The San Francisco 49ers looked dead in the water, trailing 17-0, and Jimmy Garoppolo had just thrown an interception at midfield, setting up the Los Angeles Rams to add to their lead.
Then the Niners’ comeback began.
The San Francisco D sacked Matthew Stafford to force a punt, and the offense came to life, with Garoppolo leading an end-of-half field goal to awaken the Niners faithful.
The 49ers opened the second half with back-to-back TD drives of 75 and 74 yards to tie the score at 17, and the defense smothered the Rams. Deficit erased.
Then, after L.A. retook the lead on an impressive drive from Stafford and Cooper Kupp, Kyle Shanahan’s team responded again with a stop on defense and a five-play, 88-yard TD drive with fewer than 30 seconds remaining to force OT. The Niners drove for an opening possession field goal in the extra period. And maligned rookie corner Ambry Thomas made a pretty twisting interception to clinch the 27-24 win.
The key word after the victory that pushed the Niners into the postseason: resiliency
“Our guys are really resilient,” Shanahan said, via ESPN. “Our goal every year is to get in the tournament so you’ve got a chance at the ultimate one, and our guys, I think it’s real hard where you have a season where you lose four in a row. Most places, you lose four in a row, it’s tough to keep guys together — and just the character in the building and the players and everyone around, it makes it easy, you just focus on your job and keep fighting, and that’s what our guys have done all year.”
The 17-point comeback marked the largest by the 49ers in the Shanahan era and the club’s largest since a 17-point comeback versus Atlanta in 2012 in the NFC Championship Game.
It was the type of game that linebacker Fred Warner believes will help the club build confidence for the postseason, knowing they can overcome any deficit against a playoff opponent. San Francisco takes on rival Dallas on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET.
“You want it to go well and you want to be up early and have momentum and all that kind of stuff,” Warner said. “But I think that kind of shows the resilience of this football team, and I think that’s the perfect type of win that we needed heading into this tournament because it’s not going to be easy. The NFC is loaded with talent, and if we really want to reach our end goal, we’ve got to take it one game at a time and really dial in because we’re going to need everyone to win versus Dallas.”
The 49ers had a 0.4 percent win probability after punting down 24-17 with 1:50 left, the lowest win probability in victory in the Next Gen Stats era (since 2016).
The Niners got key contributions from up and down the roster. From Jimmy G making some brilliant throws late after early struggles to Deebo Samuel to Brandon Aiyuk to Warner to Arik Armstead to Nick Bosa. To the lesser-known contributors like Jauan Jennings and Thomas. And there was kicker Robbie Gould, who not only made the game-winning field goal but also filled in admirably after punter Mitch Wishnowsky went out.
The big comeback was a team-wide effort to save the season.
“A lot of emotions,” Garoppolo said. “Throughout the whole game, too, just the ups and downs, getting off to a slow start and then coming back like we did. It took everything. We say that a lot of weeks, but this one really did, and I felt it after the game. I know a lot of guys in that locker room did. It was worth it, though. It was one of those games that you won’t forget anytime soon.”