By JOSH DUBOW
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — The stage was set for Jimmy Garoppolo to lead the type of Super Bowl-winning drive that he watched his mentor Tom Brady do in two previous title games.
Even after blowing a 10-point fourth quarter lead to Patrick Mahomes and the high-powered Kansas City Chiefs, Garoppolo had the ball in his hands needing one successful drive to lead the San Francisco 49ers to their record-tying sixth Super Bowl title.
Instead, Garoppolo came up short and the Niners head into the offseason with disappointment after falling 31-20 to the Chiefs on Sunday night.
“Those are the moments you dream of and everything,” Garoppolo said. “We got rolling on a right note and just couldn’t finish it off. It is tough, but it has been a hell of a year with these guys.”
After failing to move the ball on the first two drives of the fourth quarter, Garoppolo and the 49ers took over at their 15 with 2:39 to play and three timeouts.
It’s the kind of spot any quarterback wants to be in and the kind that Brady thrived in while leading Super Bowl comebacks over Seattle (2015) and Atlanta (2017) with Garoppolo as his backup.
But that late-game magic didn’t rub off on Garoppolo after he moved the team to the Kansas City 49 on the first play following the two-minute warning.
He then threw incompletions on first and second down before missing on his biggest throw of the night. Emmanuel Sanders got loose behind the secondary but Garoppolo’s deep throw was just out of his reach for an incompletion.
“We missed some shots tonight,” Garoppolo said. “Just some plays that we usually make. It was a tough one out there.”
Garoppolo was then sacked on fourth down, giving the ball back to Kansas City. He then threw an interception after Damien Williams added an insurance touchdown, capping off a rough fourth quarter that saw him go 3 for 11 for 36 yards in the final 15 minutes.
“I had all the confidence in the world that he would make plays,” fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. “I still think he played a phenomenal game. We have all the confidence in the world in Jimmy. He’s our guy no matter what the situation is.”
The questions going into this game were whether Garoppolo could carry the team after needing to throw only eight passes in an NFC title game win over Green Bay.
Garoppolo was more than up to the task for the first three quarters despite throwing an interception in the second quarter after being hit while trying to throw it away.
He completed 17 of 20 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown in the first three quarters, leading San Francisco on four scoring drives with no punts until everything changed in the fourth quarter.
The Niners’ first drive of the final frame came after Mahomes threw his second interception, giving San Francisco the ball with a 10-point lead and less than 12 minutes to play.
He completed a 12-yard pass to George Kittle for one first down but that drive stalled after a false start on Joe Staley and then a short scramble by Garoppolo on third-and-14.
“That was an opportunity for us,” he said. “We just didn’t take advantage of it, especially right after the turnover. We all felt the same way coming off the field at that point.”
The Chiefs scored on the next drive and then San Francisco went three-and-out on the ensuing possession with Chris Jones batting down a ball at the line with Kittle open down field on second down.
Mahomes then led another TD drive and Garoppolo couldn’t answer.
“We just didn’t make the plays when we had the opportunities to,” he said. “It’s a tough way to go down, but it is what it is.”