The SF 49ers got a number of key players back from injury in Week 12 versus the LA Rams, and it turns out they are pretty important.
It’s weird to think, but the SF 49ers are actually a better team when they have their best players on the field.
San Francisco improved to 5-6 with a gutsy 23-20 last-second win over the LA Rams in Week 12, and the Niners’ collective effort was surely boosted by the return of some key players from various injury lists.
Running back Raheem Mostert, who has been out since the last time these two teams played in Week 6, got the Niners on the board first with an 8-yard scamper, showcasing the speed head coach Kyle Shanahan had missed on the ground during the running back’s absence with an ankle injury:
That score, however, was set up by two key plays by wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who had been out with a hamstring injury suffered in Week 7.
Samuel had a 33-yard end-around jet sweep, then had a 26-yard reception to put San Francisco into scoring position.
Samuel led all wide receivers on both teams with 134 receiving yards, while Mostert had 16 carries for 43 yards, the touchdown and averaging 2.7 yards per attempt after being bottled up a lot in the second half.
Despite quarterback Nick Mullens‘ problems under center, the SF 49ers offense was effective enough with Samuel and Mostert being the key X-factors.
SF 49ers saved the day over LA Rams
San Francisco’s defense has managed to hold its own this season despite all its injuries, even being a top-five unit against the pass entering Week 12.
Still, it didn’t hurt getting veteran cornerback Richard Sherman back from a calf injury, and Sherman came up with his first interception of the season in the first quarter by picking off Rams quarterback Jared Goff:
Sherman suffered his calf injury way back against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1 and hadn’t seen the field until Sunday in Los Angeles.
Too bad the Niners coughed up the possession a few plays later via a fumble by running back Jeff Wilson Jr.
Turnovers were certainly a theme, however, and defensive back Jimmie Ward was a massive playmaker, including this forced fumble to give the SF 49ers a chance at more points just before halftime:
Only the last-second field-goal try at the end of the first half missed wide right, but at least Ward’s efforts ensured the Rams wouldn’t take the lead late in the second quarter. So that has to be a win for San Francisco, right?
But nobody — and we mean nobody — could have predicted a pick-six interception by rookie defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, right?
Well, yeah. That happened.
Perhaps Kinlaw was even boosted by the presence of a healthier complement of defensive players, who were firing on all cylinders and allowed just 308 all-purpose yards to the Rams during the game, which was impressive enough considering Los Angeles ranked fifth best in the NFL in this category entering Week 12.
Yet Kinlaw didn’t quite have the impact Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald did, forcing a fumble by Mostert and putting all kinds of pressure on Mullens to completely shift momentum in favor of LA at the end of the third quarter.
That led to 17 unanswered Rams points and the 20-17 lead early in the fourth quarter.
But the Niners got the last six, thanks largely to Samuel’s clutch third-down grab to help San Francisco get into game-winning field-goal range.
The Niners now sit 2-0 over their NFC West rivals and keep their playoff hopes alive.