It came down to the wire in Baltimore, as the Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers battled it out on a rainy afternoon. The Ravens came out on top, 20-17, but it may have been a warm up for February between what are arguably the two best teams in football.
Down to the Wire
The game was all but over when the 49ers were unable to convert on fourth down with 6:33 seconds left in the fourth quarter. After running back Raheem Mostert got three yards to set up fourth and one, it was clear the 49ers were going for it. However, they went with a pass play that failed, and the 49ers never got a chance on offense again. It was surprising, as the run game was excelling behind Mostert, who finished the day with 146 yards rushing and a touchdown.
“They just put too many people in there, too many that you can’t block,” said 49ers’ head coach Kyle Shanahan. “That’s what we’ve seen all year on them…I didn’t mind the decision at all not running, but I wish I called a better pass play.”
You live and you learn, and it’s better to learn in December than in January.
The 49ers’ Defense and Lamar Jackson
You know the saying: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, and Lamar Jackson will scramble for 101 yards. Or something like that.
Jackson was exactly as advertised, but even with the 101 yards rushing and a rushing touchdown, the 49ers’ defense held its own. In the air, Jackson was 14-of-23 for 105 yards and a touchdown. The Ravens only second half points were the game-winning field goal – so they know how to make them count – but that’s big for the 49ers’ defense.
“It took us awhile to adjust, but we ended up playing pretty well in the second half,” said 49ers’ defensive end Nick Bosa. “We just started trusting out assignments, and that’s all we really could do, our assignments.”
DeForest Buckner was able to get a sack in, but Jackson is just so fast and so elusive, and that’s what makes him so special.
“He is a good decision maker,” 49ers’ cornerback Richard Sherman said after the game. “He knows angles, he knows leverage, he knows when to get down, he knows when to stay up. He knows when to cut back, he knows when to keep it, he knows when to bounce outside. He takes what the defense gives him. He doesn’t waste time taking shots downfield…He played a good game.”
The Devil Is in the Details
In a game like this, it comes down to turnovers, penalties, and who can execute at the end.
“We are going to face adversity sometimes,” said 49ers’ quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. “I think guys responded well today. We need to make more plays in crucial situations, and that is what separates a lot of these games, a couple plays here and there.”
Both quarterbacks fumbled. The 49ers had six penalties for 54 yards, while the Ravens had three for 23 yards. Time of possession: Ravens, 32:26 and 49ers, 27:34. The 49ers were 1-of-2 on fourth down, and the Ravens were 2-of-3 and that there was the biggest difference, as Baltimore converted on fourth down with 4:39 left in the game and never looked back.
Breakout Stars of the Day
Last week’s NFC Defensive Player of the Week, Fred Warner, had another big day with 11 combined tackles and two passes defended, including a huge PBU on 4th and 5, on a pass intended for tight end Mark Andrews. Warner continues to establish himself as one of the league’s most efficient linebackers.
Raheem Mostert, the O-Line, and George Kittle
As mentioned above, Mostert had a monster day, and he did so with the help of some incredible blocking from the offensive line and tight end George Kittle.
“He’s really fast,” said Kittle. “So, yes, he’s a heck of a football player. He did plus-140, right? Yeah, that’s pretty impressive. He was fantastic. And a lot of that is just our O-line. Tight ends and fullback did a really good job, especially our wide receivers on the outside. I thought they did a really good job of blocking the whole day. Raheem was fantastic today.”
When safety Jaquiski Tartt left the game in the third quarter with a rib injury, he was replaced by Marcell Harris. Harris produced right away, forcing a rare Lamar Jackson fumble that set up a 49ers field goal that tied the game at 17-17.
“Honestly, I was just doing my job,” Harris said. “My name got called, and I just went in to set the edge on [Mark Andrews]. I saw Lamar coming, so I tried to stay outside. When he went back inside, I was able to get my hand on the ball and rip that thing out. I kept my hands on [Mark Andrews] and not my shoulders so I could read Lamar [Jackson] to see if he was going to go inside or outside. By me keeping the edge, he went inside, and I got my hand on the ball.”
On to New Orleans
This game had all the hype, and it certainly lived up. It was called a Super Bowl preview, and it may just have been one. The 49ers competed against the league’s most dynamic player, on the road, in the rain. There are no moral victories, but fans should feel confident in their football team.
“I was real proud of the team,” Shanahan said. “They played extremely hard all three phases. We definitely played against a real good team, but I was real happy with how the guys played. We had every chance to win the game, and we came up a little bit short at the end. Credit to them. Hopefully, we’ll earn an opportunity to get a chance to play them some other time.”
On to Miami? Maybe, but first, on to New Orleans.