3 Takeaways from 49ers' Week 18 Win

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJanuary 10, 2022

3 Takeaways from 49ers' Week 18 Win

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    The San Francisco 49ers are in the NFL playoffs. They needed a win over the Los Angeles Rams to secure a wild-card berth. And though the 49ers appeared doomed at times—they were down 17 points in the second quarter—they rallied in the second half and overtime to stick a dagger in L.A. and make the postseason.

    The Rams still won the NFC West, though, as the Arizona Cardinals fell to the Seattle Seahawks.

    San Francisco is in as the NFC's No. 6 seed, and it will face the Dallas Cowboys on the road on Sunday. After winning five of their past six games, the 49ers have every reason to believe that that can advance.

    Here's what we learned during San Francisco's 27-24 overtime victory in Week 18.

The 49ers Just Know How to Handle Los Angeles

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    The 49ers appeared cooked at halftime. San Francisco was down 17-3 and had generated only 83 yards of offense in the first half. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, playing with a torn ligament in his finger, tossed an interception in the first half and another in the third quarter.

    Banged-up finger and all, though, Garpoolo helped rally the 49ers with three second-half touchdown drives and a 23-of-32 performance.

    Fans may view head coach Kyle Shanahan as the real hero in the comeback victory. Shanahan seems to have figured out Sean McVay and the Rams, as the 49ers have won six consecutive games against Los Angeles, dating back to 2018.

    It's a shame that San Francisco won't get to play L.A. to open the postseason and probably won't see its NFC West rival at all. The Rams dropped to the No. 4 seed and could only host San Francisco if the Philadelphia Eagles also advance. 

Deebo Samuel Can Do It All

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    If the 49ers go on a deep playoff run, there's a good chance that wideout Deebo Samuel will play a role. The South Carolina product has emerged as a dangerous receiver and runner who can carry the 49ers offense when the quarterback play is lacking.

    Samuel finished the regular season with 1,405 receiving yards, 365 rushing yards and 14 combined touchdowns. He has become a dangerous downfield threat and also a physical running presence alongside running backs Jeff Wilson Jr. and Elijah Mitchell.

    "When we have the ball in our hands, we have the same mindset," Wilson said, per Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports Bay Area. "Nobody can bring us down, and we are trying to score."

    On Sunday, Samuel also tossed a 24-yard touchdown strike to wideout Jauan Jennings.

    Samuel finished with 24 passing yards, 95 receiving yards 45 rushing yards and two combined touchdowns. If the Cowboys hope to get past San Francisco in the Wild Card Round, they will have to do a much better job of limiting the 49ers' all-around threat.

A Playoff-Caliber Defense Has Emerged

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    The 49ers had their fair share of defensive issues early in the year. Starting cornerback Jason Verrett was lost to a torn ACL, and the 49ers surrendered at least 28 points in four of their first six games.

    San Francisco's defense has been far better down the stretch. It has not allowed more than 24 points since Week 13, and it has twice clamped down on the Rams.

    When these rivals met in Week 10, San Francisco allowed a mere 10 points while forcing two takeaways. Los Angeles was able to score more easily in the rematch, but only early. After halftime, the 49ers contained Matthew Stafford and Co., allowing only one more touchdown drive in the second half and overtime.

    The Rams were held to 103 yards in the second half.

    While the 49ers defense isn't quite the championship-caliber unit we saw a couple of seasons ago, it is capable of taking the team on a deep playoff run. We'll see how it fares against Dak Prescott and the Cowboys on Sunday.