The San Francisco 49ers locked up their first victory of the 2023 calendar year and ninth-straight of the season with their 37-34 overtime win versus the Las Vegas Raiders on New Year's Day. San Francisco's win combined with losses by the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles positions the 49ers to the No. 2 seed in the conference and opens the door for a chance at the top seed in the NFC.
Brock Purdy Continues to Roll
The 49ers rookie quarterback remains unbeaten in his four starts, completing 22-of-35 passes for 284 yards, two touchdowns and an interception to lead the 49ers to a win in Week 17. This was the first time Purdy had to lead the team from behind since being named the starter, and he delivered a solid performance (95.4 passer rating) in the team's tightest game of the season. The test the Raiders provided was welcomed with open arms by head coach Kyle Shanahan as the 49ers gear up for the postseason.
"What Brock is doing is real. He's a talent guy, who is very tough," Shanahan said about Purdy facing adversity in Week 17. "When he does make mistakes, he understands why and then he tries to learn from them. He doesn't have a ton of experience in this league in playing so every time he goes out there, whether it is good or bad, I feel like when you've got the skill set and play the game the right way, he's only going to get better from it."
Brandon Aiyuk Notches Touchdown No. 8
The third-year receiver caught his eighth touchdown pass of the season to get the 49ers on the board on Sunday afternoon. Aiyuk's two-yard score capped off an eight-play, 67-yard opening drive for San Francisco and tied things up with 7:06 left in the first quarter. No. 11 also displayed some Deebo Samuel-like play in the second half, rushing for 16 yards out of the backfield to tee up the team's third touchdown of the game. Christian McCaffrey ran into the end zone on the ensuing play to get the 49ers within three points with 5:22 left in the third quarter. Aiyuk was also instrumental in the final drive of regulation, catching four passes for 52 yards to give San Francisco a chance at the win on a last second field goal.
"I knew it was time to make a play. I didn't like how the game went early on," Aiyuk said about his big fourth quarter drive. "Obviously, as anybody does, they have expectations of what they want to do coming into the game... I think Kyle wanted to get it to me early. It wasn't working out, and I felt as if he went away from me, rightfully so, and then he came back to me at the end. I wanted to for myself and for who I believe I am for this team to go out there and make some plays."
The Offense Runs Through CMC
The veteran running back was the workhorse of the offense racking up 19 carries for 121 yards and touchdown on the ground and through the air, he added six catches for 72 yards. Among his many highlight-reel worthy plays in Week 17 was his 37-yard burst up the right side on the 49ers first offensive series to help set up San Francisco's first touchdown. The 49ers do-it-all back also hit a noteworthy career milestone during San Francisco's second offensive series with his six-yard reception on third-and-five to put the 49ers inside the 25. With that third down conversion, McCaffrey (435 receptions) passed 49ers legend Roger Craig (434 receptions) for most receptions by a running back in NFL history through six seasons.
McCaffrey had a number of big plays in the second half including running in a 14-yard touchdown in the third quarter and rushing for a 38-yards carry to help set up Jordan Mason's first-career score.
"It's great to have those games because you have to answer scores with scores to win in this league and in order to keep the momentum as well," McCaffrey said following the shootout with the Raiders. "We knew that if we just kept putting points on the board, eventually our defense was going to get a stop."
San Francisco's guard injured his knee in the second quarter of Sunday's contest but was able to walk off the field under his own power. He was ruled questionable to return in the second quarter and was replaced by offensive lineman Daniel Brunskill. Shanahan said in his postgame address that initial reports point to an MCL sprain for the right guard.
Greenlaw sustained a back injury late in the third quarter after getting caught in a pileup. He was listed as questionable to return and did not return to game action.
Drake Jackson Notches His First-Career Interception
The 49ers defensive unit came up big at the start of the fourth quarter. Defensive lineman Kerry Hyder Jr. tipped Raiders quarterback Jarrett Stidham's pass and Jackson caught the loose ball for his first-career interception. That takeaway set the 49ers up on the Las Vegas 42 yard line, and Robbie Gould kicked a 43-yard field goal to knot the game up with 12:34 left to play.
Tashaun Gipson Sr. Comes in Clutch in Overtime
Overtime rules don't ensure that both teams get to touch the ball, but an interception certainly does. The veteran safety picked off Stidham on second-and-10 at the Raiders 40 yard line and returned it for 56 yards to put his team in position for a short field goal. The interception was Gipson Sr.'s third of the season and the 30th of his career.
"Our defense, they came up huge in overtime," tight end George Kittle said. "I think it was Bosa who applied the pressure, pushed the offensive lineman into the quarterback. Gip made a huge play... Our defense is playing at high level. They're fantastic in those close situations. When it comes down to it, I'll pick our defense over any offense."
Gould Sinks Game-winning Overtime Kick
After a 56 yard return by Gipson Sr. following his interception, the 49ers opted to leave the fate of the game in the hands of their specialists. Gould sank the 23-yard field goal to end the game and secure win No. 12 of the season.
Gould hit three-of-four kicks for 13 total points in Sunday's overtime win.