Santa Clara – It was not the best performance but a great comeback win for the books. Despite five costly turnovers, Jimmy Garoppolo’s touchdown pass late in the fourth was enough for the 49ers 24-20 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
San Francisco had just turned the ball over for the fifth time with six minutes left in the game. A bad snap led to another fumble. Once the Steelers had possession, James Conner rushed for two-yards before Arik Armstead forced him to fumble and recovered the ball.
That setup the final drive for the 49ers. With under two-minutes left to play, Garoppolo found Dante Pettis in the end zone for the 5-yard touchdown. San Francisco opens the season 3-0 for the first time since the 1998 season and the eighth time in franchise history.
“It’s just resilience,” said Richard Sherman. It’s growth from offense, defense, special teams, because it takes three units to win a ball game. That’s what we did tonight. We showed that all three units had trust in one another, all three units picked each other up when the other fell apart, and that’s how we were able to win the game.”
While the game ended on a good note, it didn’t start off that same way. In the first half Garoppolo threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball twice. He totaled all four of the teams turnovers by himself. On opening drive Garoppolo’s pass intended for Matt Brieda was intercepted by T.J Watt.
On the next drive, Garoppolo fumbled losing 18 yards on the play. He then tried to connect with Pettis but his pass was tipped by Bud Dupree and intercepted by Minkah Fitzpatrick. That setup one of two field goals kicked by Chris Boswell for 46 and 26 yards.
By the second Garoppolo fumbled again setting up Robbie Gould’s 24-yard field goal putting the 49ers on the board to end the second making it a 6-3 game. After the half San Francisco came back a better team, especially on defense. Mason Rudolph’s short pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster was intercepted by K’Waun Williams.
Garoppolo found Kendrick Bourne for a gain of 22 yards. That setup Jeff Wilson’s first of two touchdowns in the third. He rushed for a 1 and 4 yard touchdown giving them a 17-13 lead. But not before Rudolph connected with Smith for a 76-yard touchdown pass. Rudolph found Smith-Schester again in the fourth for a 39-yard touchdown.
“You never want it,” Garoppolo said when asked about his turnovers. “It’s just some them, unfortunate, some of them bad decisions or whatever it maybe. When you have of them, through, when your defense plays like that, it’s incredible to come out with a win.”
The 49ers defense was outstanding. They recorded two takeaways on the day (1 INT and 1 Fumble), with each takeaway leading to touchdowns. Through the first three weeks of the season, San Francisco has turned 7 takeaways into 32 points, ranking in the NFL for the most points off takeaways.
“Yeah, we know as a group we can be so much better,” said DeForest Buckner. “Defensive-wise, obviously we let a couple slip. We know we can do better on that on all phases. Offensively, obviously we had five turnovers. It’s just, the little things. It’s executing and just taking care of the ball on defense. I felt like we could’ve gotten a coulee more today, and we just missed those opportunities. We’ve just got to go back, watch film and see what we can get better on.”