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SANTA CLARA, CA – The Miami Dolphins started the day strong. The San Francisco 49ers ended it with a strong, 33-17, victory and a five game win streak. But in the middle of it all, the 49ers lost their starting quarterback for the season, again.

At end of San Francisco’s first offensive series, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo – who may have been playing the best football of his career – suffered a broken foot that will require season-ending surgery.

“It is pretty crushing,” said head coach Kyle Shanahan. “We know what Jimmy’s been through, how hard he’s worked at this…Even with how happy we were with that game. That was a really cool game just as a team and all the stuff that went on throughout the game and just to be able to overcome some things and it was such a special win, but definite mixed emotions hearing about Jimmy.”


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Shanahan had the news in the second quarter, while many of Garoppolo’s teammates saw an emotional Garoppolo at halftime and learned of the severity of the injury.

“I really felt him coming on even more so this year,” said pass rusher Nick Bosa. “He’s always been a great leader. But I felt him really, really caring about this team and his part and, obviously, his big role as a quarterback. I saw him at halftime and it was pretty emotional.”

Tight end George Kittle said, “Just losing him from the building for awhile is going to be tough. He’s one of the heartbeats of this team.”

Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk agreed: “Bittersweet. Anytime you get a chance to win, especially against a great team, great coach and great players that we know very well, it’s obviously great. But to lose our quarterback and the captain of this team it’s tough. So, bittersweet.”

Garoppolo and the 49ers’ offseason drama has been well-documented, but since he’s been back and took over when QB Trey Lance was lost for the season early in Week 2, Garoppolo seemed to have come into his own even more and the team was hitting its stride.

“I feel so bad for him and everything that he’s had to go through and it just seems like we’ve been down this road so many times and it’s truly unfortunate,” said fullback Kyle Juszczyk. “I just feel for Jimmy.”

Christian McCaffrey, who has been in Santa Clara about six weeks, has quickly felt Garoppolo’s leadership and the bond he has in the locker room.

“It’s brutal,” McCaffrey said. “I haven’t been around here a long time, but I can’t say enough good things about him. I’ve been in that position before where you’re playing and you’re excited and it all has to end in a year and it really sucks and it hurts.

“I can’t say enough good things about him from a leadership standpoint. From the way that he operates to his attitude on a daily basis. I’m praying for him and we’re all going to have his back. You see a guy like Brock come in and do well like that in the game, it’s because of Jimmy. Because they’re learning from a guy like Jimmy, learning from [QB Coach Brian] Griese and Kyle and these guys. But, yes, it is heartbreaking.”

After seeing Garoppolo at halftime, Bosa said it was difficult to refocus.

“I couldn’t get it off my mind,” said pass rusher Nick Bosa. “I just had to force myself to block it out and keep going. And I think our defense, obviously, did a pretty damn good job.”

Bosa is right. The defense did, while Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy became very relevant, very fast, and did a pretty damn good job, too.

Brock Purdy

Purdy’s regular-season playing time had been minimal, but that didn’t stop the four-year starter at Iowa State from coming in and impressing.

“I feel like there was a little, just like the whole butterfly feeling of, alright man, we’re going in, let’s do this. It wasn’t like I was out there shaking and like, oh shoot, what do I do? What’s my read? None of that, man. It’s every single week, I act like I’m the starter. I’ve got to prepare like I’m the starter. And you know, my name was called. [Quarterbacks coach Brian] Griese said, ‘Let’s roll.'”

And roll he did. Purdy finished the day 25-of-37 for 210 yards, two touchdowns and an interception and played with fearlessness and confidence.

“He’s got some balls out there, forgive me for saying it that way,” Shanahan said. “We have to clean some stuff up, obviously, but just throwing him in there in the heat of battle like that…I thought he did a hell of a job doing it. Protected the ball well and made some big plays too that I thought weren’t there always.”

Kittle spoke of Purdy’s “cojones” and then agreed with his coach.

“I can say that?” said Kittle. “Oh, he definitely has balls.”

