Kicker Gould’s game-winning field goal boots 49ers past Rams, 23-20, in LA

San Francisco 49ers kicker Robbie Gould (4) is mobbed by his teammates after kicking the game winning field goal against the Los Angeles Rams in the fourth quarter on Sun Nov 29, 2020 (photo from sfgate.com)

By Joe Hawkes
Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES — Heading into Week 12, the Los Angeles Rams sat atop of the NFC West while the San Francisco occupied the basement of the division.

For the first 2 1/2 quarters of Sunday’s game, it looked like the roles were reversed. For a second, the Rams appeared to regain the upper-hand before the 49ers would finish off the season thanks to Robbie Gould’s 42-yard field goal as time expired for a 23-20 upset victory in their first game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.

The win for San Francisco completes a season sweep over Los Angeles. It also gives the 49ers a four-game winning streak over the Rams and snaps their three-game losing streak. The 49ers improve to 5-6 on the season and remain in the hunt for a playoff spot in the NFC.

Three of the 49ers’ most important players returned to the field Sunday, each making big contributions to the win.

Wide receiver Deebo Samuel who missed the last three games with a strained hamstring, had the biggest play from scrimmage for the 49ers in the first quarter. Samuel turned quarterback Nick Mullens’ short pass into a 33-yard pick up on the 49ers’ third possession of the game.

Three plays later, one play after a 26-yard gain from Samuel, running back Raheem Mostert rushed for an 8-yard touchdown slipping down the left sideline to give the 49ers a 7-3 lead.

Mostert who was making his return to the lineup for the first time since Week 6 (against the Rams), finished with 43 yards on 16 carries.

The offense was noticeably different with both Samuel and Mostert in the lineup. Samuel finished with career-highs in catches (11) and yards (133).

Mullens, albeit a bit shaky for most of the game, made plays down the stretch to put the 49ers in position to win. He completed 24 of 35 passes for 252 yards, no touchdowns and one interception that resulted on a tipped pass by Rams game-wrecker Aaron Donald that fell into the arms of Jordan Fuller.

Donald was essentially a non factor in the team’s first meeting, but was wrecking ball in today’s game.

With the 49ers holding a 17-6 lead midway through the third quarter, Donald split between right tackle Mike McGlinchey and rookie center Colton McKivitz and forced a Mostert fumble. Cornerback Troy Hill scooped it up and returned the fumble 20 yards for a touchdown to trim San Francisco’s lead to 17-13.

On San Francisco’s next possession, Donald sacked Mullens on first down for a loss of eight yards that led to a three-and-out. On the Rams’ next drive, rookie running back Cam Akers ripped off a 61-yard run to setup first-and-goal at the 49ers’ 6-yard line. Two plays later, Akers barrels his way into the end zone for a 1-yard score to give the Rams their first lead of the game, 20-17.

San Francisco’s offense committed three turnovers and finished 3 of 14 on third downs but it was the play by the defense, forcing four turnovers and the returning Richard Sherman that put the 49ers over the top.

Sherman, who hasn’t played since Week 1, made his presence felt early in the game when he intercepted Rams quarterback Jared Goff in the first quarter. Sherman would finish with a team-high seven tackles.

The front seven made life difficult for Goff all day, creating great pressure from defensive tackles Javon Kinlaw and Kevin Givens that allowed defensive end Kerry Hyder to feast.

Hyder recorded two sacks off Goff, who threw his second interception of the game in the third quarter to Kinlaw where the rookie returned it 27 yards to give the 49ers a 14-3 lead. Hyder leads the team with 7.5 sacks this year.

For the second time this season, the 49ers didn’t allow Goff to crack 200 yards passing as the Rams’ signal-caller finished 19 of 31 for 198 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and one fumble.

In the first matchup against San Francisco, Goff completed 19 of 38 passes for 198 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in San Francisco’s 24-16 on Oct. 18.

