It was a wild game.
The 49ers erased a 17–0 deficit with physical play, took a late lead, then self-ignited on a poor pass from Jimmy Garoppolo and a long drive by the Rams mostly written by Cooper Kupp. Gone.
And then Garoppolo and his receivers wrote a last-minute drive to force overtime. Then, he did it again to score in extra period, before an Embry Thomas interception sealed the 49ers’ sixth consecutive win over the Rams and the next week’s trip to Dallas.
Here are the top performers from the 49ers’ playoff-clinching victory.
Close out the Rams’ opening campaign with a sack from Matt Stafford that forced a field goal attempt. Then teamed up with Nick Bosa for a third-down sack on the Rams’ final possession of the first half. Came back for one last sack on the last game of regulation.
The Rams ran 15 times for 14 yards in the first half as the 49ers’ defensive line and linebackers swallowed Sonny Mitchell and Cam Akers. Unfortunately for the Niners, Los Angeles was also allowed to pass the football in the first half.
physical running back
Over and over again, Eliza Mitchell picked up extra yardage after contact. Deebo Samuel and Jamaichael Hasty followed his lead, but it was Mitchell who forced the issue, breaking the tackle and falling forward to drag the 49ers into the game and the Rams defence.
The stands at Sophie Stadium had plenty of red paint, which is nothing new for 49ers games in Southern California. But with the Rams playing for a chance at the division crown, Faithfull still made its presence felt, albeit at a deflationary loss.
Samuel did it all for the 49ers. He ran for a touchdown, threw another John Jennings, then caught a deep out and ran it for a 55-yard lead and gave the Niners one last gasp. He added the first productive game of overtime to get the 49ers starting in the right direction for a scoring drive.
Ayuk helped the 49ers’ offense go into a late first-half drive with catches of 19 and 26 yards, then found himself open to the left for a 31-yard pass on the opening drive of the second half.
He had two touchdown catches but more impressive was his 34-yard catch and run in overtime that converted a third down and moved the 49ers into the scoring range.
A fourth quarter sack with Key passed the ball back to the Niners, but Warner flew around the field all day. He recorded eight tackles from Rams ballcarriers throughout the game and was a key figure in the push to complete the run. Also, he won the overtime coin toss.
Thomas was vilified throughout the years for his inability to play the ball. Finally, he found the ball in the air on Stafford’s final pass attempt to Odell Beckham Jr., ending the game with an interception.
Robbie Gould and Kyle Juszczyk
After punter Mitch Wishnowski suffered a head injury, Gould stepped into punting duty and crushed the assignment, actually dismissing Wishnowski with 90 yards on two punts.
Juszczyk assumed Vishnowski’s other duty, capturing all of Gould’s field goal attempts, which were 2-for-2 and extra points, which were 3-for-3.
In the first half, there was no indication that Garoppolo would find himself on the positive end of this assessment. But he overcame a fumble, a really ugly intercept and a thumb injury that was apparently too painful to get his team back in the game.
In the first half, he was a clear dud. He then helped his team make a massive comeback. Then he threw it. And then he took them back again.
Interrupted by a thumb injury, the Niners struggled without their top defender at quarterback and captain Trent Williams. Garoppolo threw the ball on the second drive to San Francisco. On the Niners’ third drive, he rolled a deep pass that was intercepted. With a chance to take the lead in the middle of the fourth quarter, he threw a well-covered George Kittel to stop Jalen Ramsey.
Costly fines were imposed in the first quarter and costly fines were imposed in the fourth quarter. In his return from a groin injury that cost him most of his season, Greenlaw recorded a team-high 12 tackles, but hurt his team at a crucial moment, and it could have been worse if he had to. Another deserved unnecessary roughness penalty would have been called for. ,
Cooper forced into a tough matchup with Kupp, Johnson completed a 46-yard run to Kupp on a deep crossing pattern on the first possession of the game.
Kupp burned Ward to complete a long third-down on the Rams’ fourth-quarter scoring drive. He then beat Ward to advance to the left corner of the end zone.
We don’t rate opposing players at stud and dud, but Kupp made a strong case for leading the stud category anyway.
He remained in good shape but suffered from the chronic bugaboo of not being able to play the ball on Tyler Higby’s second touchdown catch, a 15-yard catch on third that would have otherwise forced the Rams into a field goal attempt.
49ers pass the defense… until the end
If it wasn’t Johnson or Thomas, it was something else, as if no one was covering Higby on his first touchdown catch. Higby sold a block well on fourth and -1 inside the Niners’ 5-yard line, but the 49ers failed to cover him at all, and he was one of two players to run a route on the play. In many games, this is a clear run position, but with the Rams’ ground game sputtering and Stafford on point, the odds of a pass should factor into Demeco Ryan’s playcalling.