Santa Clara, CA – The final game of the season couldn’t have been more entertaining to say the least. A blocked field goal no one saw coming, Quinton Patton’s pass from Blaine Gabbert and Phil Dawson’s fourth field goal was all the 49ers needed to beat the St. Louis Rams 19-16 in overtime.
“I got a group of guys here, players that just won a football game,” said head coach Jim Tomsula. “They’ve been through a very tough season. They’ve stuck together. They went and won a game in overtime. They fought like crazy. And today is about those players. My job status, anything going forward there, can be handled throughout the rest of the week.”
The game was tied late in the fourth, San Francisco struggled on offense and instead of going for it on fourth down, they punted the ball away. The Rams failed to move the ball giving it right back to the 49ers. With 31 seconds on the clock, San Francisco decided to take a knee to end the game rather than any attempts to move the ball down field.
St. Louis went to their running game and put themselves in good field goal position, Greg Zuerlein attempted to kick a 48-yard field goal but it was blocked by Donte Johnson. A huge break for the 49ers as they took over from there. Gabbert’s pass to Patton put San Francisco near the goal line. Dawson then kicked a 23-yard field goal to win the game.
“The first time ever in my whole career,” Johnson said when asked about his blocked field goal.
“I was happy,” said LB Aaron Lynch when asked about the blocked field goal. “I was just confused because I didn’t know if we could return it or not. It didn’t even matter because we got the ball back, but I just said thank you because if they had kicked that field goal it would have been a wrap.”
It wasn’t the sort of fairytale ending anyone had hoped for after a tumultuous season but for the 49ers, it was a perfect ending. Guys viewed this game as if it were their very own playoffs. Recording their fifth win of the season was a victory for many who believe that this team can still be competitive next season.
As for the Rams who hope to move to Los Angeles and begin a new chapter basically gave the game away. Quarterback Case Keenum went deep to Kenny Brit for 54-yards. Keenum covered half the field with that pass. But the 49ers defense made stops when needed. The Rams were in great position to score a touchdown but instead Zuerlein kicked a 33-yard field goal giving them a 3-0 lead early in the first quarter.
Gabbert followed suit and made a great pass to Patton for 23-yards but the play was brought back due to illegal formation. A tough break for San Francisco but Gabbert then found DuJuan Harris for 31-yards before the quarter ended. That setup Gabbert’s 33-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin to start the second.
The 49ers extended their lead after Harris rushed for 47-yards setting up Dawson’s 26-yard field goal. Zuerlein kicked another 32-yard field goal making it a 10-6 game. San Francisco found themselves losing momentum when Gabbert’s pass was intercepted by Eugene Sims who rushed it back for 42-yards.
That setup Tre Mason’s 1-yard touchdown with 1:47 left in the half giving St. Louis back the lead 16-10. Gabber’s pass was intended for Mike Davis. Dawson kicked his second field goal in the third for 28-yards. By the fourth he tied the game with his third field goal from 38-yards making it a 16-16 game. Dawson’s field goal in overtime gave head coach Jim Tomsula his last win.
“I’ve been with Jimmy my whole career. I love Jimmy,” LB NaVorro Bowman said. “It’s always been a good time with him. Today we won a game, and let’s give some praise for that. Let’s not talk about the rumor.”
Two hours after the game ended, it was announced that Tomsula had been relieved of his duties as head coach. While the media was still getting interviews and writing their stories, 49ers owner Jed York sent a text message informing his players of Tomsula’s firing. After one season, the former Defensive Line coach who had been with the organization since 2007 probably didn’t see his dismissal coming.
“Jimmy has been a valuable member of the 49ers organization for the last nine years,” said York. “We all know he is a man of high character, and his contributions on the field and in our community have always been greatly appreciated. This entire organization is proud and grateful to have worked so closely alongside Jimmy. We all wish him and his family great success in the future.”
Tomsula came into a tough situation, he lost several key players during the offseason. His two starting running backs got injured and to make matters worse Colin Kaepernick was replaced by backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert because of a shoulder and thumb injury. Not the best situation to be in for a first year head coach.
“Even in a bad season like this, nobody pointed fingers,” Safety Eric Reid said. “The mood in the meeting rooms was always good. That’s something that we can be happy about.”
San Francisco’s 5-11 record was the worst since 2007. They were winless in their division for the first time since 1978. Obviously not the best season however, despite not playing the best football they kept a positive attitude. The obstacles the 49ers faced this season was insurmountable and the decisions made in the final minutes of regulation made no sense.
The 49ers opted to punt from the Rams 37 yard line with 1:39 left in the game. A touchback resulted in a punt of 17 yards which led to loud boos from the crowd. Once San Francisco got the ball back with 31 seconds remaining in regulation they decided to take a knee to run the clock out. That brought on more boos from the crowd. But a win is win and despite how ugly it looked the 49ers won their final game of the season.
“He’s a fiery coach and provides energy and enthusiasm on a daily basis that the players thrive off,” Gabbert said. “It’s been a lot of fun to play for (him) and I’m just thankful he gave me the opportunity to start for the 49ers.”