NFL Preseason Blitz: Jimmy Garoppolo rallies after a rough first game back

Preseason is made for overreactions. And one had started with Jimmy Garoppolo.

The San Francisco 49ers quarterback struggled against the Denver Broncos in his first game back from ACL surgery. He played poorly, a few days after throwing five straight interceptions in a joint practice. That started a wave of negativity heading into San Francisco’s third preseason game at the Kansas City Chiefs.

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One bad game in the preseason is no big deal. A second bad game, for a player with limited NFL experience coming off a torn ACL, is a little troublesome. And it looked early on like it might be another bad game for Garoppolo.

Garoppolo was misfiring early in San Francisco’s 27-17 win over the Chiefs. He missed badly to Dante Pettis on a third-down pass, but a defensive penalty kept the drive alive. He was way off on a throw to Kendrick Bourne, but Bourne reached back to make a nice catch. He threw high to Marquise Goodwin on a crossing route and the deflected ball was almost picked off. His fourth-down pass was batted down, ending the 49ers’ first drive.

Garoppolo rallied on San Francisco’s second drive, and mostly kept that going for the rest of his night. He had a nice, accurate pass downfield to Richie James for 33 yards. He lofted a 20-yard touchdown pass to Matt Breida, and Breida made a nice diving catch.

Garoppolo wasn’t perfect after that drive, but he was good. He completed 14-of-20 passes for 188 yards and generally looked good. For most of his time in the game he looked very much like the quarterback we saw at the end of the 2017 season.

That should put any major concerns to rest. At least until Garoppolo’s first bad game in the regular season.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) throws a pass during the first half of an NFL preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs. (AP)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) throws a pass during the first half of an NFL preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs. (AP)

Spotlight team

The Dallas Cowboys look ready, with or without Ezekiel Elliott.

There will be a few more “Zeke who?” jokes after this week’s 34-0 win over the Texans. Rookie running back Tony Pollard continues to look like a find. He had a 20-yard run in Saturday’s game against the Texans, building off a good performance last week. Michael Gallup, who could have a nice second-year breakout, had a touchdown catch from Dak Prescott. Gallup had another fantastic touchdown called back due to a penalty. Dallas’ defense looked sharp, especially getting pressure on the quarterback. And the special teams blocked a punt that it recovered for a touchdown.

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The Cowboys are trying to defend their NFC East title, and eventually they’ll need Elliott, who is holding out looking for a new contract. He’s an elite running back and the offense runs through him. But it looked on Saturday night like Dallas can get by without him for at least a little while.

Standout player

Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook has the chance to be one of the breakout stars in the NFL this season.

Cook’s first two seasons have been defined by flashes of his talent and too many injuries. He has played just 15 games in two seasons.

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But it all lines up for him this season. The Vikings changed offensive coordinators late last season, and head coach Mike Zimmer wants to run the ball more. There’s no proven backup to siphon too many carries. Cook will be featured.

We saw again in the Vikings’ 20-9 win over the Cardinals on Saturday what he can do with the ball in his hands. Cook took a running back to the left, cut back right and burst into the secondary. He split the final two defenders and went 85 yards for an impressive touchdown.

That was Cook’s last carry of the game, and presumably of the preseason. The Vikings don’t need to see any more from him. They just need him to be fresh for what will be a substantial workload.

Other games

New Orleans Saints 28, New York Jets 13: Drew Brees and Michael Thomas are ready for the regular season. The Saints duo hooked up for a 19-yard touchdown on an absolutely perfect throw, capping a nice first drive against the Jets. Alvin Kamara had a 25-yard reception on that drive. Teddy Bridgewater took over for Brees after that touchdown drive.

Chicago Bears 27, Indianapolis Colts 17: Nothing in this game seems too important after the absolute bombshell that Andrew Luck is retiring at age 29. Quarterback Chad Kelly got the start for the Colts, who sat Jacoby Brissett. The former “Mr. Irrelevant” pick of the Broncos, Kelly played well, though he was credited for an interception that was in his receiver’s hands, wrestled away and returned for a touchdown. Kelly threw a 46-yard touchdown to Deon Cain, who deserves a lot of credit for a nice run after catch. Kelly finished 16-of-21 for 209 yards, not a bad day for a player trying to reestablish himself in the NFL after an embarrassing end in Denver. Given Luck’s retirement, Kelly looks like the Colts’ new backup.

Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Rams: Like the Rams, the Broncos had no plans to play any key players.

Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Chargers: Chargers left tackle Russell Okung, who has been out with pulmonary embolism, worked out before the game according to Gilbert Manzano of the Orange County Register.

Final thoughts

• In the early game Saturday, Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals looked better but not great. And a big story continues to be officials calling the Cardinals’ “clap snap” for false start penalties.

• The Vikings traded for kicker/punter Kaare Vedvik from the Baltimore Ravens this month to fix their kicking game. It’s not working yet.

Vedvik missed field goals of 43 and 54 yards on Saturday and coach Mike Zimmer said he’s concerned.

“I honestly don’t know,” coach Mike Zimmer said, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “Since we brought Vedvik in, [Matt] Wile has been punting good and [Dan] Bailey has been kicking good. Then Vedvik goes out there and misses field goals, so I don’t know. I’m at a loss on that.”

• Chiefs running back Damien Williams, who entered training camp as the clear starter but struggled with some injuries, made a splash play. Williams caught a 62-yard touchdown from Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes made a nice throw after Williams got open and Williams turned on the speed to score. He’s the Chiefs’ No. 1 back, even with rookie Darwin Thompson impressing this month.

• Sam Darnold had a nice game for the Jets. He and Robby Anderson connected on a nice 44-yard gain. That set up a short touchdown pass to running back Ty Montgomery. Darnold continues to show good signs of progress heading into his second season. Darnold was 8-of-13 for 97 yards.

• Eddy Pineiro made a heck of a statement in his quest to end the never-ending conversation about the Chicago Bears kicking game. Pineiro hit a 58-yard field goal in the second half against the Colts. That will win some fans, as Chicago searches for a reliable kicker.

• Not long ago, the third preseason game was for starters to see significant time, maybe a half or more. Teams with young and innovative coaches are deciding to sit out their key players for most or all of the preseason. Want to know what the preseason might look like in a few years? Look at Matt Nagy’s inactive list for the Chicago Bears on Saturday:

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

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