49ers overcome adversity, defeat Rams to secure playoff berth

How you respond to adversity is truly what defines you.

The 2021 San Francisco 49ers have faced their share of adversity. After finding themselves with a 3-5 record at the halfway point in their season they would win seven of their next nine.

On Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco found themselves trailing 17-0 with 38 seconds remaining in the first half. To that stage in the game the 49ers offense couldn’t move the ball, and their defense couldn’t make a stop.

Then everything changed.

Jimmy Garoppolo, with the help of Brandon Aiyuk, JaMycal Hasty, would lead the 49ers to a field goal as time expired in the first half.

Getting the ball to start the second half, San Francisco’s offense moved right down the field and Deebo Samuel was able to break through the Rams defense for a 16-yard touchdown run to pull the 49ers within seven.

After the defense would force a quick three and out by the Rams offense, San Francisco’s offense would power their way to another score.

Kyle Shanahan called 10 straight runs before going to his bag of tricks. Deebo Samuel took the handoff from Jimmy Garoppolo and appeared to be headed around the right end before pulling up and throwing to Jauan Jennings for a 24-yard touchdown to tie the game at 17.

The 49ers looked like they would take a lead near the middle of the fourth quarter, however Jimmy Garoppolo’s pass to George Kittle was off the mark to his tight end and Jalen Ramsey would make a tremendous play on the ball to come up with an interception.

Los Angeles would then ride the right arm of Matthew Stafford and hands of Cooper Kupp on a 9 play, 92-yard drive to take a 24-17 lead when Stafford found Kupp in the back left corner of the endzone with a beautiful touch pass.

With all hope seemingly lost, the 49ers had one final chance to save their season. Taking over the ball at their own 12 with 1:27 left to play and no timeouts, Jimmy Garoppolo did what we’ve seen him do so many times over the last few years.

Playing with a torn ligament in his right thumb, Garoppolo found enough grip to drive the 49ers offense 88-yards, hitting Jauan Jennings from 14 yards out to tie the game at 24. The touchdown throw to Jennings was set up by a 55-yard connection between Garoppolo and Samuel.

San Francisco opened the overtime period with a 69-yard drive, with Jauan Jennings making two big catches for 33 yards to help get the 49ers to the Rams 17. The 49ers offense would then be forced to settle for a 24-yard field goal from Robbie Gould to take a 27-24 lead.

With the game now put on their shoulders, San Francisco’s defense came up with its biggest stop of the season when rookie cornerback Ambry Thomas would go up to intercept a deep pass down the right sideline from Matthew Stafford.

The victory sends the 49ers into the playoffs. San Francisco will travel to Dallas on Wild Card weekend to revive one of the biggest rivalries in the NFL.

Here are the answers to the five questions asked yesterday.

1. Who will start at quarterback? Jimmy Garoppolo

Never count Jimmy Garoppolo out.

He may not be a member of the 49ers next season, but once again Garoppolo showed resilience.

Playing with a torn ligament in his right thumb, Garoppolo got off to a rough start which included a fumble and interception.

As he’s done so many times before during his time with San Francisco, Garoppolo would respond from the interception by leading the offense down for a field goal on the final possession of the first half.

In the second half Garoppolo would make big throw after big throw to lead the 49ers back to tie the game at 17.

After throwing an interception in the red zone Garoppolo made up for all his prior mistakes by leading the 49ers on an 88-yard drive to tie the game at 24 with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Jauan Jennings.

Garoppolo finished the day with 23 completions on 32 attempts for 316 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

2. Can the 49ers stay committed to the run? YES

While the 49ers may not have made it to 40 carries against the Rams, their run game dominated in the second half.

Trailing 17-10 in the third quarter, San Francisco would ride the thunder of Elijah Mitchell and the lightning of Deebo Samuel. The duo combined for 45 yards on eight carries to set up a 24-yard touchdown pass from Samuel to Jauan Jennings to tie the game.

Mitchell powered his way to 85 yards on 21 carries, with a number of physical runs to set the tone for a 49ers offense that ran the ball 31 times for 135 yards.

After Mitchell softened up the Rams a bit, Samuel blew through them for 45 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.

