49ers report card: Fabulous finish fueled by stars in passing game

CINCINNATI — Here is how the 49ers (7-6) graded in Sunday’s 26-23 win over the host Bengals (7-6):


Brandon Aiyuk deserves top billing here for his game-winning grace and guts to score on a 12-yard touchdown pass with 1:53 remaining in overtime. The 49ers wouldn’t have been in that position if not for George Kittle’s tremendous outing (13 receptions, 15 targets, 151 yards and his sixth touchdown in six games). Jimmy Garoppolo overcame a near-interception in the fourth quarter and churned out a masterful overtime drive, completing all six passes for 77 yards, including a 25-yard shot to Jauan Jennings was the 49ers’ longest reception of the day. Garoppolo got sacked four times amid the fourth-quarter freefall, then everyone rallied up when needed in overtime.


The 49ers clawed out 100 yards, and the best came on Deebo Samuel’s 27-yard touchdown run around the right side for a 10-3 lead. Samuel became the first wide receiver in the Super Bowl era with a rushing touchdown in four straight games. That dynamic ability complemented whatever the 49ers could squeeze out of starting running back Jeff Wilson Jr. (13 carries, 56 yards) while Elijah Mitchell was out injured. Garoppolo chipped in with a 3-yard sneak on third-and-1 on the opening drive after halftime, leading to a field goal and a 20-6 lead.


Surrendering a 14-point fourth-quarter lead is unacceptable, and yet it was predictable that the Bengals would target rookie cornerback Ambry Thomas in his starting debut. Joe Burrow’s connection with Ja’Marr Chase has made the Bengals a legitimate team, and it produced two touchdowns in that final quarter, including Chase’s 32-yard tying touchdown on a double move against Thomas. OK, bad plays aside, Nick Bosa’s second sack of the night forced the Bengals to settle for an overtime field goal, effectively saving the 49ers a shot at redemption on their ensuing possession to win it. Burrow passed for 348 yards. K’Waun Williams’ fourth-quarter sack should have sealed the win but the 49ers offense couldn’t kill the clock before letting the Bengals have another shot. The secondary was playing not only without Emmanuel Moseley but Dontae Johnson, who was scratched Saturday so he could be at his dying mother’s bedside.


Losing Azeez Al-Shaair to an elbow injury is cause for serious concern, especially considering he had 11 tackles in the first half after 16 in the previous game. Fred Warner had an injury scare, also, but his ankle turned out OK. Overall, Bengals 1,000-yard rusher Joe Mixon managed just 58 yards (18 carries) this game and broke nothing longer than 17 yards.


Robbie Gould should have made a walk-off field goal from 47 yards to end regulation, but he missed wide right. That’s about all that went wrong with these units after back-to-back bad games. River Cracraft and Trent Sherfield recovered muffed punts, and the 49ers converted those takeaways into 10 points. The 49ers aren’t getting anything out of their returns, but at least they held onto the ball this game.


Dialing up the perfect play calls in overtime and having players execute them sure made Kyle Shanahan’s stock rise again. DeMeco Ryans’ call to blitz Williams for a third-down sack in the fourth quarter also deserves praise. The 49ers are not only positioned well for the playoffs, but pulling out a win in such dramatic fashion should provide confidence for the final-four stretch run.

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