These guys avoided an empty chair with that clutch, game-winning drive. They committed three turnovers, one of which was a Raheem Mostert fumble that was returned for a game-shifting TD. And Nick Mullens’ spotty performance included some wayward throws that raised TE Jordan Reed’s blood pressure to dangerous levels. And they went 3-of-14 on third down and averaged just 3.5 yards a carry. However, Mullens and tackle-breaking machine Deebo Samuel (11 catches, 133 yards) came through in an 11-play, 56-yard march in which they converted a 3rd-and-2 and 4th-and-1 to set up Robbie Gould’s game-winning field goal. It wasn’t particularly good. But it was good enough.
What does Jared Goff want for Christmas? A guarantee he won’t see the 49ers in the playoffs. The 49ers in a scintillating performance humiliated the QB for the third time in their past four meetings, forcing Goff into two interceptions, leading to a season-worst passer rating (52.9). San Francisco’s defense scored as many TDs as did the Rams offense, thanks to Javon Kinlaw’s pick-6, and forced four turnovers. S Jimmie Ward (two forced fumbles), CB Richard Sherman (INT), DE Kerry Hyder (two sacks) and DT Kevin Givens, whose pressure led to Kinlaw’s INT, were among the host of standouts.
Robbie Gould missed a 50-yard attempt just before halftime, but he atoned in the second half with kicks of 46 and 44 yards before nailing his 42-yard winner as time expired. Mitch Wishnowsky (44.0 net average) had two punts that forced the Rams to start just inside their 15-yard line, but also had two that bounded into the end zone. The good news about Wishnowsky’s kickoffs: They all sailed into the end zone for touchbacks.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh outmatched Sean McVay again despite playing without six season-opening starters. You can bet McVay wants Saleh to get a head-coaching job in the offseason, preferably in the AFC. Kyle Shanahan gambled and won with his nervy 4th-and-1 call at the Rams’ 39-yard line with 35 seconds left in which FB Kyle Juszczyk broke a tackle in the backfield on a 2-yard run.
The 49ers have spent most of the season falling apart, thanks to injuries and COVID-19 issues, and they had to play Sunday in a state of limbo a day after learning they were about to be displaced, possibly for the rest of the season. Their season may not end in the playoffs, but performances like Sunday’s are a reminder that they remain the NFC champs.
— Eric Branch