3 Takeaways from 49ers' Week 14 Win
The San Francisco 49ers won in thrilling fashion on Sunday, with a walk-off touchdown in overtime.
A road game against the Cincinnati Bengals represented one of the toughest tests on the 49ers' remaining schedule, and the win should make them feel a lot better about their playoff chances.
If the season ended today, the 49ers would be the No. 6 seed in the NFC.
It was nearly a soul-crushing day for San Francisco, though. It squandered a 14-point fourth-quarter lead, missed a go-ahead field goal at the end of regulation and then watched as Cincinnati scored three on its opening overtime possession.
However, the 49ers struck last, and Brandon Aiyuk found the pylon with less than two minutes remaining for the fifth-period game-winner.
Here's what we learned during San Francisco's 26-23 win in Week 14.
Jimmy Garoppolo Knows How to Use George Kittle
There's a good chance that this is Jimmy Garoppolo's final season in San Francisco.
The 49ers drafted Trey Lance third overall this year, and he is the future. While the rookie out of North Dakota State has a physical upside that Garoppolo does not, there is going to be an adjustment period whenever he takes over on a full-time basis.
One thing that will take time to develop is the level of trust between quarterback and star tight end George Kittle.
"I have confidence in Jimmy no matter how he plays," Kittle said, per John Schrock of NBC Sports Bay Area. "...The fact that he just trusts us to make those plays and gives us the opportunity, I love that."
Garoppolo has his faults. He's struggled with injuries and isn't always the most consistent of signal-callers. However, there's no denying he knows how to utilize Kittle. A week after catching nine passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns, the 28-year-old was once again great.
Against Cincinnati, the Iowa product caught 13 of 15 targets for 151 yards and a score. He had three catches for 38 yards on the game-winning overtime drive alone.
Kittle is a transcendent talent who should help Lance thrive in time, but fans should enjoy the rapport he has with Garoppolo now.
Having Deebo Samuel Back Was Big
Kittle isn't the only star on San Francisco's offense, and the 49ers were fortunate to get another one back on Sunday.
Third-year wideout-turned-rusher Deebo Samuel missed last week's loss to the Seattle Seahawks with a groin injury. His absence was notable, especially on the game's final drive.
The 49ers had four chances inside Seattle's 10 for a game-tying touchdown late in regulation. They didn't convert, but with the dynamic Samuel on the field, they might have.
The 25-year-old has morphed into a sensational dual-threat weapon in recent weeks, and he changes how opposing teams have to defend San Francisco's offense. A big play waiting to happen, he has to be accounted for whether he's out wide or in the backfield.
Against the Bengals, Samuel caught just one pass for 22 yards. However, he also rushed eight times for 37 yards and scored on a 27-yard scamper. Having him back in the lineup was critical to Sunday's success and will be big for the remaining postseason push.
The South Carolina product now has 1,028 receiving yards, 230 rushing yards and 11 combined touchdowns on the season.
San Francisco's Surge Is No Fluke
Coming into Sunday, the 49ers had won four of their last six games to get back into the playoff picture. However, that stretch included wins against two bad teams—the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears—and the ever-inconsistent Minnesota Vikings.
During the second half against Cincinnati, it was fair to wonder if San Francisco was merely masquerading as a playoff contender.
The 49ers carried a 17-6 lead into halftime but were outscored 14-3 in the second half. Including overtime, Cincinnati scored 17 unanswered points to take the lead. The 49ers offense was stalling, and the defense had no answer for a suddenly hot Joe Burrow.
Cincinnati is a playoff-caliber team, and it was taking over the game when it mattered most.
However, Garoppolo, Kittle, Aiyuk and Co. showed the tenacity needed to answer when it mattered even more. With their playoff hopes perhaps on the line, the 49ers drove 75 yards in seven plays to win it. In doing so, they showed that the loss to Seattle was more of an aberration than the previous three victories, including one over the rival Los Angeles Rams.
Now, it's back home to face the Atlanta Falcons in Week 15 with a chance to move to 8-6.