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Garoppolo shines in thrilling 49ers’ win over the Titans



SANTA CLARA — Is there nothing he can’t do?

Jimmy Garoppolo making his first start at Levi’s Stadium, threw for 381 yards and a touchdown. In the process, he handed the 49ers a dramatic 25-23 win. Garoppolo engineered a 7-play, 48-yard drive, which ended in a 45-yard field goal with no time left for team’s third straight win.

It followed a dramatic drive in which the 49ers got the ball down 20-19 with seven minutes and Garoppolo was back, teaming up with his receivers for big plays. He started the drive and ignited the crowd with a 41-yard catch and run to rookie Kendrick Bourne.

Then it got crazy. The 49ers reached the Titans 14 and everything seems like the team would run down the clock and possibly kick a game winning field goal. However, the team was then undone by penalties. An illegal block by running back Matt Brieda and a bad pass interference penalty on Marquise Goodwin ensued.

The 49ers were thrown back and had to settle for a Robbie Gould 48-yard field goal and a 22-20 lead with 3:08 left.

After a few stalled third-quarter drives, the 49ers trailed Tennessee 20-16. That’s when Garoppolo opened the fourth quarter with a 41-yard pass to that man again, tight end Garrett Celek. The team’s secret weapon is so secret other teams don’t cover him.

That’s what happened on the play as Celek broke wide open for another explosive play. Garoppolo kept the good vide going with another quick completion to Marquise Goodwin on a slant route. But then the vide was completely destroyed when Garoppolo caught his own batted pass for a 6-yard loss and then was sacked for 10-yard loss by blitzing linebacker Wesley Woodyard.

After going in reverse full throttle for two plays, the 49ers had no choice but to settle for a 50-yard Robbie Gould field goal, which cut the Titans lead to 1, 20-19.

What Garoppolo does best is make his teammates better and that’s exactly what he did against the Titans. By the end of the first half, Garoppolo had thrown for 189 yards and a touchdown. He brought some excitement back to Levi’s with the first-half score. He darted left, then spun to the right to find tight end Garrett Celek for a 5-yard touchdown pass.

It looked for a moment as if the 49ers, behind Garoppolo, were going to run away with the game. Garoppolo kept driving the 49ers into field goal range and better, and the defense continued it’s fine play from the last two games. At one point in the second quarter, the 49ers were up 16-3

But the Titans aren’t playoff-caliber for nothing. The Titans stormed back with scoring drives separated by the half.

The 49ers secondary then began to let the defense down. Cornerback Dontae Johnson continued to struggle. On the first Titans’ drive in the third quarter, he was called for illegal hands to the face after DeForest Buckner sacked fellow Hawaiian Marcus Mariota on third down. The Titans eventually kicked a field goal on the drive to narrow the 49ers lead to 16-13.

Later in the game, strong safety Eric Reid allowed a few long completions at the end of the third quarter to keep Titans’ drives alive. Reid couldn’t stop Titans receiver Eric Decker from hauling in a 17-yard completion. Mariota struck again later in the drive, completing a 21-yard pass to Rishard Matthews between cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon and linebacker Reuben Foster.

Mariota capped the march with a 8-yarder to Matthews on third-and-goal. The 49ers defense seemed to lose Matthews on the play.

Garoppolo got little or no help from the 49ers run game. The Titans dominated the 49ers’ offensive line, which played well in the Houston win one week earlier. The interior three of Brandon Fusco, Daniel Kilgore and Laken Tomlinson got consistently pushed back by the Titans’ front.

The result was precious little running room for Hyde, who ended the first half with only 12 yards on 11