The defense has been outstanding, the running attack strong and the overall talent level greater in helping the 49ers become the NFL’s only unbeaten team at 8-0.
But there’s another reason, too, that San Francisco is gaining fans around the league as a Super Bowl contender:
The jury was still out on the quarterback going into this season. Before 2019, Garoppolo had started just eight games in a San Francisco uniform and 10 in his pro career. He looked terrific in leading his team to a 5-0 record at the end of 2017, but then had some shaky moments in 2018 before his season ended in Game 3.
As Sudeep Tumma of The Intermission wrote this spring, some observers wondered which Garoppolo the 49ers would see this season, especially considering he was coming off a serious knee injury.
"Even before the injury, he didn’t look the same," wrote Tumma of Garoppolo’s short 2018 experience. "So naturally, fans started to question it. Was it just a slow start? Was he still learning the offense? Or was the magic gone?"
Yet halfway through the season, the magic still lingers. Garoppolo is coming off perhaps the finest game of his career, a 28-of-37, 317-yard, four-touchdown performance in a win over Arizona in which he had a 136.9 quarterback rating.
Garoppolo is No. 3 in the NFL in completion percentage (70.8), has thrown just seven interceptions against 13 TDs and has a 100.6 quarterback rating, No. 9 in the league.
Now, as the 49ers prepare to play the Seattle Seahawks Monday night at Levi’s Stadium, the 49ers have moved up to No. 1 in NFL.com’s weekly Power Rankings, with part of the reason being Garoppolo’s ascent, signaled by what he did to the Cardinals.
Wrote Dan Hanzus of NFL.com: "Jimmy Garoppolo played like a star. We already knew the 49ers could be a dominant team with Jimmy G in game-manager mode. But what happens if San Francisco’s 28-year-old quarterback makes the leap? If he becomes the franchise passer many expected after his flash of success that ended the 2017 season preceded the knee injury that cut his 2018 season short?"
And, wrote Hanzus, Garoppolo looked always in control against the Cardinals, totally at home with his teammates, coaches and system.
Now, can the 49ers and Garoppolo keep it up? How he performs against a strong Seattle team will be an indicator.
Monday’s game is set for a 5:15 p.m. kickoff.