49ers clinch playoffs with a thrilling OT win vs. Rams

Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images) /

51. Final/OT. 27. 42. 24

The 49ers needed a second-half surge to overcome a disastrous first half against the Rams, especially with a playoff berth precariously on the line. But it wasn’t enough.

The San Francisco 49ers are going to the playoffs.

Needing one of two things to happen, either a Week 18 victory over the Los Angeles Rams or for the Atlanta Falcons beating the New Orleans Saints, a disastrous first half for both the Niners and Falcons ultimately was going to put pressure on head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad to do it all on its own.

Especially after falling behind 17-0 early to LA in what was looking like a game that’d be a total blowout.

Alas, San Francisco ended up winning in overtime, 27-24, in the must-win game, after the Falcons got blown out by the Saints.

49ers second-half comeback vs. Rams was impressive

After tacking on a field goal to close out the first half, the 49ers at least were able to make the game interesting again on the opening possession of the third quarter, culminating with a 16-yard end-around rushing touchdown by wide receiver Deebo Samuel, whose impact on the game can’t be understated.

That started to shift the momentum back to the Niners a bit, but Samuel’s next big-time play was certainly shocking.

After San Francisco regained possession, subsequently making it a one-score game, Samuel was asked to cap off a run-heavy 11-play, 74-yard drive with a 24-yard pass to wide receiver Jauan Jennings to tie things up at 17:

Related Story: Deebo Samuel ties things up vs. Rams with crazy passing touchdown

At that point in the game, the 49ers were able to gain all the momentum. Their defensive line was completely swarming, sacking quarterback Matthew Stafford en route to a five-sack defensive performance, and the Rams weren’t able to do much of anything in response.

If only the Niners’ own quarterback was able to rise to the occasion.

At least over the course of a full game.

Jimmy Garoppolo inconsistent again in return to 49ers lineup

San Francisco was 1-6 in games where quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw an interception entering Week 18.

Make that 2-6 now.

All week, there was speculation Shanahan would stick with the rookie, Trey Lance, who got the start over Garoppolo in Week 17 because of Jimmy G’s thumb injury the previous week.

But Garoppolo got the start anyway, and his overall efforts weren’t exactly those you’d want in a must-win game.

Putting it lightly.

Garoppolo’s final line of 23-of-32 passing for 316 yards, one touchdown against two interceptions tells the bulk of the story. When the 49ers were driving the ball well on offense, they were running it with success. When Garoppolo was asked to pass, many an offensive drive sputtered.

Including Garoppolo’s first interception, which at least forced a Los Angeles punt. But when the Niners were knocking on the door in the fourth quarter with a chance to take their first lead of the game, Garoppolo’s interception, one picked off by cornerback Jalen Ramsey, turned into a Rams touchdown:

Throwing into triple coverage isn’t advisable.

Yet Garoppolo was able to bounce back on a two-minute drill just at the end of regulation that culminated with another Jennings touchdown grab, sending the game to overtime:

Jennings had six catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns, his best game as a pro by far. Too bad his heroics in overtime resulted only in a go-ahead San Francisco field goal and not a game-winning touchdown.

Requiring some much-needed heroics by one of the 49ers’ embattled defenders.

Ambry Thomas with the play of his young career

After taking the overtime three-point lead, few would have been looking at rookie cornerback Ambry Thomas, who had been abused for much of the season and only marginally improved on a week-to-week basis since, coming up with a key play.

With Los Angeles looking to take the overtime win on its final drive, Stafford targeted Thomas deep.

Bad idea:

Game. Niners are now in the playoffs as the No. 6 seed. They’ll now travel to take on the Dallas Cowboys in what could be a resparking of all those playoff-rivalry games between San Francisco and Dallas.

For now, though, relish the fact the 49ers are back in the playoffs.

Next. Ranking 49ers' 10 worst quarterbacks in franchise history. dark