San Francisco 49ers kicker Robbie Gould (9) and Kyle Juszczyk (44) celebrate after Gould’s field goal in overtime to defeat the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on Sun Jan 9, 2022 (AP News photo)
by Marko Ukalovic
LOS ANGELES — It was a Hollywood ending, but not for the team in the blue and yellow.
The San Francisco 49ers overcame a 14-3 halftime deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Rams 27-24 in overtime on Sunday afternoon at SoFi Stadium.
San Francisco finished 10-7 on the season clinched the sixth seed in the NFC. They will travel out to Dallas to take on the Cowboys in the wild card round of the playoffs. Los Angeles (12-5), despite the loss, finished first in the NFC West as the Arizona Cardinals lost to the Seattle Seahawks. They dropped to the fourth seed in the NFC and will host the Arizona Cardinals in the wild card round.
Los Angeles controlled the play in the first half. Their first two drives consumed over 15 minutes as quarterback Matthew Stafford methodically led his offense down the field with a nice balance where they were able to convert five of their first six third-down conversions.
Matt Gay capped a 12-play 61-yard drive with a 43 yard field goal.
On the Rams next possession Cooper Kupp set up Los Angeles inside the redzone with a 46-yard reception. Tyler Higbee scored a two-yard touchdown reception to give LA a 10-lead.
It was a rough start for the 49er’s offense and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the first half. Garoppolo had a fumble after a 14-yard sack (the Niners were able to recover the ball) and an interception as the Rams defense controlled the line of scrimmage.
San Francisco wasn’t able to get the running game going either as they ran for just 10 yards in the first half. Their special teams also performed poorly when they allowed a 31-yard punt return by Brandon Powell that set up the Rams in good field position.
Los Angeles took advantage of the punt return when Stafford found Higbee for his second touchdown of the game, a 15-yard leaping grab along the sidelines.
San Francisco gained momentum at the end of the first half when they went 61 yards on six plays on the final 38 seconds of the second quarter that resulted in a 42-yard field goal by Robbie Gould.
The 49ers came out with some mojo to start the second half. Garoppolo led them on a seven play 75-yard drive capped off with a 16-yard rushing touchdown by Deebo Samuel. It was the eighth rushing touchdown for Samuel this season for the hybrid wide receiver.
San Francisco’s defense dominated the second half as they forced four punts and a turnover. Emmanuel Moseley intercepted Stafford on Los Angeles’ second possession.
The 49ers ran the ball down the Rams’ throat as they tied it up at 17-17. 10 of the 11-play drive were runs as the offensive line controlled the trenches. San Francisco’s 11th play was a trick play that caught the Rams off guard. Samuel took a handoff and threw a 24-yard touchdown to Juaun Jennings who was left all alone down the right sideline.
San Francisco run for 125 of its 135 rushing yards in the second half.
Kupp was the catalyst when Los Angeles went up with 24-17 with 2:29 left in the fourth quarter. Kupp had a 30-yard reception to start the drive and ended it with a four-yard touchdown reception, his team leading 16th of the season.
San Francisco looked to have been done when Von Miller sacked Garopollo with two minutes remaining and forced the 49ers to punt.
However, the tenacious defense of San Francisco forced a three and out as the Niners used all their timeouts to get one more possession with 1:27 remaining.
Garopollo marched the 49ers down the field on a five-play 88-yard drive. He completed a 12-yard touchdown to Jennings with 26 seconds left to send the game to overtime.
The 49ers won the toss and drove 69 yards down the field on 12 plays the resulted in a Gould 24-yard field goal.
49ers rookie cornerback Aubrey Thomas sealed the deal when intercepted Stafford on a deep pass down the right sideline.
Garopollo finished 23 of 32 for 316 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions and a QB rating of 87.5. Running back Elijah Mitchell ran an efficient 85 yards on 21 carries. Brandon Aiyuk led the 49ers in receiving with six catches for 107 yards. Jennings finished with six catches for 94 yards to go along with his two receiving touchdowns.
Stafford finished 21 of 32 for 238 yards with three touchdowns, two interceptions and a QB rating of 93.0. Kupp had another outstanding game as he led all receivers with seven catches for 118 yards and one touchdown. Sony Michell had just 43 yards on 21 carries.
San Francisco sacked Stafford five times to go along with their two interceptions.
GAME NOTES: San Francisco finished 9-for-14 on third down conversions. Los Angeles was 10-for-17.
San Francisco swept the season series and have won six in a row over their NFC West rival.
UP NEXT: San Francisco takes on the Dallas Cowboys from AT&T Stadium. Date and time TBD.