At one point, the San Francisco 49ers were up 17-3 with just over a quarter left in the game. Less than five minutes later, San Francisco trailed by three, along with their hopes of snapping a three-game losing streak. The 49ers defense deserves much of the credit for holding off Jared Goff and Co. for nearly the entirety of the contest, including the Rams final drive that helped set San Francisco up for a Robbie Gould walk-off field goal. The 49ers improved their record to 5-6 following the 23-20 Week 12 victory. Here are nine takeaways from the divisional thriller.
1. Defensive Highlights
Kevin Givens was a standout to open the game. On the Rams first drive, he recorded a tackle for loss on a carry against running back Darrell Henderson. Two plays later on a Malcolm Brown carry, safety Jimmie Ward stripped the ball from the running back as Givens landed on the fumble.
The 49ers failed to capitalize on the turnover as Aaron Donald deflected a pass intended for Deebo Samuel that floated into the arms of Rams safety Jordan Fuller. San Francisco's defense managed to hold Jared Goff and Co. to a field goal.
2. Offensive Weapons
Samuel had his first reception since returning from injury on the 49ers third drive of the game – a jet sweep that the receiver took 33 yards to the Rams 37 yard line. Two plays later on a play fake, Nick Mullens connected with Samuel for a 26-yard pickup. Raheem Mostert took the handoff to the outside on the ensuing play for an 8-yard touchdown, his first rushing score since Week 2 against the New York Jets. Samuel and Mostert combined for 92 of the 49ers 104 yards in the first quarter.
Samuel finished the contest with 11 receptions for 134 yards in his first game back since Week 7. According to Pro Football Focus, 83 of his 133 yards occurred after contact, the most by a receiver in a game this season.
3. The Return of Sherm
The first quarter of the divisional matchup was certainly a welcome back for the 49ers players who missed several weeks due to injury, Richard Sherman included. Sherman hauled in his first interception of the season off what appeared to be miscommunication as Goff was looking for Robert Woods. The ball floated in the direction of the wide open veteran corner for the pick.
4. Team-leading Kerry Hyder
Kerry Hyder Jr. had another dominant performance on Sunday. The edge rusher pressured Goff on a third down play that led to a Rams punt. Hyder recorded his first sack of the game in the second quarter for a loss of nine yards. He got to Goff again in the third quarter to force another Rams punt. Week 12 marks his first multi-sack game since Week 10 of 2016 (2). He now has 7.5 sacks on the season, a team high.
Hyder also recorded his first fumble recovery of the season. Ward forced his second fumble of the day on a Goff scramble that was recovered by Hyder to give San Francisco's offense the ball with under :30 left in the half. The 49ers weren't able to capitalize off of the turnover, as Gould missed a 50-yard field goal.
5. Rookie Pick-Six
One of the standout plays from the contest came by the way of a defensive touchdown. On the Rams first drive of the second half, Givens got a hit on Goff as the quarterback released the ball, when rookie defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw came down with the pass and returned it for a touchdown. The pick-six marked Kinlaw's first takeaway of his career.
6. The Wrath of Aaron Donald
The 49ers couldn't keep Donald quiet for too long as the All-Pro defensive tackle had a 180-degree performance in Week 12 and changed the momentum of the second half for Los Angeles. The Rams first score of the game came late in the third quarter as Donald stripped the ball from Mostert's arms. Cornerback Troy Hill recovered the loose ball for a score. On the ensuing drive, Donald got his hands on Mullens for the Rams first sack of the game.
7. More Defensive Notes
San Francisco's defense held Goff to under 200 yards passing (the third time this season they've limited opposing quarterbacks to under that mark), a 61 percent completion percentage, two interceptions and zero touchdowns for a passer rating of 52.9. The unit notched four turnovers and forced seven punts. The biggest play given up on the day was a 61-yard carry by Rams running back Cam Akers that set up their first offensive touchdown of the game.
8. Walk-Off Game Winner
Gould redeemed himself as the 49ers received the ball with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter and a tie game at 20 points apiece. The 49ers managed to drive down the field and set up Gould with a 42-yard walk-off game winner to seal the victory. Throughout his 15-year career, Gould has connected on 16 game-winning field goals in the regular season.
9. Injury Notes
Cornerback Jamar Taylor was carted off the field late in the first half with a knee injury. Emmanuel Moseley stepped into his place for the remainder of the contest. The 49ers fear a torn ACL for the backup nickel corner. Backup cornerback Ken Webster also left the game in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury. The team will have more updates on the status of the two corners when the 49ers regroup on Monday.