3 Takeaways from 49ers' Week 12 Win
The 23-20 victory moved the NFC champion to 5-6, keeping alive its hopes to make a late run at a wild-card spot.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh produced an impressive game plan that left Jared Goff frustrated for most of the contest. Los Angeles' offense managed to score 13 points, and its top offensive weapons were largely ineffective.
Offensively, Deebo Samuel's return alleviated some pressure on Nick Mullens and the carousel of running backs. Samuel led all offensive skill players in yardage Sunday and was one of the keys to getting downfield to set up Robbie Gould's game-winning field goal.
Robert Saleh Shone in Potential Head Coach Audition
Saleh produced one of his best game plans of the season one day after the Detroit Lions head-coaching job opened up.
The 49ers defensive coordinator is a Michigan native and should be one of the many names the Lions and other teams with coaching vacancies target in the offseason.
Saleh's defense held Goff under 200 passing yards and limited the big-play potential of Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, who torched the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense for 100-yard performances Monday night.
Sunday marked the seventh time in which the 49ers held an opposing quarterback beneath the 200-yard mark. The Niners have also limited six foes to under 350 total yards.
San Francisco held the Los Angeles offense without a touchdown until the start of the fourth quarter, and it allowed two drives past the 40-yard-line in the opening half, one of which ended in a forced fumble. If the 49ers defense plays like it did Sunday for the rest of the season, they have a chance to spring some upsets over the Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks.
A Week 16 win over Arizona, combined with some losses elsewhere, may be enough to nudge the 49ers into a wild-card position. They are in 10th place after Sunday, but they are just one game back of the seventh-place Cardinals.
Deebo Samuel Was the Offensive X-Factor
Samuel's presence on the gameday roster was a welcome sight to an offense that has struggled with injuries all season.
The wide receiver produced a season-high 11 receptions and 133 receiving yards, a total that was more than the combined production of Woods and Kupp.
Samuel served as a safety valve at times for Nick Mullens, who has not been able to work with any of the team's top-tier receiving targets in recent weeks with Samuel and George Kittle out injured.
The second-year wideout was massive on the game-winning drive, as he produced 35 yards to set up Gould's 42-yard winning attempt. Samuel caught a 24-yard pass from Mullens to push the 49ers over midfield, brought in a seven-yard pass on the next play and then picked up four yards on the second-to-last offensive play of the contest.
If Samuel continues to make a large impact and the 49ers receive some help around him, they could be a dangerous offense for opponents to deal with in the final five weeks of the regular season.
Javon Kinlaw Is Getting Better by the Week
For the second straight game, Javon Kinlaw was a menacing presence in the middle of the 49ers defense.
On Sunday, the first-round pick out of South Carolina scored his first NFL touchdown on an interception return at the start of the second half. The pick-six followed a performance in which Kinlaw recorded 1.5 sacks in a loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Replacing DeForest Buckner was always going to be a tough task, but Kinlaw has started to make an impact over the past few weeks. If he continues to improve, he could be a difference-maker down the stretch for the NFC West side.
If Kinlaw combines well with Arik Armstead in the pass rush and is in the backfield on a constant basis, the 49ers could hold more opponents under 300 total yards and 20 points.