Here’s how the 49ers (10-7) in their 27-24, overtime win over the Los Angeles Rams (12-5) took the NFC’s No. 6 seed and next Sunday’s wild-card playoff game to No. 1 But achieved. 3-seed Dallas Cowboys:
Pass Offense: A
Jimmy Garoppolo solidified a spot in the 49ers’ QB lore—a good spot—by leading a last-minute touchdown drive to force overtime, then the winning zone in the extra session (4-of-5, 50 yards). To set up and deliver more goals. Garoppolo never claimed to be perfect, and no one expected that with a sprained thumb, his strip-sack rumble and harp at interception, but late-game patience and leadership (plus 316 yards). That is why he is a captain and a motivator, a winner among his teammates. It was important to get enough gas on the pass to Deebo Samuel for a 43-yard reception for 19, setting up a 14-yard tying touchdown to John Jennings, whose breakout game (six catches, 94 yards) included OT catches for 34 Were. 9 yards. Don’t forget Brandon Ayuk’s 106 yards, George Kittel’s all-around effort, and an overcoming offensive line in the absence of Trent Williams, Colton McKiewitz started with a left tackle in his first rep all season.
Run Crime: B+
Slow traffic in the first half finally cleared as Eliza Mitchell ran for 85 yards, giving her 963 yards in her rookie season (and 37 before becoming the 49ers’ first 1,000-yard rusher since Frank Gore in 2014). Less). Samuel, stopping for a 2-yard loss on his first carry, came stronger than expected, and had twice the reception (four, 95 yards) (eight, 45 yards), with a 24-yard touchdown pass Jennings made it to the third. To tie at 17 in the quarter. Garoppolo’s only carry: Converting on a third and a stealth, sore thumb and all.
Pass Defense: B
Let’s just cut through to the end and praise rookie Embry Thomas for his win-win interception to a two-minute warning on Matthew Stafford’s 42-yard heave. And let’s admire the constant passing rush that led to five sacks and 13 hits on Stafford. Heavy attempts by Eric Armstead (2 1/2 sacks), Arden Key, Nick Bossa, DJ Jones, Kentavius Street and Fred Warner to interrupt Stafford. Now, Cooper Kupp receives the NFL’s Triple Crown, and his seventh catch (118 yards) goes to the lead. That was a tough matchup for anyone, especially Deontay Johnson, who filled in a nickel back (for Ke’Vaughn Williams) before spelling out an injured safety Zakisky Tart. Kupp had five catches in the Rams’ first half as he took a 17–0 lead, with Stafford 16 for 153 yards and two touchdowns to tease Tyler Higby. The 49ers’ pass defense wasn’t the perfect pass-happy NFL rules would ever have, but things changed in the clutch.
Run Defense: A+
This is arguably the hottest unit of the 49ers. The Rams averaged only 2.4 yards per carry, with Sonny Mitchell producing 43 yards (21 carries) and fresh-footed Cam Akers producing 3 yards on 5 carries. Dre Greenlaw made 12 tackles in only his third game this season, limited to the first 50 snaps in the year due to a groin injury in his first week pick-six. Armstead and Bossa made two tackles each for the defeat. “Man, we’ve been doing a great job holding off races for a while,” Armstead said. “It was a point to insist on not letting the run game go, because it opens up a lot of their offense with play-action and boot games.” As Fred Warner aptly put it: “That game was wild.”
Special Teams: B+
Bravo, Robbie Gould. Not only did he kick in the winning points (24-yard field goal) as well as the 49ers’ first points (42-yard field goal to end the first half), he golfed for an average of 45 yards on two quarters. -Clap applauded -Mitch Wishnowski (concussion) was hurt covering a 31-yard return after quarter punts. It was Gould’s first punt since three in 2005–07, and he was also a touchback machine at kickoff. Kyle Juszczyk replaced Wishnowski and notably captured the gold kick. If the 49ers can get a breakaway kickoff or a punt return in the playoffs, well, that would be something.
Falling into a 17-0 hole is exactly how Kyle Shanahan wrote it, huh? Imagine how he felt when he scratched Trent Williams before kickoff. It was a huge reward for instilling resilience in this team, not to mention sticking with the injured Garoppolo. Shanahan’s loyalty to the quarterback paid off in clutch moments, which makes you wonder if the 2022 season will remain the same. The road ahead to LA for Super Bowl LVI begins Sunday in Dallas, then Green Bay, then Tampa, then don’t be surprised to see the 49ers Faithful play the game.