SANTA CLARA — As backstories go, the 49ers own an entertaining and well-scripted one that led to Jimmy Garoppolo’s go-ahead, last-minute touchdown pass Sunday to Jeff Wilson Jr.
A replay review, which confirmed a first-down call, afforded time the 49ers to put their master plan in motion.
“Honestly we were in the huddle initially and it was Tevin (Coleman) next to me. Then I went to the sideline, talked to Kyle, came back in and all of a sudden it was Jeff next to me,” Garoppolo said.
“You’ve got to tip your hat to him to be ready in that situation. As big as a moment as that was, it was his first offensive snap, and to do that, it’s incredible. I’m so happy for him.”
Dissecting the play of the game was an exercise all 49ers enjoyed doing after their a 36-26 comeback win over the Arizona Cardinals.
Wilson, a day after his 24th birthday, hadn’t touched the ball all day. He hadn’t touched it since Oct. 27, three games ago. But he practiced this pivotal play in practice, as all 49ers running backs had since training camp.
“Jeff’s amazing at it,” running back Raheem Mostert said. “He can get open. He does a great job one-on-one, getting his opportunity and killing it.”
Leading rusher Matt Breida, who was inactive because of an ankle injury, heard coach Kyle Shanahan dial up what would be the perfect play call against the perfect look, that being an all-out blitz by the Cardinals.
“Kyle was, ‘Put Jeff in. We want Jeff.’ And, boom, he executed it. Awesome,” Breida said.
Shanahan called it “neat” to watching Wilson pump his knees high to warm up for a play that would give the 49ers their go-ahead points in a game they once trailed 16-0 and twice blew second-half leads.
“That was the route we liked him on. That’s something we worked with him on the week,” Shanahan said. “All are guys are capable of doing it. You try to do it how you practice it. It’s nice we had enough time so we could make the decision to get the sub in.
“It was neat watching him doing high knees in the huddle, trying to get warmed up for the route.Glad he had time to get loose, because he got the right look, he beat it and good job for Jimmy retreating, because they brought a lot more than we could block. Jeff did his job perfectly.”
In X’s-and-O’s speak: It was a choice route, and against man coverage, Wilson can break in or out. Because the Cards were in “Cover Zero,” their linebackers blitzed, so the defensive end has to cover the running back who can break whichever way he desires, assuming the quarterback buys enough time to see and throw.
Garoppolo(34-of-45, 424 yards, 4 TDs, 2 interceptions) took the shotgun snap, took three steps back, threw off his back foot and found Wilson, who cut inside past defensive end Chandler Jones. Wilson caught the pass in stride at the 20-yard line and went untouched up the middle for his first career touchdown catch.
Said Wilson: “(Jones) came out with too much momentum on me. It was a one-step slip. I knew he was one of their better guys, but I also knew he is a D-end. His hips aren’t as good, he can’t move side to side. His whole body was turned. Just a simple one-step, cut across his face, go get the ball and whatever happens happens.
“That’s something routine to us. It’s something coaches show us every day of the week and something we do almost every other day. It’s natural.”
Wilson did not see the ball come out of Garoppolo’s hand. Garoppolo didn’t see Wilson catch it. But the roar of the home crowd sent Garoppolo jumping into Mike McGlinchey’s arms to celebrate.
“We’ve been running that since training camp. He did a great job on it and it was his first play,” Breida said. “That just goes to show what a group of guys we have, especially running backs. They do their job and the game’s not too big for them.”
Added fullback Kyle Juszczyk: “Jeff has been doing a phenomenal job in one-on-one routes in practice. So, I knew there was an opportunity that Kyle would call on him to go in there and win it, and he did it.”
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