The 49ers ended their season as one of the hottest team in the NFL. By beating the Rams 34-13 at the L.A. Coliseum, San Francisco won their last five straight and six of their last seven games. The 49ers played a Rams’ team that rested all of their stars for a playoff run, and that included running back Todd Gurley, and former Cal quarterback Jared Goff.
Nevertheless, the win made you wonder where the 49ers would be if they had won the five straight games earlier in the season that they lost by a total of 13 points.
The five wins at the end of the year were partially a result of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s introduction
into the starting lineup. Coming into the game, the 49ers saw a jump of over 10 points per game with Garoppolo as the starter.
In this game, Garoppolo, started productively, but two Garoppolo interceptions in the first half prevented a first-half blowout by San Francisco. Even with the two picks, the 49ers built a 20-6 lead.
Garoppolo interceptions were both on passes of more than 20 yards. One, which was intended for wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, was picked when cornerback Kevin Peterson stepped in front of a Goodwin. Garoppolo then threw errantly to Kendrick Bourne in the second quarter on another pass that went for more 20 yards and that was again intercepted by Peterson.
The other first-half happening of significance was the scary head injury to Goodwin. He was smashed in the helmet by strong safety Blake Countess, who drew a personal foul on the play. Goodwin dropped his head into
Countess’ hit, however, Countess led with his helmet and his forearm instead of his shoulder.
Goodwin stayed on the turf for several minutes and was eventually taken from the field in a cart. This is the fourth concussion of Goodwin’s career.
By halftime, Garoppolo was productive, but his mistakes stood out. It also led to growing questions about Garoppolo’s ability to throw accurate passes on plays over 20 yards.
However, Garoppolo muted some of those concerns in the third quarter, when he threw a perfect sideline
pass to tight end Garrett Celek for a 28-yard completion. The ball was perfectly placed and also led to the latest edition of “Celek Time.”
The phenomenon began several weeks ago when Celek, who’s known more as a blocking tight end, started a string of big plays and touchdown catches that had his teammates shaking their heads.
Unfortunately for Celek, rookie tight end George Kittle has eaten into his playing time. A little faster and more athletic, Kittle seems fully recovered from a mid-season ankle injury to take over the big plays from the tight end position.
The former fifth-round choice had four receptions for 100 yards by halftime.
Also unfortunately, the 49ers season-long theme of injury continued right through their final game. In the third quarter, defensive end DeForest Buckner left the game for good with a chest injury when he executed a sack-fumble that Solomon Thomas recovered.
Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster also exited in the fourth quarter with a stinger that he incurred two games ago. Foster didn’t seem right since the opening snap, when he was consistently blocked by the Rams offensive linemen.
Fortunately for the 49ers, their players, hopefully including Goodwin, will have an entire off season to get healthy. The team will not only get the players injured on Sunday back, but also the 20 players that are now residing on injured reserve.
It’s yet another reason for optimism for this team, which ended the season as possibly the hottest team in the league.