 getting them into the playoffs as a wildcard team.

But it is NFC West champions the Rams who go into the contest as narrow favourites having knocked off defending Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Divisional Round.

The 49ers, meanwhile, won 13-10 in Green Bay despite failing to score an offensive touchdown.

They were just the ninth team ever to win a playoff game in that way - NFL teams were previously 8-103 in playoff games without a scrimmage touchdown.

Avoiding turnovers is going to be critical. The Rams are 8-0 this year when Matthew Stafford does not throw an interception, while the 49ers are 7-0 when Garoppolo does not throw a pick.

The San Francisco 49ers have been handed a twin boost ahead of Sunday's NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams with Deebo Samuel and Jimmy Garoppolo taken off their injury report.

Samuel took a helmet to his knee late in the 49ers' win over the Green Bay Packers but was a full participant at practice on Wednesday.

Quarterback Garoppolo has been battling shoulder and thumb complaints, but he also did not appear on the injury report.

"I'm sure it's pretty good," 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters on Wednesday.

"I hear about the thumb more than the shoulder, so that's off the injury report now, so I guess we're good."

Left tackle Trent Williams is in some doubt for the Rams game due to a right ankle issue sustained against the Packers.

"In Trent's mind, there's no way he is not playing," Shanahan said. "That's why he was so crushed last game because he believed he would and his body wouldn't let him.

"Hopefully we'll have some better luck this game. But I know he believes he's playing and so do I, so we'll see how that pans out as the week goes. If he can, he will."

Kyle Shanahan had an inkling that the San Francisco 49ers' special teams would prove pivotal in their shock divisional round win over the Green Bay Packers.

The 49ers gained seven points on special teams and saved three on a night where Robbie Gould's walk-off field goal earned a 13-10 triumph to send San Francisco to the NFC Championship Game.

Green Bay had led for most of the game after AJ Dillon's first-quarter touchdown but the 49ers drew level late when Jordan Willis blocked Corey Bojorquez's punt allowing Talanoa Hufanga to collect the loose ball and run into the end-zone.

The 49ers regained possession with 3:25 to play, with the excellent Deebo Samuel helping drive them into field-goal range before 39-year-old Gould nailed his 45-yard attempt on the final whistle.

"We thought our special teams had an advantage in this game," head coach Shanahan said. 

"We thought they had an opportunity to possibly win us the game. And to be able to say that and to actually come to fruition was huge for those guys and huge for our team."

Gould, who has now succeeded with each of his 20 career playoff field-goal attempts, ensured his boot stayed hot in snowy conditions at Lambeau Field and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo paid tribute to his team-mate, with a little pun thrown in for good measure.

"I always trust Robbie. He's as good as gold, man. He always is," he said.

Garoppolo added: "It's dangerous, man. When a team gets hot, it's dangerous.

"So we've just got to keep this thing going, focus on next week now, and keep this thing rolling.

"It took everything. We knew it was going to. I mean, it was just offense, defense, special teams - everybody stepping up and doing their part. I wouldn't have it any other way."

The stars certainly seemed to align for the 49ers, who lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, with Jimmie Ward having earlier blocked a 39-yard field goal attempt from Mason Crosby on the final play of the first half. Had he made the kick the Packers would have led 10-0.

Victory means the 49ers are headed to their 17th conference championship appearance, the most for any team since the conferences were forged following the 1970 merger.

With the Cincinnati Bengals having beaten the Tennessee Titans earlier in the day, it also meant it was the first time since 2010 both number one seeds lost in the divisional round in the same season.

George Kittle said the 49ers proved they are a "gritty" team to make it this far.

"This team has been through a lot," the tight end said. "We've been through a lot of adversity. 

"We've dealt with a lot. We've lost games by making mistakes. We've won games dirty. This is a gritty team. It's a salty team, and we just keep bouncing back."

The Green Bay Packers had a special teams' nightmare before Robbie Gould's final-whistle field goal clinched the San Francisco 49ers a spot in the NFC Championship Game with a 13-10 win in snowy conditions at Lambeau Field on Saturday.

The Packers had led for most of the game after AJ Dillon's first-quarter touchdown but the 49ers drew level late when Jordan Willis blocked Corey Bojorquez's punt allowing Talanoa Hufanga to collect the loose ball and run into the end-zone.

The 49ers regained possession with 3:25 to play, with Deebo Samuel helping drive them into field-goal range before 39-year-old Gould nailed his 45-yard attempt on the final whistle.

Samuel had 10 carries for 39 yards along with three catches for 44 yards and two kick returns for 59 yards, while 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo completed 11 of 19 passes for 131 yards with one interception.

San Francisco will face either the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game, while it is season over for Aaron Rodgers' Packers.

