After a critical divisional loss to the Seattle Seahawks last week, the San Francosco 49ers approached Sunday afternoons match up with the Bengals in Cincinnati as a must win. The 49ers needed overtime to get the victory and put themselves back in the drivers seat in the NFC Wild Card race.
The Niners had a comfortable two touchdown lead in the 4th quarter before the Bengals fought back to tie the game before regualtion. Then the sure-footed Robbie Gould misses a game-winning field goal attempt, sending the game into overtime. The 49ers lost the toss to Cincy and were able to hold them to a field goal. San Fran had to respond with a FG of their own and possibly tie as opposed to losing. Or they could go for the end zone and ultimately the win.
George Kittle's 13 catches for 151 yards with a TD along with Brandon Aiyuk coming up big on the final drive scoring the game winning touchdown, gave the 49ers a much needed win. The final score (26 - 23) doesn't really reflect the domination the 49ers defense displayed throughout the afternoon. The Niners controlled the line of scrimmage and if you know football, if you win at the line you likely win the game. San Francisco's pass protection wasn't perfect but they gave Jimmy G. the opportunity to throw for 296 yards and two TD passes.
courtesy of Forbes
Whether it's your offensive lineman protecting the quarterback or opening up holes for the running backs to bust through. Or on the other side you have the defensive line who is trying to disrupt the line of scrimmage with blitzes and stunts with the goal of getting to the quarterback or running back as soon as possible by winning their individual battles at the line of scrimmage, it all starts up front in the trenches. Remember, the football is placed at the line of scrimmage to start the play!
So what did this win mean for the 49ers? Well, they take control of the 6th seed in the NFC with a (7 - 6) record where seven teams get into the tournament. The problem for the Niners now is looking over their shoulder becuase their are five teams sitting at (6 - 7) with four games left on the schedule.
San Francisco's four remaining games are somewhat favorable. They play the Falcons next week at home as Atlanta are one of those (6 - 7) teams behind the Niners. Just a few days later on Thursday Night Football, the Niners travel to Tennessee to take on the Titans who will be fighting for playoff positioning themselves. After that the Niners host the Texans which should be a fairly easy victory before closing out the regular season at Los Angeles to play the division rival Rams in what could have significant post season seeding implications. The 49ers have beaten the Rams 5 times in a row so hopefully for them the streak will continue.
The Cardinals will likely win the NFC West while the Niners and Rams fight it out for second place in the division. Tomorrow on Monday Night Football, the Cardinals and Rams will face off in which if the Rams lose, the Niners would jump just one game behind L.A. who has the 5th seed, which would allow the 49ers to control their own regular season destiny with a higher seed in the playoffs.
What should happen is the 49ers at worst will split their final 4 games but have a strong chance at grabbing 3 of 4 with these match ups. The 49ers already beat the Vikings and Eagles who are both (6 - 7) so in case of a tie breaker, the 49ers would take the higher seed. This upcoming game against the Falcons can give the Niners more breathing room as we head into the post season. The only other (6 - 7) threat would be the New Orleans Saints. The Washington Football Team currently holds the final spot in the NFC standings. Their loss to Dallas Sunday afternoon dropped them to (6 - 7) as well.
It's true that since 2013 the number one seeds in both conferences have met in the Super Bowl with only two exceptions. Last season when the Bucs won as the 5th seed and the Patriots in 2018 who defeated the #1 AFC ranked Kansas City Chiefs in the conference championship. While the odds say that the #1 slots will play at SoFi Stadium come February 13th in Super Bowl LVI, that doesn't mean it has to happen.
Once you make the playoffs it's like a brand new season has started. Any given Sunday as they say! So who's to say the 49ers can't take home their first Super Bowl trophy since the 1994 season!? The 49ers have been gradually getting healthy and have emerging stars on both sides of the ball. The Niners defensive line is an absolute force led by Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead. Fred Warner is a top 3 Middle Linebacker in the league. The secondary has been improving each week.
The offense is full of playmakers. First of all, we know they can run the ball with just about anybody in the backfield, especially when Fullback Kyle Juszczyk is your lead blocker. Then you look at the rare abilities of two of the best weapons in the NFL. Deebo Samual is a running back in wide receivers clothing and George Kittle doesn't know what a 50/50 ball is. When the ball is thrown in his direction it's 100 % his! Now we see 2nd year stud Brandon Aiyuk beginning to emerge as a solid number two receiver. Add all that with the play calling abilities of head coach Kyle Shanahan, and the 49ers could be right back where they were in the 2019 season - The Super Bowl!