Despite another record-breaking day from tight end George Kittle, the San Francisco 49ers fell to the Los Angeles Rams 48-32 in Week 17, securing the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Niner Noise has your highlights, scores and analysis from the Niners’ final game of the 2018 NFL regular season.
Four first-half turnovers were more than enough for the Los Angeles Rams to secure their 13th victory of the 2018 NFL regular season and a first-round bye in the playoffs. Meanwhile, quarterback Nick Mullens‘ three interceptions and fullback Kyle Juszczyk‘s fumble were also more than enough to land the San Francisco 49ers the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
In a game that was never in question, the Rams quickly built a 14-point lead, which they grew to a three-touchdown advantage by halftime. Before long, 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard was warming up on the San Francisco sideline; however, Mullens stayed in the game, while the Rams eventually sent quarterback Jared Goff to the sideline once the game was out of reach in the third quarter.
49ers tight end George Kittle was the lone bright point of the day for San Francisco as the tight end broke a pair of impressive records while amassing nine receptions for 149 receiving yards and a long touchdown score.
Let’s start with the game’s opening drive:
The 49ers’ first giveaway came on their first series, as Juszczyk lost the football in an attempt to stretch for the sticks after failing to convert the short third-down attempt:
After the fumble was returned to the 49ers’ 7-yard line, Goff quickly found the end zone with a short pass to wide receiver Brandin Cooks:
Three plays later, Mullens would throw his first interception of three interceptions on the day:
Two drives after Rams running back C.J. Anderson scored on a short run, the 49ers were back in business thanks to backup RB Alfred Morris‘ 51-yard scamper. But although they needed a touchdown to stay in the game, San Francisco settled for a field goal from kicker Robbie Gould:
San Francisco got the ball back after a short drive by Los Angeles, but the Niners wouldn’t have the ball for long. Mullens’ pick-six on the third play of the series put the game seemingly out of reach:
Lacking both the intensity and the tackling skills they’ve demonstrated in recent weeks, San Francisco’s defensive unit allowed Cooks to find the end zone once again on the next drive, which put Los Angeles up by 25 points:
San Francisco’s offense showed a bit of life to end the first half. The 49ers drove 75 yards in under four minutes, before capping off the drive with wide receiver Richie James‘ first offensive touchdown of his short career:
As the Arizona Cardinals locked up the top draft pick with a last-second loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Niner fans’ focus turned to Kittle, as the tight end had a pair of records within reach. Kittle soon broke the 49ers’ franchise record for the most catches by a tight end in a season — but he wasn’t done for the day:
San Francisco’s offense showed heart over the second half of the game, as they added another touchdown to their total at the end of a 75-yard drive:
After giving up a pair of scores on defense, Mullens’ led the 49ers’ offense down the field on their third 75-yard drive of the game, which ended with a well-thrown third-down touchdown pass to wide receiver Kendrick Bourne in the corner of the Rams’ end zone:
In the contest’s closing minutes, San Francisco’s head coach Kyle Shanahan made a point to give Kittle the opportunity to break an even more impressive record — the NFL’s record for the most receiving yards by a tight end in a single season.
After a short reception put the second-year tight end a mere three yards from the NFL record books, Kittle broke the record on the following play — and then in true Kittle fashion, took it the distance for a 43-yard touchdown:
The score put an end to the game, and to the Niners’ four-win 2018 season. But at least San Francisco went out with a bang.
While the San Francisco 49ers officially finished the 2018 NFL regular season today, the NFL football season never truly ends. Stick with us here at Niner Noise as we continue to bring you breaking news and analysis throughout the year.