San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle (85) catches a first half touchdown pass against Cincinnati Bengals’ Chidobe Awuzie (22) at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati on Sun Dec 12, 2021 (AP News photo)
by Marko Ukalovic
They don’t always have to look pretty to count in the standings.
The San Francisco 49ers blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter but rebounded to win 26-23 in overtime over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon at Paul Brown Stadium.
San Francisco has won four of its past five games and currently sit in the sixth place and the second wild card spot in the NFC. In losing their two out of their past three games, Cincinnati have dropped from sixth to ninth in the AFC.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw an out route to Brandon Aiyuk from 11 yards out with two minutes left in overtime as Aiyuk dived for the pylon as he was pushed out of bounds. After a replay review, it was determined Aiyuk crossed the plain of the goal line for the game winning touchdown.
“It was a dog fight that whole game,” said Garoppolo. “Guys were battling, we knew it was going to be a 60-minute game, a little extra in this case, it was everything that we could’ve asked for. It was a fun night.”
Cincinnati (7-6) were able to force on what looked to have been an unforeseeable overtime on two fourth quarter touchdown drives from quarterback Joe Burrow.
Burrow found Jamar Chase in the back of the endzone after the pocket collapsed and Burrow scrambled to his right throwing off his back foot. Niners saftey Jaquiski Tartt lost sight of Chase who kept his balance for his ninth touchdown reception of the season.
Cincinnati went on a seven play, 87-yard drive capped off when Burrow took advantage of one-on-one coverage and threw a 32-yard touchdown reception to Chase who beat rookie cornerback Ambry Thomas for his second touchdown of the game and his team leading 10th of the season.
The Bengals won the coin toss and received the ball first in overtime. Burrow was able to lead them down the field for an Evan McPherson 41-yard field goal to go up 23-20 with 6:15 remaining in the extra session.
The 49ers were without rookie running back Elijah Mitchell who was inactive with an injury. They did however get wide receiver Deebo Samuel back from his injury.
San Francisco was in control of the game for the first three quarters of the game as they were up 20-6 as they entered the fourth quarter.
After a first quarter that saw each team exchange field goals, the 49ers offense began to click in the second quarter.
San Francisco (7-6) went on a six-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by a 27-yard end around rushing touchdown by Samuel to go up 10-3 early in the second quarter.
Samuel, the hybrid wide receiver and running back, has six rushing touchdowns on the season compared to just five receiving touchdowns.
The 49ers were the recipient of two muffed punts by Darius Phillips in the first half. They converted both turnovers into touchdown drives.
The second happened with 56 seconds left in the half. Garpollo needed just four plays and 39 seconds to cash in when he found tight end George Kittle for a 14-yard touchdown with 18 seconds left.
Kittle had arguably his best game in a 49er’s uniforms. His stat line was impressive as led all receivers with 15 catches for 151 yards and one touchdown. However, the majority of his catches were made in clutch situations and ability to make tough catches look easy were critical in keeping drives alive for San Francisco.
On a third and 10 with under a minute remaining in regulation, Kittle reached up to the heavens to pull down a high pass from Garoppolo to the Bengals 29-yard line setting up kicker Robbie Gould’s potential winning 47-yard field goal that Gould ended up missing, setting up the overtime.
In the overtime, Kittle had three catches to convert three third down conversions, something the 49ers struggled with throughout the game, to help set up Aiyuk’s heroics at the end.
“Jimmy made some plays there at the end that I thought were huge,” said 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. I think we’re a hard team to beat when we don’t turn it over. Kittle was huge. He made some really big plays on that last drive.”
San Francisco’s defense kept pressure on Burrow as they sacked him four times and forced the Benglas into field goals instead of touchdowns when Cincinnati was inside the red zone.
Cincinnati was able to sack Garoppolo five times as their front four did a great job collapsing the pocket and leaving Garoppolo with nowhere to go.
Garoppolo finished 27 of 41 for 296 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions to go along with a 103.3 QB rating. Jeff Wilson Jr., who replaced Mitchell in the starting lineup, rushed for 56 yards on 13 carries. Samuel finished 37 yards on eight carries.
Burrow went 25 of 34 for 348 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions with a 125.6 rating. Tee Higgins led the Bengals in receiving with five catches for 114 yards. Joe Mixon had just 58 yards on 18 carries as the Niners defense kept him at bay for the majority of the game.
GAME NOTES: San Francisco finished 5-for-15 on third down conversions. Cincinnati was 4-for-13.
Shanahan mentioned after the game that Dontae Johnson’s mother Holly Garner had a heart attack and passed away this morning in explaining Jonhson’s absence from the team today.
UP NEXT: San Francisco return home to host the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday 12/19 at 1:05pm at Levi’s Stadium.