Rodgers completed 20 of 29 passes for 225 yards but with no touchdowns, with running back Dillon scored their TD after a 10-play drive.

The Packers might have led 10-0 at the main break after Adrian Amos' pick, with Rodgers finding Aaron Jones for 75 yards although his run was curtailed. In the same drive, Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby had his 39-yard attempt blocked by Jimmie Ward on the half-time whistle.

The 49ers got on the board with Gould's third-quarter field goal, before the late drama with the veteran sealing their passage into the NFC Championship Game.

Jimmy Garoppolo appears set to be available for Saturday's NFC divisional round clash with the Green Bay Packers despite an injury scare, according to San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.

The 49ers quarterback was not listed on the franchise's injury report on Thursday and is expected to play through a sprained right shoulder and thumb.

San Francisco had more good news with linebacker Fred Warner also not on the injury report after a sprained right ankle while defensive end Nick Bosa is close to clearing concussion protocols to mark his return.

"He threw the ball great. He's looked as good as he did the week before," Shanahan said about Garoppolo.

"Jimmy's been playing through some things. But that's why he's full go because he's good enough to go and we don't treat it any differently."

Garoppolo had been added to the 49ers injury report on Monday with Shanahan revealing he had a "slightly" sprained throwing shoulder from the 23-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

The QB offered no guarantees on Tuesday and was limited in practice that day but was listed as a full participant on Wednesday and Thursday.

"It's playoff football," Garoppolo said earlier in the week. "We know what time it is and there ain't no time to rest right now."

The Arizona Cardinals continued their excellent road form as they edged the Dallas Cowboys 25-22 in a potential-playoff preview with Kyler Murray leading the way on Sunday.

The Cardinals improved their season record to 11-5 and their road record to 8-1, snapping a three-game skid, with Texas-born Murray throwing two touchdowns as he completed 26 of 38 attempts for 263 yards.

The Cowboys had trailed 22-7 at the final charge but stormed back into contention as Dak Prescott threw three TD passes for the game but Murray expertly managed the clock late.

Murray found Antoine Wesley for two TDs including a spectacular catch in the third quarter, while Jonathan Ward made a remarkable helmet catch on a fake punt.

The Cowboys lost Michael Gallup to injury upon his second-quarter receiving touchdown and did not return, not helping their cause.

Prescott, who completed 24 of 38 passes for 226 yards along with 20 rushing yards, found Cedrick Wilson and Amari Cooper for final-quarter TDs to tighten the game but he also had a costly fumble at 22-14.

Chargers snap skid as Williams scores 101-yard return

The Los Angeles Chargers snapped a two-game skid with a 34-13 victory over the Denver Broncos to boost their Wild Card hopes as they improve to a 9-7 record.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert threw 22 of 31 passes for 237 yards with two touchdowns, breaking the franchise record for single-season touchdown passes at 35.

Andre Williams scored a 101-yard kickoff return touchdown in the fourth quarter, while Austin Ekeler returned to LA's line-up and was important, with 17 carries for 58 yards and a touchdown, along with three receptions for 54 yards.

 

Lance leads 49ers to key win in Wild Card race

Trey Lance stepped in for the injured Jimmy Garoppolo and provided two touchdown passes as the San Francisco 49ers won 23-7 over the Houston Texans.

Lance completed 16 of 23 passes for 249 yards with the two TDs and an interception to help the 49ers improve to 9-7 in the NFC Wild Card pursuit.

Deebo Samuel and Elijah Mitchell scored the touchdowns as the 49ers scored 20 second-half points to secure the win.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is bullish that he can play through his right thumb injury in Sunday's game against the Houston Texans.

The 49ers are 8-7 in the NFC West and can secure a playoffs berth with victory against the Texans.

Garoppolo, who will be a key part of their postseason bid, only threw under supervision at the team's Wednesday practice but said he was "definitely" a chance to play.

"I played the entire game with it basically, so it's really just about being able to grip the ball and do the things I normally do and we're gonna go test those out today, see how it feels and go from there," Garoppolo told reporters. "But I feel confident in it."

Garoppolo had missed the 49ers' bonus practice on Monday as he waiting for swelling in the thumb to subside.

"We'll see how it looks today," Garoppolo added on Wednesday. "If it looks good, it looks good. If it looks bad, it looks bad.

"It's just one of those things that you have got to test it out and go through it. Until we do that, it will be hard to say. But we'll all be on the same page and we'll do the right thing for the team."

The 49ers QB continued: "It's a torn ligament so it is what it is. The pain, it's not going anywhere so I know what that feels like but it's just about being confident and going out there and being able to do what I normally do with the football. We'll see where it gets us but I feel good right now with it."