3. Who will be in the 49ers secondary? No K’Waun Williams

San Francisco received a boost on Saturday when Jimmie Ward, K’Waun Williams, Ambry Thomas, and Dontae Johnson were activated from the Reserve/Covid-19 list and Emmanuel Moseley was activated from Injured Reserve.

Williams would still be inactive for Sunday, and Johnson would be called upon to fill in as the slot cornerback.

With Johnson struggling to cover Cooper Kupp, the NFL’s leading wide receiver, early on the 49ers were forced to play zone to try and slow down the Rams passing attack throughout the first half as Stafford would complete 15 of 16 pass attempts for 153 yards and two touchdowns.

The second half was a different story.

DeMeco Ryans began to dial up more packages to bring pressure on Matthew Stafford and his defense responded.

With 49ers defenders all around him throughout the second half, Stafford would complete only 6 of 16 pass attempts for 85 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

Led by Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead, San Francisco’s pass rush would rack up 13 hits and five sacks on Stafford.

Armstead in particular had a big day. Coming into Sunday, Armstead had only 3.5 sacks and eight quarterback hits on the season. Against Los Angeles he would hit Stafford three times and record 2.5 sacks.

4. Can San Francisco shut down the Rams run game? YES

After running the ball only 10 times in the first matchup between the two teams, Sean McVey showed that he wanted to maintain balance and not put the weight of moving the offense on Matthew Stafford.

That didn’t work out too well. The Rams struggled to get the run going all game with Sony Michel and Cam Akers combining for 46 yards on 27 carries.

5. Can the 49ers hold on to the ball? NO

San Francisco was winless this season when Jimmy Garoppolo threw two or more interceptions in a game.

Matthew Stafford and his two interceptions helped to even out the turnovers. Ambry Thomas would seal the game with his interception of an underthrown pass from Stafford in overtime.


49ers 20 Rams 26

This article has 45 Comments

  1. Garoppolo was Garoppolo. Sometimes he makes rookie mistakes. Other times he looks like a hall of famer. Today he looked like both. In the end, he came through in a massive way. Kudos. Seems like when the pressure’s on, he comes through. Has that late game magic you can’t teach. I hope he goes out a winner.

    1. “I hope he goes out a winner.”

      As you know, to go out a winner JG has to win four more games this season. How sweet that would be. Do the 49ers trade a SB winning QB with come from behind tendencies? Not a bad dilemma to deal with.

  2. Hey Hammer. Can you no longer mention Kyle Williams? Lol. I still have nightmares about his fumbles.

    Jimmy did what Jimmy does. Leaves you at the edge of your seat until the end of the game. I don’t know why he can’t play in 2:00 minute drill mode the entire game. That seems to be when he’s at his best and most comfortable.

    Lastly, as a Atlanta Braves fan, I have hope the 49ers can make a run like the Braves.

  3. Last week Trey got an A for a lousy 1st half and a winning 2nd.
    I wonder if Jimmy gets an A too now that he did the same!

      1. To be fair its hard to give a qb an A when they throw 2 picks, one being in the redzone.
        Jimmy did what Jimmy does…. play middling, solid football with a turnover thrown in, then in the most clutch moment come through and look like Joe Cool. I wish the staff could just tell him right before every drive “There’s 2 minutes left in the game, we’re down by 6, go win this for us.”

        1. If you need three points tell him there are 56 seconds and one time out. If you need seven points and 88 yards to go tell him there are seventy eight seconds and no time outs. Throwing in a rookie DB who had yet to make a clear play on a ball wouldn’t hurt if JG gets the score with time left on the clock.

          Since 1946, I can’t think of a 49er win that I enjoyed more than this one. Some just as much, but none more.

          1. I’m with you htwaits. This one was right there with the seattle, saints games from ’19 or the Garcia comeback vs NY.
            The emotional swings were Huge, with us feeling the right one at the end.

          2. ht,
            Do you remember the final game of the 1972 regular season versus Minn. Brodie came back after being out approx. 10 games with a broken ankle. He led a comeback of 3 TD’s scoring the winning TD in the last 30 seconds. The fans carried Brodie off the field after the game. Brodie called it the greatest moment of his career. We won’t talk about the next week.

