The 49ers are in the playoffs, and with their not-dead-yet moxie and play-making ability, don’t rule them out from a SoFi Stadium return for next month’s Super Bowl.
After spotting the Los Angeles Rams a 17-0 lead, the 49ers rallied Sunday for a 20-17, overtime win to capture the NFC’s No. 6 seed, the second of three wild-card berths.
Up next is a renewal of an epic rivalry and a visit to the NFC East-champion Dallas Cowboys (12-5). It will be their first postseason meeting since the 1994 49ers won in the NFC Championship Game en route to the franchise’s fifth (and last) Lombardi Trophy.
The 49ers (10-7) did not lead Sunday until 7:15 into the 10-minute overtime, when Robbie Gould’s 24-yard field goal capped a 12-play drive.
Could the 49ers’ ever-shaky pass defense protect that lead? Well, to no surprise this season, a third-and-10 pass to Cooper Kupp resulted in the 49ers’ season-long speciality: a pass interference penalty (on Emmanuel Moseley). Then came an unlikely hero: Ambry Thomas, who intercepted a Stafford bomb down the sideline, the type of deep pass that 49ers’ cornerbacks have yielded at inopportune moments since September.
What a comeback it was. Not just from 17-0. The 49ers were down 24-17 with 1:27 remaining. Granted a reprieve, Garoppolo engineered an 88-yard, game-tying touchdown drive.
It took five plays, the longest being a 55-yard catch-and-run by Deebo Samuel, and the clutchest being a 14-yard scoring strike to Jauan Jennings, who earlier caught a game-tying touchdown pass from Samuel amid a third-quarter rally.
Garoppolo, playing with a sore thumb that kept him out last game, overcame a yucky first half and finished 23-of-32 for 316 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions. That touchdown (to Jennings) forced overtime and extended the 49ers’ season, not to mention the quarterbacks’ tenure that seemed doomed a year ago when the 49ers pursued Stafford in a trade and then traded up to draft Trey Lance.
OK, back to Jennings, and that is what the 49ers did in overtime. The second-year receiver who came up with a 34-yard reception to the Rams’ 24-yard line and then a 9-yarder to the 8, teeing up Gould for the winning points.
The comeback took hold in a riveting third quarter. Samuel produced two touchdowns, first on a 16-yard run and then on a stunning, 24-yard option pass that tied the score at 17.
Garpopolo didn’t look too impaired by his thumb, but he did have two passes intercepted, the second of which halted a potential go-ahead scoring drive with 7:42 to go.
Making that Rams’ interception was Jalen Ramsey, who broke up the pass intended for George Kittle and juggled the ball until seizing it in the end zone, sparking hope for a Rams’ revival. (Garoppolo tried in vain for officials to call a roughing-the-quarterback penalty, after he got hit in the helmet after the throw.)
That set the off-Hollywood stage for fourth-quarter fireworks, and the Rams used the NFL’s most productive tandem this season: Stafford to Kupp. They hooked up on a 30-yard catch (on third-and-6) …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Sports
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