FOXBOROUGH — For the second time this season, New England Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo lived up to his nickname of Jimmy Gameday.
The rookie showed a lot of poise in what was his first extensive regular season action as a pro, evading pressure on several occasions to extend plays at times and showing some solid arm strength at other times.
But Garoppolo is not ready to call himself a success just yet.
“Plenty of room for improvement,” Garoppolo said after the game. “There were some good things, some bad things, things to learn from, and it will only help me going forward.”
Garoppolo went 10-for-17 for 90 yards, and added 16 yards on four carries. He did it all with immense pressure in his face, behind an offensive line featuring several backups in place of tackles Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder and guard Dan Connolly.
He was sacked three times for his troubles, and his confidence did not appear to waiver despite the adversity.
“I thought Jimmy competed well,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. “He was under some pressure. Some things were good; other things could have been better. But I thought he competed well. Some of the opportunities where he had to make plays, he made them. There are definitely some positive things there. There are also some things to learn from and build on.”
The Patriots scored only three points and gained eight first downs on five total drives with Garoppolo as the quarterback, compared to six points and six first downs on five drives with Tom Brady as the passer, but those numbers do not do justice to Garoppolo’s performance. Many times, Garoppolo was making something out of nothing, scrambling behind the line of scrimmage as pressure closed in around him.
His most impressive play was a nine-yard scramble on 3rd-and-6, when he escaped pressure and ran to the sideline, stretching the ball beyond the pylon for the first down.
He is also used to working with the scout team in practice, so his opportunities with the first team offense may have been some of the first opportunities he’s had all season long.
“It felt like practice,” said Brandon LaFell. “I’m always out there running scout team, show team for the defense with Jimmy, so it felt like practice. The guy got out there and made a lot of plays, got out of a bunch of sacks, he almost got sacked, he made some plays and he got out of the pocket and still got the ball away.”
Garoppolo may not have played much on Sundays so far, but he has had plenty of opportunities on Monday thru Saturday this season to learn the offense and get up to speed with how the Patriots do business.
In that respect, Garoppolo feels he’s come a long way since the preseason.
“No comparison, really,” he said. “Having so many weeks to learn and progress, it definitely helped me.”
It also helps to have someone like Brady at Garoppolo’s side, who can help keep the rookie aware of things he may not necessarily see in the moment — or may not recognize as quickly as the savvy 15-year veteran.
“[Brady’s] helping me out, helping me with coverages and all that stuff,” he said. “Little things here and there. He’s a great teacher, and he’s helped me a bunch. He helped me a lot today.”
The Patriots surely hope that Garoppolo’s playing time doesn’t see a significant increase anytime soon, but Sunday served as just another notch on Garoppolo’s belt — the first of what could be many more to come.