  4. Wow! What a game!!! This team has shown heart all year long. The Rams had everything to play for but they still couldn’t put the 49ers away. Great team win. Really happy for all the players.

  5. One of two Jimmy’s INTS should have been nullified because of a hit to the head penalty. A zebra was looking directly at the crime scene and still missed the call.

    The second INT off the tipped pass was just a fantastic play by Ramsey.

    Really liked the way Jimmy G overcame adversity and rallied the team to a win.

    Niners should be able to run the ball against the Cowboys and control the clock. The D line is looking good. Hope Trent Williams will be back.

    1. I don’t give Jimmy a pass on that one. He threw the ball before he was hit and he made a bad read and throw.
      However, unlike many, I do not subscribe to Jimmy being the reason they were berried early on. The D put the O in serious trouble by allowing 3 straight scoring drives to open the game. Jimmy’s ints didn’t help but he was more of a plus player in this game than not.

      1. I don’t know what score is right for Jimmy but I give him an A for effort as he played thru a serious injury. If he is not with the Niners next year, I will miss him as he’s a stand up guy and a good QB. I only hope Trey is half as tough as Jimmy.

    2. In general I’m in favor of refs not calling ticky tack fouls but there were a number of egregious fouls the refs missed in this game. In the 1st qtr during a play on the sideline Juszczyk was on the ground and Reeder came up behind him and literally punched him in the back of the head right in front of a ref. No call. Reeder is also the player who hit Jimmy G in the head on the int but no call. If you watch the Rams again, focus on Reeder a few plays. He’s a dirty player who consistently takes cheap shots with the intent to injure. He likes going for knees and heads.

      I also saw at least 2 egregious hands to the face with no call. Compton had his head pushed all the way back with the d linemans palm on his chin. Couldn’t tell who the d-lineman was but again no call. Then there was the holding on Bosa. I saw a picture someone posted on social media where Stafford is standing in the pocket, Bosa is turning the corner to Stafford and a Rams d-lineman has his right arm wrapped around Bosa’s neck and his left arm is draped over Bosa’s left shoulder. O-lineman is all the way behind Bosa and has him in a choke hold. No call. I don’t know how Bosa is so calm after plays like that.

      And what’s the deal with McVay celebrating in the end zone with his players. Isn’t there a rule against players and coaches leaving the sideline to celebrate in the endzone? I thought coaches had to stay between the 20’s on the field. In my opinion, McVay should have been flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The ref just kind of giggled with him.

      I prefer the Jerome Boger crew over the Shawn Hochuli crew but the fact is that the Boger crew is the most incompetent NFL ref crew. They are so bad.

  6. When I saw that last pass of the game (from Stafford), I thought “ooooh shiiit”. I think I was trained as a spectactor during this seasons that long balls to the corners always lead either to a big play or a big penalty. My pulse that was above 100 even got higher, I was standing in front of the tv and I thought game over (a touchdown would end that game …).
    And … it was game over – but in the good sense :-)
    Great catch of Ambry Thomas!

    So was it Kyle’s tactic to show a big vulnerability throughout all the games on the corners and then the CBs are on clutch in January? ;-)

    What an irony of that game that Ambry Thomas made the winner. I am so happy for him.

  7. May be too soon to mention this but I have to think Jimmy’s resilience in this game must elevate his trade value. I know it’s wishful thinking but I have to think some team would be willing to give up a #1 to trade for a competent NFL QB. At the very least, a #2 seems reasonable.

    1. Jimmy is Jimmy. That is to say that he’s not on his game until the pressure is on. Then he’s fantastic. It’s quite common for people in traditional jobs. I’m not sure about sports because the adrenaline is always pumping.

      I still don’t see anyone giving up a 1st or 2nd rounder for him. I’m going to stick to my guns and say a Round 4/5 pick, with wishful thinking someone will drop a 3rd rounder.

      Unless someone can unlock his ability to play under mental pressure for the entire game, his passes will continue to sail high and behind receivers and he’ll continue to throw into double/triple coverage. Notice how he threw the second pick until double/triple coverage after the comeback (tied 17-17) when the mental pressure was off again. Soon as the Rams scored their TD to go up again, he was back on his game again.

