To the casual fan, though, they would have been hard-pressed to tell the two apart based upon the way each played.
The San Francisco 49ers are now winners of four in a row and five of their last six games following a 44-33 upset of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It’s all because of Jimmy Garoppolo, who’s done the impossible and resurrected the 49ers from the NFL’s doldrums to one of the buzziest teams in football.
While the numbers weren’t as overwhelming as they’ve been in recent weeks – Garoppolo finished 21-of-30 for 242 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for a passer rating of 102.4, to go with a rushing score – it didn’t really matter.
On Sunday, the 49ers jumped on top early.
Will Sunday’s matchup between the Jaguars and 49ers turn into a defensive struggle?
Jacksonville, which trailed 16-0 early in the second quarter, took its first and only lead of the game at 19-16 on Josh Lambo’s 45-yard field goal with 10:57 left in the third quarter. But on Saturday, Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette landed a good jab on his teammate. As of last week, Jacksonville was threatening to become the first defense in history to lead the National Football League in sacks, interceptions and opponents scoring.
Another rookie, linebacker Elijah Lee, seemed to have another score late in the game when he scooped up a fumble and ran into the end zone, but the officials ruled that the pass play was incomplete. Yet they were able to get back in the game in the second quarter, thanks in large measure to cornerback Dontae Johnson’s coverage deficiencies.
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.
This was a team was on an upward trajectory, but only because it couldn’t go any lower.
The turnovers on defense make Garoppolo’s job easier. And that’s exactly what they did.
This team has played at a level too high for too long this season, and that’s mostly what didn’t fit on what players ultimately felt was a disappointing Christmas Eve by the Bay Saturday. Only three of those scores were touchdowns.
With the momentum back on their side, San Francisco would not let off of the gas. Jacksonville was on a 19-3 scoring run, and the 49ers offense had just gone three-and-out.
As for the 49er offense, it would finish its next two possessions with touchdowns – on finessed from Garoppolo to Trent Taylor, the other on a Carlos Hyde six-yard run. There were clues that the 2014 second-round pick was quickly becoming a franchise quarterback when he threw a sweet touchdown pass on his third snap as a member of the 49ers, and more hints came when he followed that up by leading San Francisco to three consecutive victories over the Chicago Bears, Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans in December. Williams made a leaping, one-handed pick on a pass downfield that helped San Francisco regain momentum.