Garoppolo has a completion rate of 68 percent this season for 3,494 yards with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions across 14 games.

If Garoppolo is not deemed fit, rookie Trey Lance will be in line to make his second NFL start having filled in against the Arizona Cardinals on October 10.

Jimmy Garoppolo was absent as the San Francisco 49ers resumed practice on Monday fuelling doubts about his availability for Sunday's game against the Houston Texans.

The 49ers quarterback has been battling a thumb injury which was aggravated in Thursday's 20-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Garoppolo's status for Sunday's game is unknown but he is considered day-to-day, meaning Trey Lance could deputise for him.

"We knew his thumb was hurting him," 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters. "We thought he jammed it sometime in the game, so he tells us right when he comes to the bench."

He added: "I think this last month of Trey has been his best consecutive four weeks at practice since we've had him.

"He's had a number of good days and he's had some bad days like most guys do, but as far as his consistency and stuff, I feel this last month has been his best."

Shanahan indicated Garoppolo suffered the injury in the second quarter against the Titans when sacked by Denico Autry, with the QB playing on but struggling with two costly interceptions.

The 49ers will re-assess Garoppolo's availability for Sunday's game on Wednesday.

Garoppolo has a completion rate of 68 percent this season for 3,494 yards with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions across 14 games.

Randy Bullock's last-gasp 44-yard field goal has completed the Tennessee Titans' brilliant come-from-behind 20-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday.

The Titans trailed 10-0 at half-time but fought back with two second-half touchdowns from D'Onta Freeman and A.J. Brown, on his return from a chest injury, to take the lead.

San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who completed 26 of 35 passes for 322 yards, threw his only TD pass for Brandon Aiyuk to square the game in the fourth quarter before Bullock's late field goal with four seconds left after the Titans expertly managed the clock.

The result means the Titans can clinch the AFC South division if the Arizona Cardinals beat the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

The 49ers were left to rue costly Garoppolo errors, having thrown two interceptions as well as over-throwing a golden opportunity for a TD.

Ryan Tannehill managed the clock brilliantly after Aiyuk squared the game up with 2:20 left, with the Titans quarterback going on a 23-yard run in the decisive drive.

Tannehill threw 22 of 29 passes for 209 yards while Brown finished with 11 receptions for 145 yards.

The result leaves the 49ers with an 8-7 record to sit third in the NFC West.

The San Francisco 49ers were hoping to write a new chapter in their rivalry with the Seattle Seahawks.

It ended up being the same old story.

Riding a three-game winning streak that had propelled them into the thick of the NFC playoff race, the Niners were expected to prevail against a 3-8 Seahawks team at their lowest ebb.

Instead, a mistake-strewn display allowed Seattle to launch what could prove the last stand of the Pete Carroll-Russell Wilson era, the Seahawks keeping the Niners out of the endzone at the end of a last-ditch 95-yard drive to preserve a 30-23 win, their 14th in 16 games against the 49ers since the beginning of the 2014 season.

San Francisco could not have done more to help Seattle as the Niners missed a chance to move to 7-5 and cement their grip on a playoff berth.

It was another frustrating day in an up-and-down campaign for a team that two seasons ago was the unquestioned elite of the NFC and, while the defeat was the product of a multitude of failures, the 49ers' rollercoaster 2021 is emblematic of a quarterback akin to a thrill ride many are eager to escape from.

Talent across the board

Examine the 49ers' roster and you will find top-level talent in almost every area.

George Kittle's monstrous performance in Seattle was yet another illustration of the playmaking capability at their disposal.

Racking up 189 yards and two touchdowns on nine catches, Kittle produced a big play on five of his 12 targets against the Seahawks, thriving as the focal point of the Niners' offense with Deebo Samuel out with a groin injury.

It is Samuel who was the catalyst of that three-game winning run, the 2019 second-round pick compiling an Offensive Player of the Year resume with his exploits as both a wide receiver and a running back.

With two rushing touchdowns in Week 12 against the Minnesota Vikings, Samuel became the first wide receiver in the Super Bowl era to score on the ground in three straight games. He is tied for the league lead with 14.9 scrimmage yards per touch and has 10 total touchdowns to his name.

The first Niners wideout to surpass 1,000 receiving yards since 2014, Samuel leads all players at his position with 9.5 yards after catch per reception. Kittle is sixth among tight ends with 222 yards after catch, a tally padded by his incredible 48-yard catch and run for his second touchdown on Sunday.

Between that duo and the resurgent Brandon Aiyuk, whose big-play rate of 39.7 per cent is ninth among wideouts with at least 25 targets, the 49ers possess three significant passing-game threats whose versatility is a constant problem for defenses.