      If you watched Jimmy late in the 4th and overtime, his passes were a thing of beauty. Right on the money, which I have almost never seen Jimmy do when there isn’t a ton of pressure on him to perform, save for maybe the Saints game a couple years back. But he exhibited some of those same traits there as well. He was able to throw accurate and well timed passes on all the levels of the field he’s able to throw to. That short out to Jennings was a thing of beauty… just a couple yard gain but he threw it in the perfect spot for Jennings to run away from the tackler and break a couple more tackles for a huge gain late in the game. Jimmy, when under no duress, tends to throw that ball behind the receiver or too far in front of him, or sail it over his head. Somehow when the game is on the line, he throws perfect passes.

      1. I often wonder if Jimmy would do better in a no huddle up tempo spread offense. Thats not something Kyle will ever do but it seems a more up tempo offense would manufacture that urgency Jimmy seems to need to perform his best.

        1. It’s possible. Kyle tends to not favor the uptempo style. He likes clock management and securing the ball. Building momentum and tiring out the defense with sustained drives.

          The other time Jimmy does well is when Kyle scripts/practices ~10 plays to start the game. Opposing teams come in to stop the run and if Jimmy’s practiced the throws often enough, he tends to put the ball on the money.

          Alex Smith tended to do well in that scripted scenario also. Difference between the two is Smith was robotic and tended to be risk-averse. Jimmy sometimes fails to grasp the risks when deciding to throw the ball into coverage. Both benefit by scripting plays and practicing them multiple times over the week.

          We saw this opening the game against Saints in 2019 and again in the opening drive of the Super Bowl.

  8. Jack Hammer
    Another first down interception for Garoppolo. Just put Lance in the game. This is ridiculous.

    This is SPARTA!

  9. Dallas 1/16 1:30 PM

    1. We have the best Defensive line in football. Kocurek deserves a raise. Our D line is better without Kinlaw.
    2. Jimmy always makes things interesting. Both of his picks were throws into triple coverage. He did make a series of good throws starting at the end of the first half. Is it my imagination or does Jalen Ramsey pick Jimmy every time we play the Rams.
    3. Deebo, Aiyuk and Jennings balled out. Some bozo just last week was saying Jenning’s drops were an issue and he should be replaced with Sherfield. Oh, wait – that was me. Oops.
    4. Azeez is better than Greenlaw. Our CB situation has gone from disaster to looking pretty good with the return of EMan and Thomas improvements.
    5. Our O line played pretty darn well against Donald / Von Miller . Colton McKivitz had a solid performance with only one bad play against Miller.
    6. Is our Oline better without McGlinchey ? Did we blow 2 first rounders on McGlinchey and Kinlaw ????
    6a. We could have drafted CeeDee Lamb instead of Kinlaw.
    7. Gould proves that punters are a dime a dozen. Didn’t we burn a 4th rounder on our punter ????
    8. We are 4-4 against the other playoff teams. We beat the Rams x2, Bengals and Eagles. We lost to the Cards x2, Packers and Titans. We should have defeated both the Packers and Titans who are the #1 seeds. Niners are in a good position in the playoffs. Dallas is a manageable opponent. They do have an explosive offense but we are the best Defense they have played this year. The good news is that the stadium will be half full of 49er fans – like it was versus the Rams.

    Go Niners.

    1. Good observations Rollo. However I would say regarding:

      “Azeez is better than Greenlaw”

      Greenlaw led the team with 12 tackles yesterday. He had a couple near disastrous penalties – one called, another not. But I like the attitude he brought to the game.

      “Deebo, Aiyuk and Jennings balled out”

      Love how Deebo switched the ball to his left hand at about the 1 yard line to get it over the pylon.

      Rams-Card are the monday night game. Winner of that has a shorter week than the rest going into the next round. Please let it be a body bag game too!

      1. Deebo has amazing body control. He is such a special talent. Let’s observe and collect more data on the Azeez versus Greenlaw battle before we make a final determination.