Goff entered Sunday’s contest after putting up 376 yards and three touchdowns (with two interceptions) on 39 of 51 pass attempts in the Rams’ 27-24 win over the Buccaneers on ESPN’s Monday Night Football at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

Safety Jimmie Ward forced two fumbles on the day, each recovered by Givens and Hyder.

Defensively, the 49ers held the Rams to 308 yards of total offense and 4 of 13 on third downs.

The 49ers are set to host games against the Buffalo Bills on Dec. 7 and Washington on Dec. 13 but due to a ban on contact sports by the Santa Clara County Public Health Department that was announced Saturday, San Francisco doesn’t have a venue as of yet.

Possible locations include Arizona and Texas according to multiple reports. Those are also the sites of the 49ers’ two final road games. The 49ers are scheduled to play at Dallas on Sunday, Dec. 20, and at Arizona on either Saturday, Dec. 26, or Sunday, Dec. 27.

49ers fall to 4-6 on the year after 27-13 loss to the Saints in New Orleans

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) watches the action in the second half against the San Francisco 49ers at the Superdome in New Orleans on Sun Nov 15, 2020 (AP News photo)

By Joe Hawkes
Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS, LA — Already dealing with a depleted roster, the 49ers needed to play near perfect against the Saints if they expected to leave the Crescent City with a win. San Francisco had their share of chances, but couldn’t overcome four turnovers as the Saints take down the 49ers with a 27-13 victory in front of approximately 6,000 fans inside the Mercedes Superdome on Sunday afternoon.

New Orleans (7-2) have now won six-straight games and send the 49ers to their third-straight loss this season. Its the first three-game losing streak for San Francisco since 2018.

The injury-laden 49ers (4-6) head into a much-needed bye week where they will try to regroup for the final six games of their season. San Francisco has little wiggle room if it expects to make the playoffs after playing the Super Bowl a season ago.

San Francisco’s next game will be at the Los Angeles Rams on Nov. 29 in what will be a must-win game for the 49ers. They’ve already taken the first matchup against the Rams, 26-14, back on Oct. 26 at Levi’s Stadium.

Nick Mullens, who was making his second-straight start and fourth of the year in place of regular starter Jimmy Garoppolo, started off the 49ers’ first possession sizzling, completing 6 of 7 passes for 47 yards and converting a couple of third downs on a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive.

Mullens connected with rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk on a 4-yard touchdown pass to cap off a drive that lasted 7 minutes, 17 seconds giving San Francisco an early 7-0 lead.

Aiyuk finished with seven catches for 75 yards and one touchdown while being targeted a team-high 14 times.

Mullens completed 24 of 38 passes for 247 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He was briefly removed from the game in favor of C.J. Beathard in the fourth quartere on a third-and-21 play because of Beathard’s stronger arm. Beathard underthrew the ball deep to wide receiver Richie James.

Mullens would return to the field on the next series.

San Francisco dominated New Orleans the first half, gaining more total yards (166 to 90) and first downs 13 to 6). The 49ers ran 40 offensive plays to the Saints’ 21 while controlling the time of possession (22 minutes to 8 minutes).

After jumping out to a 10-0 lead following a 32-yard field goal by kicker Robbie Gould early in the second quarter, special teams made some costly mistakes.

They gave up a 75-yard kickoff return to Deonte Harris to setup a field goal for the Saints that cut the lead to 10-3.

Later in the quarter, 49ers special-teamer Ken Webster found himself too close to a punt that Trent Taylor let land. The ball hit Webster in the face mask and the Saints recovered at the 49ers’ own 21-yard line.

Two plays later, the 49ers defense made a big play when defensive tackle Kentavius Street sacked Saints quarterback Drew Brees for an 8-yard loss. Brees was hurt on the play. Street’s first career sack was nullified by a questionable roughing the passer penalty after Street landed on Brees. Replays appear to show that Street turned his body to the side to avoid landing on Brees with his full body weight.

Backup quarterback Jameis Winston replaced Brees in the second half. Brees was ruled out of the game with a rib injury. He finished 8 of 13 for 76 yards and one touchdown.