Deebo Samuel saw it too.

“With not knowing that he’s ever coming in, when he got in, you could tell he was ready for the moment and very vocal,” Samuel said. “There were times that he messed up and it takes nuts to call the time out without Kyle calling it, you know what I’m saying? The ability that he has to be one of the guys for this offense.”

He showed that ability, as he led an 11-play, 76-yard touchdown drive to end the first half, throwing a three-yard TD pass to running back Christian McCaffrey, giving the 49ers a 17-10 lead.

“Man, he plays with a lot of confidence,” McCaffrey said. “Didn’t miss a beat. He came in and was great in the huddle. Obviously made some plays. I got to make a couple more plays for him. When something like that happens, it’s on us to step up. But he did a great job all the way until the end, staying poised. Managing the huddle and obviously, there’s some things that can happen here and there with communication and just having a different quarterback. But I was proud of him. I thought he did a great job.”

As the final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft, Purdy held the moniker Mr. Irrelevant, but he didn’t play like it.

“I mean it’s a thing,” Purdy said. “That’s just where I fell in the draft. I’m very thankful that I got drafted. I’ve always had confidence and belief in myself that I could play at this level. Especially through the preseason games and then the times I’ve got in the game it’s football and I played four years as a starter in college. So, in terms of 11-on-11 and speed and all that kind of stuff and seeing the game, I’ve had that kind of experience, but to get in and play and now starting next week and whatnot, it’s something that I’ve always looked forward to and I’ve honestly told myself that it’s going to happen. So here we are.”

Yes, there they are. The 49ers have lost two starting quarterbacks in one season, and now the hope is the defense and the offensive weapons can keep them on track to the ultimate goal.

“He’s just got confidence,” Kittle said. “You can feel it, too. He’s not shy. There’s no awkwardness to him. He’s a little quiet sometimes, but there’s no timidness to him. He’s confident in his play.”


The Dolphins were held to eight rushing attempts for 33 yards. Bosa had three sacks. The 49ers had three interceptions, one from Jimmie Ward, one from Deommodore Lenoir and one from Fred Warner. Linebacker Dre Greenlaw had a fumble return for a touchdown.

“Everyone knows about Fred, a leader out there and a captain,” Shanahan said. You go to the two other guys, watching [LB] Azeez] [Al-Shaair] all last year when Greenlaw went down, how physical Azeez is and how much fun he is to have out there. And then Greenlaw, one of the best games I ever saw, I thought from a player was Week 17 in L.A. last year when Greenlaw hadn’t played at all and came back and was one of the main reasons I thought we went to the playoffs last year is because of how he played in that game. I wish we could have all three of them forever, they’re studs and they love football. They’re a real tight group and they like to run and hit, so it’s what you like about him.”

The Dolphins had a total of 14 first downs and were 0-for-7 on third down.

The NFL’s best defense is going to need to stay that way if the 49ers have any chance at a Super Bowl.

“We want to be the best defense in the world,” said DL Arik Armstead. “We said that in the offseason, that’s our goal. We have to keep going. Keep executing at a high level. Keep playing hard and everything’s going to take care of itself.”

Next up

Next up for the 49ers are Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who come to Levi’s Stadium in Week 14.

“Dude’s been playing football longer than I’ve been alive, so yeah, to have a first start against the GOAT, it’s going to be pretty cool,” Purdy said. “But just any other game, man, it’s got to be efficient, do my thing, and play football.”

So the 49ers again regroup after losing a starter for the season and try to focus.

“We got a resilient group,” Shanahan said. “That’s what I loved about today so much. Just the first play of the game for the defense and it was a big 75-yard touchdown, but they didn’t waver, they didn’t hesitate. You could tell it didn’t faze them and losing our quarterback on the second series in the first quarter there, it was a big deal, but you don’t feel any difference on guys on the sideline, so we got a strong team. Guys who love football and we have to make sure to really ride that high the rest of the year and hope it can keep making us better.”