        BTW, according to Barrows/ Maicco the Rams were complaining about the stadium conditions and noise. Ummm, it was a home game crybabies. LA Sucks.

        1. BTW, according to Barrows/ Maicco the Rams were complaining about the stadium conditions and noise.

          LOL. And they have that annoying PA announcer, more suited to the Chicago Bulls Arena circa 1993.

          1. I grew up in Los Gatos and moved to Orange County to attend college (UCI). I have been around LA fans for the last 15 years and let’s just say they aren’t like a Chicago or Philly fans.

            USA Today Rams Wire : “I thought our guys did a good job communicating. It was a tough environment for us to communicate in, really, the whole second half.” When asked about how many 49ers fans there were in the stands, Stafford said, “they did a nice job showing, that’s for sure.”

            It’s not exactly encouraging to see so many fans of the opponent in attendance, but 49ers backers always travel well, especially for West Coast games. Cardinals fans shouldn’t have the same effect next weekend when the Rams host Arizona at SoFi Stadium, but it definitely impacted the offense on Sunday.

    2. I totally forgot about Kinlaw. You are right. The defense is better without him. Damn, I didn’t even put that together until you said it.

  10. The first and second halves were like two different football games. I’d really like to know what happened/what was said in the locker room at half time. The adjustments were the best I can recall since Kyle arrived.

  11. Garopolo was a stud, playing with a serious injury and leading the team. Maybe now the call will be “Trade Lance.”

    1. 1. We know Garoppolo’s ceiling.
      2. We don’t know Trey’s ceiling.
      3. Trey’s current level is probably close to Garoppolo’s ceiling.

      I think/hope we will see a pretty good QB in Trey over the next year or two.

  12. The Niners defense could not get off the field in the first half.
    The Niners offense could not get off the field in the second half.

  13. Beating Dallas is going to be tough. Dallas led the NFL in yards and points on offense. They were ranked in the top 10 in points allowed on Defense. Of course, they played Philly, NY, and Wash in 6 of their games. Those teams have been bad on offense and defense so the Cowboys stats are inflated. The Cowboys division opponents were 20-31 while the 49ers division opponents were 30-21. Cowboys division opponents scored 1,037 points and they gave up 1,235 for a point differential of -198. By contrast, the 49ers division opponents scored 1,304 points and gave up 1,104 for a point differential of +200. Hopefully this translates to a tougher schedule making the 49ers a better team. Beating the Cowboys in Dallas will be tough but it’s definitely doable for this team.

    1. It will be a looonnnnnggggg off season for me it we loses to Dallas… any team but Dallas! They are not getting that 6th ring before us! Not if we can help it…

      1. That’s an old and heated rivalry, but it’s lost its luster a bit. Probably because neither team has been consistently good for a long time. That NFC Championship Game in 1995 was sweet revenge though. Great to have Summerall/Madden call that game as well.

        The most insufferable team/fans are easily the Seahawks today. Somehow the culmination of the “One Year Dynasty” got to their head.

        1. Cannot wait to give some of my old Dallas buddies memories of that 95 NFCCG! Let’s repeat that shall we.😊

  14. Jimmy is best when he is not listening to KSHAN – When he has to freelance in a 2 min drills (Trey and Mullens also played better in 2 minute drills)

    I love KSHAN but he needs to stop being to calculated – he is too focused on the next play – instead of just going with the player – KSHAN loves the control.

    If we win the SB – I wish we could keep Jimmy next yr – force Trey to seat on the bench longer, but then we lose the chance to trade Jimmy if he plays for the 49ers next season.

    1. According to Shannie, those 10 consecutive runs in that drive were a setup for the Deebo option. It worked perfectly! Of course Deebo had to be viewed as a legitimate running back (he was lined up in the HB position) for that play to work like it did. So using Deebo as running back in the second half of the season also contributed to the setup for the Deebo option play. Was Shannie doing all that just to eventually run that one play? Naw probably not, but it gives insight into Shannie’s almost OCD-like attention to plays and plays that build off of plays.

    2. Oneniner. Huh? when does he freelance? Your comments make no sense. Every play is called and everyone knows their role.

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