Jim Harbaugh’s turnaround of the San Francisco 49ers reached new levels on Sunday. The 49ers are now officially in the playoffs.
The rookie NFL coach has led his team to the postseason, by securing the NFC West division title with a 26-0 shutout victory over the St. Louis Rams.
At 10-2, the 49ers have clinched a division crown and a home playoff game for the first time since 2002. Not surprisingly, the postgame scene was unlike any other in recent memory at Candlestick Park.
Harbaugh, a true competitor in his own right, found a way to partially duck away from a Gatorade bath with less than a minute to go in the game.
“I mean the guy’s so competitive he jukes the Gatorade dump,” joked quarterback
Harbaugh was thankful for the win and for his game attire.
“I was fine with it,” Harbaugh said of the partial shower. “I’ve got my all-purpose black sweater. Don’t even need to change, it just rolls right off this thing. Incredible fabric.”
Even more incredible was the scene in the postgame locker room. Players were jubilant as they watched the conclusion of the Packers-Giants game from TV monitors inside the room. Most were donning NFC West division champion t-shirts and hats with big grins to match.
“That’s the best part of this whole thing, the fact that we’re going to the playoffs,” said second-year wide receiver
Though the 49ers outgained the Rams 389 to 157, they were held out of the end zone on four trips inside St. Louis’ red zone.
It was running back
On Gore’s first carry of the second quarter, he passed Joe “The Jet” Perry for first place on the 49ers all-time rushing list. Gore finished the game, rushing 21 times for 73 yards, bringing his career total to 7,396.
“The main thing I’m happy about is I got the opportunity to play in the postseason,” Gore said.
The 49ers could have had more points in the first half. It’s something they’ll look to improve in the remaining four games of the season.
“We had our struggles in the red zone,” admitted Smith, who led the 49ers to a 9-0 first half lead before finishing the game with a career-best 142.3 quarterback rating. “The game shouldn’t have even been that close at halftime. We felt like we could have done some better things to finish in the red zone.”
While the offense struggled to finish drives, the 49ers defense was dominant throughout, posting its first shutout since it held the Rams scoreless on Oct. 4, 2009.
The defense sacked Rams backup quarterback A.J. Feeley four times, with rookie
“It feels really good to be division champs,” Goldson said. “We put a stamp on it, there’s nothing like it.”
With Sam Bradford inactive with an ankle injury, St. Louis never got past San Francisco’s 35-yard line. Running back Steven Jackson, the last runner to have a rushing touchdown against the 49ers, was held to 19 yards on 11 carries.
St. Louis opened up with the ball to start the second half and connected on its biggest play of the game, a 34-yard pass from Feeley to former 49er Brandon Lloyd. But on the next play, Feeley was intercepted by Goldson, who read the downfield pass intended for rookie wideout Austin Pettis.
The 49ers made sure to capitalize on the mistake.
Smith fired deep to
It was the first touchdown from either team and put the game out of reach for a Rams team that struggled to sustain drives, converting 23-percent of their third downs (3-of-13).
Akers’ fourth field goal and Wiliams’ impressive catch and run for a touchdown were all the rest of the game’s points on the day.
Williams’ score was proof of the 49ers handling St. Louis’ diverse blitzing defense. Smith recognized the pressure the Rams were bringing on a 3rd-and-6 from San Francisco’s 44-yard line and knew Williams, the shifty wideout, had the ability to make a play in space.
“Certainly didn’t expect him to house-call it,” Smith said. “But, he slipped inside, broke a tackle and that was it.”
After the big catch and run, all that was left was a few clock-draining drives, one led by rookie quarterback
And once the game was complete, 49ers players were in no rush to leave the field. Not when there were thousands of fans in their seats cheering them on.
“It’s sweet to clinch it, especially at home in front of the home fans. A great day,” Alex Smith concluded. “We got to see Frank get the record and clinch the division, so yeah, pretty sweet.”