SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Carlos Hyde talked about the San Francisco 49ers as a Super Bowl team — at least for next season. The mood in the Jacksonville Jaguars was much more low-key even though they clinched their first division title.
It was hard to tell which was the 10-win team heading to the postseason and which was the 10-loss team with just one game left in the season.
Jimmy Garoppolo passed his toughest test yet in his near-perfect start to his 49ers tenure, throwing two touchdown passes and running for a third against the NFL’s top scoring defense to lead San Francisco to a 44-33 win over the Jaguars on Sunday.
The win was the fourth straight since Garoppolo took over as starter for San Francisco (5-10) and left Hyde predicting big things in the future for a franchise that looked lost a little over a month ago during an 0-9 start to the season.
Garoppolo, who was well schooled by New England coach Bill Belichick in avoiding bold proclamations, seemed a bit surprised by Hyde’s prediction.
“I’ll talk to him about that,” he said. “I don’t know. We’re dealing with the Rams next weekend. We’ll look at everything else after that.”
That there is even that kind of lofty talk in San Francisco is remarkable considering where this team was just past the midpoint of coach Kyle Shanahan‘s first season.
But Garoppolo has changed all of that with his top-flight play since taking over as starter following the mid-season trade from the Patriots. What he did against a Jaguars defense that entered the game as the top-ranked unit in scoring and passing defense might have been his best performance yet.
“As long as you have a good quarterback, you have a good chance of winning the game,” Hyde said. “That’s been our thing right now. Things haven’t always been good here but it’s definitely changing and things are definitely getting better and the future is bright.”
The Jaguars (10-5) still have plenty to play for after clinching the division with Tennessee’s loss earlier in the day. But they lacked composure as evidenced by a sideline argument between Malik Jackson and Aaron Colvin and three personal fouls that helped fuel two touchdown drives.
The loss left Jacksonville needing a win next week and two Pittsburgh losses to get a bye.
“It’s tough. When we’re on the field we can’t allow things like that to happen,” Colvin said. “That’s probably our biggest opponent is ourselves, when we beat ourselves. We have to fix that issue. We can’t go into the playoffs like that. Today was just an odd situation. We’re not really that kind of team. We’ll be better.”
Here are some other takeaways from the game:
GIVEAWAYS: Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles entered the game on perhaps the best three-game stretch of his career as he had seven TD passes, no interceptions and 903 yards during the streak. But he threw three interceptions against the 49ers, including one returned 50 yards for a TD by Donate Johnson in the first half.
“It wasn’t our best performance,” Bortles said. “We’re a better football team than that. We’re a better offense than that. Can’t turn the ball over and put our defense in some tough situations.”
PARTY SPOILERS: The 49ers heard all week how the Jaguars wanted to celebrate a division title by handing out championship T-shirts and hats and did their best to make sure that didn’t happen on their home field. While Jacksonville did clinch, there was no celebration because of the loss.
“We heard that this was their t-shirt and hat game where they would clinch the playoffs and all that,” Hyde said. “Guys took that personally. We’re at home. This is our last home game. We felt some type of way about that so we came out today trying to make a statement.”
BIG-TIME THROW: Garoppolo has had plenty of highlights since taking over as quarterback in San Francisco. One of his best came on a fourth-quarter throw to Trent Taylor. Garoppolo was forced to scramble to his left and then threw sidearm across his body to Taylor for a 5-yard score that made it 30-19.
“Jimmy does such a great job of extending plays and making off-schedule plays,” fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. “If you study offenses in the NFL, all the biggest plays are on off-schedule plays. If you have a guy who can do that and convert third downs it will just help your offense so much.”