In addition to Samuel's exploits as a runner, the Niners' rushing attack also features arguably the top rookie running back in the league in Elijah Mitchell, whose 84.3 yards per game on the ground are the most among first-year tailbacks.

That ground game is aided significantly by the play of the man most consider the league's elite left tackle in 2021. Trent Williams headed into Week 13 with a run-block win rate of 84.91 per cent and a pass-block win rate of 89.32 per cent that are both a long way above the respective league averages of 73.16 per cent and 78.60 per cent for the tackle position.

On the other side of the trenches, defensive end Nick Bosa is third in the league in sacks with 12 and tied for the NFL lead with 16 tackles for loss, serving as the undoubted star of a defense that held Seattle to 4.8 yards per play and forced three turnovers despite the absence of All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner.

Even without Samuel, the 49ers objectively had enough talent at their disposal to prevail and improve to 7-5, especially with a strong effort from the defense. Their failure to stretch the winning run to four games was not down to the injury to Samuel, but an infuriating lack of execution that has been a recurring problem in 2021.

Turnovers, penalties a continuing plague

While sections of the box score reflect the dominance the Niners enjoyed for long periods against Seattle, it is easy to identify the areas where it went wrong.

They committed three turnovers, were called for 10 penalties and went three for 10 on third down, losing the time of possession battle against a team that ranks last in that category.

It was a frustratingly familiar tale for the Niners, who lost to Seattle in Week 4 in strikingly similar fashion and have frequently been plagued by turnovers and penalties this season.

The Niners are 23rd in the NFL with a turnover differential of minus 4, while they have given up the fourth-most penalty yardage per game in the NFL (65.25).

Miscues on defense and on their special teams, which gave up a fake punt touchdown and lost a fumble as Travis Benjamin dropped the opening kickoff of the second half, contributed to the Niners continually gifting free plays and extra possessions to the Seahawks.

Yet, beyond the obvious poor discipline in other areas, the 49ers' latest Seattle horror show was an encapsulation of the pitfalls of trusting your offense to a quarterback as volatile as Jimmy Garoppolo.

Garoppolo's limitations again laid bare

The Niners' winning streak had quieted most of the questions surrounding when Kyle Shanahan would bench Garoppolo for rookie third overall pick Trey Lance, San Francisco's starter having largely played well across each of those victories.

And Garoppolo was, for the most part, accurate against the Seahawks. He delivered a well-thrown ball on 90 per cent of his pass attempts, trailing only Derek Carr and Gardner Minshew for Week 13.

However, two of the Niners' three turnovers came as a result of brutal interceptions from Garoppolo. San Francisco's defense prevented the first, on which Garoppolo failed to spot the underneath coverage of Bobby Wagner and threw the ball right to the Seattle linebacker, from resulting in points.

They could not do the same following the second, however, Garoppolo inexplicably trying to force a ball to Kittle despite double coverage when he had Trent Sherfield open on a corner route, with that pick followed by the ultimately decisive touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Tyler Lockett.

Intercepted eight times in 2021, Garoppolo has thrown a pickable pass on 14 of his 300 attempts, that ratio of 4.67 per cent inferior to the league average of 3.78 per cent.

With a passer rating of 83.2 on passes of 21 air yards or more that is 23rd among quarterbacks with at least 10 attempts of that distance, the book on Garoppolo remains the same. At his best, he can execute Kyle Shanahan's offense to a high level, but he consistently limits its potential by struggling to push the ball downfield, committing mind-boggling interceptions and failing to create outside the pocket.

Exacerbating the frustration around Garoppolo's consistent inconsistency is that Lance, an athletic dual-threat quarterback and a more gifted downfield thrower, would theoretically remove those two limiting factors with which his more experienced team-mate continues to shackle the offense.

The 49ers are not short of their problems elsewhere on the roster. The right side of the offensive line is a major issue and the lack of depth at cornerback has been frequently exposed.

Yet those concerns are exacerbated when a team has a quarterback who cannot create for himself when the pocket breaks down and who regularly puts the defense under pressure with ill-advised throws that are all too often a part of his repertoire.

Though the penalties and mistakes from his team-mates have been too common to simply label Sunday's performance in Seattle as an aberration, the more common thread in losses for the 49ers this season has concerned Garoppolo and the limitations to his game that have long since been apparent.

With the stars they have on both sides of the ball, the 49ers should be much more than a 6-6 team scrapping for a Wild Card and coming up short against the worst Seahawks team of the Carroll-Wilson era. The likelihood is San Francisco will make the playoffs but, for them to have hope of and making any noise in the postseason, it would require a switch to a quarterback with the potential to be much more than Garoppolo.

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