49ers collapse in fourth quarter vs. Bengals, still win in overtime

George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers is tackled by Ricardo Allen #37 of the Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers is tackled by Ricardo Allen #37 of the Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

56. Final/OT. 26. 42. 23

The 49ers took advantage of multiple Bengals mistakes early in Week 14, but a fourth-quarter collapse led to the overwhelmingly nerve-wracking overtime win.

Sometimes, the simplest approach to winning a game is by letting the other team make mistakes and then taking advantage of them.

That’s precisely what the San Francisco 49ers tried to do in their 26-23 overtime road win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14, capitalizing on two muffed punt-return attempts in the first half and generating points off those mistakes, also taking advantage of missed Bengals field-goal tries and dropped interceptions, too.

Still, it helps to have wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk reach across the pylon at the goal line after Cincinnati took a 23-20 overtime lead after surging in the fourth quarter, and the Bengals letting Aiyuk capitalize on the game-winning score was certainly a gaffe.

Those weren’t the only errors on Cincy’s behalf either.

With less than a minute in the first half and the Niners driving, Cincinnati had stopped head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense to set up a fourth down and a long field-goal try, except for a taunting penalty gave San Francisco a fresh set of downs and culminated with a touchdown pass from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to tight end George Kittle:

Garoppolo didn’t have to play lights-out football, going 27-of-41 for 296 yards with two touchdowns against zero interceptions, all for a passer rating of 103.3 and coming up big in overtime despite taking five sacks in the game.

What was more important, as the Bengals continuously made mistakes, was for Garoppolo and Co. to avoid making too many of their own.

Considering how many self-inflicted wounds San Francisco had the previous week in the road loss versus the Seattle Seahawks, this was a good strategy.

Letting an opponent back in the game and pushing it to overtime, however, still isn’t the best strategy. It certainly made for some unneeded stress after the 49ers led 20-6 earlier in the game.

Deebo Samuel sparks 49ers offense after missing 1 game

The 49ers sorely missed wide receiver Deebo Samuel in Week 13 against the Seahawks, as he was out with a groin injury suffered the week before, and his status for this game was up in the air until just before kickoff when inactives reported he’d play.

Good thing he did.

Samuel continued with his all-purpose usage during the game, catching one pass for 22 yards and also rushing eight times for 37 yards, averaging 4.6 yards per attempt. More importantly, Samuel helped get the Niners out to their lead with a 27-yard end-around touchdown early in the second quarter:

In total, Samuel had 59 all-purpose yards of offense after entering the game with 1,209.

Read More: Deebo Samuel is back, helps 49ers get out to early lead vs. Bengals

One can only wonder if San Francisco would have pulled off that win at Seattle if Samuel was in the lineup last week, but it’s certainly a bonus for him to be back now.

Without Samuel in Week 14, the 49ers would have lost.

49ers defensive rookies survive despite numerous mistakes

First-year cornerback Ambry Thomas, getting his first NFL start because of veteran corner Emmanuel Moseley being out with an ankle injury, had his share of rookie-like gaffes, including two penalties for hands to the face on an opposing player.

One of those wiped out a would-be interception by safety Jimmie Ward, while another negated a sack by EDGE Nick Bosa.

And Thomas was nearly beat in the end zone for a touchdown by rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, only to have Chase not complete the catch when he went to the ground.

Later on, Chase beat rookie safety Talanoa Hufanga for a touchdown that made it 20-13 in favor of the 49ers in the fourth quarter. Then, Chase beat Thomas late in the fourth quarter to tie things up.

The Niners almost exclusively played zone coverage to account for the inexperience within their secondary, and while that worked early, things sure got scary in the second half with the Bengals surging on offense.

San Francisco survived, though, despite a fourth-quarter swing in Cincy’s favor and a deficit that needed to be answered in overtime.

That’s a good thing.

With the Washington Football Team losing its matchup to the Dallas Cowboys, the 7-6 49ers move back into the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoff picture and will host the Atlanta Falcons in Week 15.

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