The San Francisco 49ers continue to control their own destiny as the team squeezed out a 34-31 victory win over the Los Angeles Rams. The 49ers were off to a sluggish start to open the contest but managed to pull out a game-winning drive in the finals seconds of Saturday night's contest. Here are the takeaways as San Francisco improves to 12-3 on the season.
1. San Francisco's first touchdown of the night didn't come until their fourth series of the game, a drive highlighted by Deebo Samuel. The rookie made several big catches including a nine and a 19-yard pickup. The rookie culminated the drive with a 19-yard carry up the left sideline into the end zone for the score.
2. San Francisco managed to keep things rolling on the ensuing drive. Jimmy Garoppolo connected with Emmanuel Sanders and George Kittle twice, followed by an 11-yard pickup by Kendrick Bourne to move the 49ers into the redzone. On 1st-and-10 from the 16-yard line, Raheem Mostert shot up the middle untouched en route to the endzone to cut the Rams lead to four.
3. Fred Warner came up with one of the biggest plays of his young career. On 2nd-and-10 with :46 seconds left in the first half, the linebacker jumped the route on a pass intended for Rams running back Malcolm Brown for an interception. Warner returned the pick 46 yards for a touchdown to take the lead. Warner's pick marked his first career interception, and his first pick-six since his junior year at BYU.
4. San Francisco struggled to get anything going on offense in the second half. Their first score came in the middle of the fourth quarter on a 7-yard touchdown to Kittle. Garoppolo orchestrated a 6-play, 91-yard drive that featured a huge 25-yard reception by Ross Dwelley. A 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty was tacked on to the play as Rams safety Eric Weddle was called for a high hit on the tight end. Three plays later, Garoppolo connected with Kittle on a scramble for the score.
"Honestly, I just did my job," Warner said postgame. "We were in man coverage and the back kind of, he checked in the protection and then ran a flat route. I hugged up on him and I think (Los Angeles Rams QB) Jared (Goff) probably would want to have that one back, but he just tossed it up and I took it. I took it home."
5. Los Angeles responded with an 8-play, 41-yard drive that resulted in a 31-yard field goal to tie the game at 31 apiece. With two minutes left in the contest, Garoppolo completed two colossal third down conversions to move the 49ers down field. The first, on 3rd-and-16, came by the way of an 18-yard completion to Bourne. His second, on another 3rd-and-16, was a beautiful 46-yard bomb to Sanders to move the 49ers into field goal range. On the play, Sanders beat out Jalen Ramsey on the perfectly placed ball, as Garoppolo's arm was hit on the throw.
"(Jimmy) was resilient," Shanahan said. It was third-and-16, not the best situation to be in. Usually you're not feeling great in those situations. Those guys gave him enough time in protection. I think he made the first one to Bourne over the middle and had a similar play like that over the middle, but the safeties got real wide and got the opportunity to Emmanuel down the field. So, the guys just to give him the time and for him to hang in there, the game just for everyone, wasn't perfect. Offense, defense, or special teams, play calling, the quarterback, protections. Everything was up and down throughout the whole thing. There were a lot of times I think that each individual on our team could feel like they had messed some stuff up. But, each individual kept coming back and to find a way to end that game there at the end was pretty special."
San Francisco became the third team since 2000 to convert two third downs of 16 or more yards on same drive. It's only the second time in the last 40 seasons that a team has converted multiple third or fourth down attempts of 15 or more yards on a game-winning drive, according to @EliasSports.
6. The aforementioned play set up Robbie Gould for the game-winning 33-yard field goal as time expired. Gould has now made 12 consecutive field goals inside of the 50.
7. Richie James opened the 49ers first series with an 81-yard kick return to put the 49ers at the Rams 18-yard line. James' 81-yard return was the longest of the season and second longest of his career (97-yard return vs. Seattle Seahawks in 2018).
8. The 49ers came out relatively unscathed. Richard Sherman left the game briefly in the first quarter in what appeared to be a stinger in his shoulder, but returned the following series. Tarvarius Moore left the game with a concussion and did not return.
9. The 49ers have an opportunity to clinch the NFC West and home field advantage in the Playoffs with a win in the regular season finale against the Seahawks in Week 17.