Jimmy Garoppolo leads 2 key drives, 49ers beat Rams in OT to make playoffs; up next: Cowboys

At about 2:30 p.m. PT, it looked like the San Francisco 49ers' season was dying. It was back on life support at a little bit before 4 p.m. too.

Somehow, the 49ers made it to the postseason. They came back from a 17-0 deficit against the Los Angeles Rams to tie it. Jimmy Garoppolo overcame a bad fourth-quarter interception to lead an enormous 88-yard touchdown drive to tie it with 26 seconds left. Then in overtime, Garoppolo led a field-goal drive to take the lead and rookie cornerback Ambry Thomas picked off Matthew Stafford's deep pass to end the game.

The 49ers needed to win, tie or have the New Orleans Saints lose to make the playoffs. The Saints beat the Atlanta Falcons in a game that was never in doubt, putting all the pressure on the 49ers. San Francisco won it 27-24 on Thomas' pick.

The 49ers came through. The much-maligned Garoppolo and then Thomas specifically came through. At multiple times Sunday it looked like the 49ers' season would be over, but they squeezed into a wild-card spot and won't be an easy out in the postseason either.

San Francisco will next face the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. in the wild-card round.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) helped rally his team to aa win that clinched a playoff spot. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) helped rally his team to aa win that clinched a playoff spot. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

49ers rally after slow start

The 49ers looked surprisingly flat at the start of the game. Matthew Stafford was carving up San Francisco's defense. Tyler Higbee caught a touchdown pass on fourth-and-1 to make it 10-0. Higbee caught another touchdown and it was 17-0.

The 49ers showed signs of life late in the first half on a drive that ended in a field goal. Then Deebo Samuel had a touchdown run on the 49ers' first drive of the second half and the Rams' lead was down to 17-10. The 49ers tied it on a trick play touchdown pass by Samuel, who had a phenomenal regular season.

The 49ers had it all going then. They were deep in Rams territory in the fourth quarter when Garoppolo threw far behind George Kittle on a pass Jalen Ramsey picked off after tipping it three times to himself. Garoppolo argued there should have been a penalty for him getting hit in the head as he threw the pass, and he was right. But there was no flag, and the Rams scored on the possession after that pick. Cooper Kupp got a touchdown with 2:29 left.

The 49ers rallied after Kupp's touchdown. They punted but forced the Rams to punt it back. The 49ers had 88 yards to go with no timeouts. Garoppolo hit huge passes to Brandon Aiyuk and then Samuel to get close. Garoppolo found Jauan Jennings for a 14-yard score and the tie.

The postseason hopes for the Saints and 49ers rested on what happened in overtime.

Saints miss playoffs

The Saints did their part by beating the Falcons. They got out to a quick lead and held on despite losing Taysom Hill to a foot injury. They had to quickly get to a TV to watch how the 49ers' game ended up.

The 49ers got the ball first in overtime after winning the coin toss. Jennings made another big catch in overtime, gaining 34 yards on fourth-and-6. The 49ers had to convert a third-and-3 deep inside Rams territory, and Jennings made a catch inside the 10-yard line. The 49ers needed a touchdown for a walk-off win and a playoff spot. The drive stalled, however. The 49ers had to kick a field goal and hope the defense could hold. Even if they held the Rams to a field goal, that likely would have been enough to make the postseason because a tie would put them in.

The Rams' drive was kept alive on a pass interference call on a third-and-10. Then Stafford, looking for Odell Beckham Jr., took a deep shot that was underthrown and picked off, ending the game and the Saints' season.

The 49ers needed every bit of the regular season, including overtime, to make the playoffs. But they're in and will be in Dallas next.