49ers stars deliver late to avoid another collapse
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers made sure they didn’t let another game slip away.
The Niners overcame a late-game comeback by Cincinnati on Sunday, a missed potential winning field goal by Robbie Gould and a lost coin toss at the start of overtime to beat the Bengals 26-23 and solidify their playoff positioning.
“We almost blew it,” defensive end Nick Bosa said. “But we didn’t. We did a good job and we made the plays that we needed to make.”
Bosa had lamented the blown opportunity the previous week in Seattle when turnovers and other miscues led to a 30-23 loss to the Seahawks that ended with two incomplete passes into the end zone.
San Francisco’s biggest stars made sure there wasn’t a repeat in Cincinnati and the 49ers (7-6) won for the fourth time in five games.
Bosa sacked his former college teammate Joe Burrow on a third down in the red zone to force Cincinnati to kick a field goal on the opening possession of overtime.
Jimmy Garoppolo then completed all six passes for 78 yards on San Francisco’s overtime drive, including a 21-yarder to George Kittle to get into field goal range and another 9-yarder to Kittle on third-and-7 to keep the drive alive.
The Niners then won it on a 12-yard TD pass Garoppolo to Brandon Aiyuk.
That moved San Francisco into sixth place in the NFC with a decent chance still to move up to the top wild-card spot in fifth if the 49ers keep playing well down the stretch.
“I personally don’t think about positioning at all,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I just think of how to get there. If we were locked in there and that was done, then then my mind would probably move to positioning and what we thought gave us the best advantage. ... I haven’t considered anything except win enough games until they tell us we’re in and when we’re in I’ll probably have another thought after that.”
Kittle had 13 catches for 151 yards and a TD, becoming the first tight end in NFL history with back-to-back games with at least 150 yards receiving and a TD. The last 49ers player at any position to do that was receiver Terrell Owens in 2002. Kittle had his third game in his career with at least 13 catches and fourth with at least 150 yards.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Third-down offense. San Francisco were just 5 of 15 on third-down tries in the game. The Niners were 0 for 6 in the first half and then went 1 for 4 on three straight drives that ended with punts in the fourth quarter, setting the stage for the Bengals to rally from 14 points down to tie the game.
Aiyuk. After a rough start to his second season when he lost Shanahan’s trust, Aiyuk is back to his promising rookie form. He had six catches for 62 yards Sunday, including the winner in overtime for his fourth touchdown of the season.
Ambry Thomas. The rookie cornerback’s first career start was a rough one. Thomas had two illegal hands to the face penalties that wiped out big plays — an interception by Jimmie Ward and a sack by Bosa. He also got beat deep on Ja’Marr Chase’s game-tying 32-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Thomas (concussion), LB Azeez Al-Shaair (elbow) and LB Fred Warner (ankle) all left with injuries and are day to day. ... Shanahan said he’d be “surprised” if DE Dee Ford made enough progress to be activated from IR before a deadline later this week. If Ford isn’t activated by Wednesday, he will miss the rest of the season.
0 — The Niners committed no turnovers for the fifth time this season — thanks in part to a potential dropped interception by Jessie Bates late in regulation. San Francisco has won all five of those games and is 12-1 the past three seasons when committing no turnovers.
“Usually I try to sell to our team if we don’t turn it over, we’re pretty much guaranteed to win almost, if you look at the stats with that,” Shanahan said. “But that was starting to look bleak for a little bit.”
The 49ers visit Atlanta on Sunday.
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