That penalty appeared to be crucial as it led to a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Alvin Kamara three plays later that tied the game at 10-10.

New Orleans would add another touchdown before the end of the first half and take a 17-10 lead into the locker room at halftime after running back Jerick McKinnon was stopped for a 2-yard loss on fourth-and-1 from the New Orleans 41-yard line. Kamara scored his second touchdown in the first half on a 3-yard pass from Brees.

It was a calamity of errors for the 49ers in the game, but the 49ers had opportunities to pull out the upset on the road. Safety Jimmie Ward dropped a potential interception inside the Saints’ territory, but the muffed punt by wide receiver Richie James in the fourth quarter was the back breaker for San Francisco.

Kamara’s third score of the game (a 1-yard run) gave the Saints a commanding 27-10 lead with 7:29 left in the game. The Saints do-it-all running back finished with seven catches for 83 yards and a touchdown, while running for 15 yards on 8 carries and two touchdowns.

The 49ers would add a 40-yard field goal to cut the Saints’ lead to 27-13, but too little too late.

San Francisco’s inability to run the football was clearly evident from the Saints closing up any and all running lanes. The aforementioned McKinnon rushed for 33 yards on 18 carries. Rookie running back JaMychal Hasty rushed for 13 yards on 3 carries, but injured his clavicle on a tackle by Saints linebacker Demario Davis.

Rookie defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw had his best game of his career, registering 1.5 of San Francisco’s three sacks. Despite the final outcome, the 49ers defense played well holding the Saints to 237 total yards and 2 of 12 on third down.

49ers draft two players Thursday that could help right away in Round One

Defensive tackle of the San Francisco 49ers Javon Kinlaw who was selected out of South Carolina seen here during his collegiate days (AP Photo)

By Joe Hawkes
SRS Contributor

Armed with two first-round picks (No. 13 and No. 31 overall) heading into the 2020 NFL Draft, the talk that the San Francisco 49ers would select a play-making wide receiver with their first pick was a forgone conclusion.

After swapping the 13th pick with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (who was selecting 14th overall), the 49ers selected South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw on Thursday night. San Francisco also acquired the 117th pick (fourth-round) in the deal from the Vikings, although they also had to surrender a seventh-rounder to complete the deal.

The 49ers have now drafted a defensive lineman in the first round in five of the past six drafts.

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has a new weapon to deploy on opposing offenses.

Kinlaw can help San Francisco right away, filling a void that was left after the team decided to trade defensive lineman DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts last month. In exchange for Buckner, the 49ers received the No. 13 overall pick from the Colts.

A native of Trinidad, Kinlaw is still a newbie to the game of football. Kinlaw spent most of his childhood homeless and moved around often. After playing in junior college right out of high school, Kinlaw’s road navigated to South Carolina where he would played in 37 of 38 games and was named a team captain.

The 6-foot-5, 324-pound Kinlaw finished his collegiate career with 82 tackles, 10 sacks, 17 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, and eight passes defensed in three seasons. He was named a first-team All-American after totaling six sacks and six tackles for a loss as a senior with the Gamecocks.

Later in the first-round, San Francisco made another deal, trading away the No. 31, No. 117 (acquired from the Buccaneers) and No. 176 to the Minnesota Vikings for the No. 25 pick. With that pick, the 49ers selected Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk.

In a draft that is rich with talent at wide receiver, the 49ers selected the 6-foot-tall, 205-pound Sun Devil product that has a gigantic 81-inch wingspan making his catch radius seemingly endless. Most draft experts has Aiyuk as an above-average route runner with the burst to separate from man-to-man coverage. Aiyuk could face some trouble early adjusting to the NFL, but should flourish as he gets comfortable in 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

With the loss of veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders in free agency to the New Orleans Saints in the offseason, Aiyuk gives franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo another pass-catching threat.

Aiyuk, who is a native of Reno, NV, attended Sierra College in Rocklin, CA before moving on to Arizona State, where he caught 98 passes for 1,666 yards and 11 touchdowns in two seasons in the desert.