The San Francisco 49ers dropped their second game of the season in a 20-17 loss, on the road, to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
After a hard-fought, defense-first heavyweight bout, the Niners fell short once again, watching a Justin Tucker field goal sail through the uprights as time expired. Sunday evening's loss amid cold, rainy weather marks the second time in three weeks that the 49ers have suffered defeat on a game-ending field goal.
San Francisco kicker Robbie Gould nailed a 32-yard field goal with 3:37 remaining in the third quarter, bringing the score to a 17-17 tie. The teams would remain knotted at 17 throughout the entire fourth quarter until the bitter end.
Both teams would exchange drives into opposing territory, nearing field goal range, ultimately turning the ball over on-downs. After taking over on their own 35, QB Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore offense would mount an impressive drive, whittling the clock down to three seconds and maneuvering well into Tucker's range.
The key play in the drive came following the two-minute warning, with the Niners having spent their final timeout in hopes of salvaging time for their offense to get a final shot. It was third-and-one, on the SF 30-yard line: Jackson took the snap and swept left on a designed run, crossing the 28, and effectively guaranteeing the Ravens would attempt their game-winning field goal with the game's final play in regulation.
Three plays later, Tucker's 49-yarder sent San Francisco packing, leaving Baltimore with a 10-2 record.
Heartbreaker in Baltimore.— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) December 1, 2019
8 takeaways from the #49ers back-and-forth battle with the Ravens ⬇️
With the loss, the Niners' NFC West lead has been trimmed to a half game, as the Seattle Seahawks (9-2) now have a golden opportunity to take the division lead with a win, Monday night, against the Minnesota Vikings (8-3). The race for the NFC's top seed is heating up, as there are currently five teams (49ers, New Orleans Saints, Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, and Vikings) with just three losses on the season.
Though the Niners currently occupy the No. 1 overall seed, thanks to owning the tie-breaker (in-conference winning percentage) against the Saints, a loss in New Orleans, next Sunday, could send them straight to the Wild Card (5 or 6 seed). If San Francisco ends up in a Wild Card spot, they would have gone from 8-0 to having to spend their postseason on the road.
However, the Niners have the opportunity to play themselves into home field advantage through the NFC Championship game, starting with a win at the Superdome and continuing with the Atlanta Falcons, LA Rams, and Seahawks. Wins against the Saints and Seahawks will go a long way in locking up both the division and No. 1 seed, assuming San Francisco takes care of business with a pair of home games – one of which coming against the likes of a very weak Falcons team.
Sunday's game wasn't all bad news. Though San Francisco's 1-2 record over the past three weeks has let the rest of the NFC's elite close the gap in the standings, the recipe the Niners have used all season long was alive and well in Baltimore.
Their second-ranked scoring defense (183 points allowed) did well, holding the NFL's no. 1 scoring offense (33.8 points per game) – and their incredibly dynamic quarterback – to just 20 points. They were, however, gashed for 178 rushing yards (4.7 per rush) by Lamar Jackson and the Ravens running game.
On the flipside, while the 49er offense only eked out 17 points, QB Jimmy Garoppolo walked away with an efficient 15-21 on passing attempts for 165 yards and a touchdown. Running back Raheem Mostert, filling in for the injured Matt Breida, racked up 146 yards on the ground on 19 carries (7.7 per rush). Both of these performances should be enough to push the Niners through the grind of the run-up to the playoffs, going forward, thanks to their stout defense.
Heading into crunch time in the 2019 season, coach Kyle Shanahan, QB Jimmy G, and the rest of the 49ers need to shake off the close losses and right the ship. A few lucky bounces their way and this team could very well be 12-0, heading into their matchup with Drew Brees and the NFC South-leading Saints. San Francisco's playoff push continues in the Big Easy, next Sunday morning, at 10 AM (Pacific Time).