SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Maybe it was fitting that Jimmy Garoppolo did his best Bob Griese impersonation in the victory that sent the San Francisco 49ers to Griese's old stomping grounds in Miami for the Super Bowl.
Perhaps no quarterback since the former Dolphins Hall of Famer had ever done less in the game that led his team to the Super Bowl than Garoppolo did last Sunday when he threw only eight passes in a 37-20 victory over Green Bay.
That's led to some predictable skepticism about whether Garoppolo should get credit for leading the Niners to the Super Bowl or if he's just along for the ride.
Garoppolo acknowledged he hears the criticism that he didn't do much to get San Francisco this far and uses it as motivation, even if he's much quieter about it than teammate Richard Sherman, who seems to seek out doubters as fuel.
"I do the same thing," Garoppolo said. "I hear all the stuff and everything, but you can't put that all out there all the time. You have to do with it what you will and take it for what it is. Just at the end of the day you've got to go out there and play football."
Garoppolo completed six passes for 77 yards last week. It was the fewest pass attempts by a team in the playoffs since Griese's Dolphins threw six times in the AFC title game against Oakland following the 1973 season and then only seven times in a Super Bowl win over Minnesota two weeks later.
The only other time a team threw eight or fewer passes in a playoff game came in the 1971 AFC championship when Griese had eight attempts in a victory over Baltimore.
One reason Garoppolo has been asked to do so little as the Niners have spent the past month playing from ahead. They haven't trailed a game since a comeback 34-31 win in Week 16 against the Los Angeles Rams.
They have been tied or led for the past 186:14 of game action, allowing Shanahan to lean more heavily on his defense and running game rather than counting on Garoppolo to deliver the big plays.
The strategy has worked as San Francisco has 89 carries for 471 yards in playoff wins over Minnesota and Green Bay, although Garoppolo might have to do more to keep up with Patrick Mahomes and the high-powered Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl.
Garoppolo has shown the ability to do that this season, leading four fourth-quarter comebacks and ranking tied for second in the league with three games of at least four TD passes in the regular season.
The biggest success he had came in a 48-46 win at New Orleans in December when he rallied the Niners back from a 13-point first-half deficit and then engineered the game-winning field goal drive in the final minute of regulation.
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