BALTIMORE – It came down to Justin Tucker sending a 49-yard field goal through the uprights at the end of 60 minutes of football.
At the 30-minute mark, the 49ers missed their opportunity from 2 yards farther out.
Following the 49ers’ painful 20-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on a soggy Sunday, many in the losing locker room were talking about being better at the little things in order to pull out a game such as this.
“We need to make more plays in crucial situations, and that is what separates a lot of these games — a couple of plays here and there,” 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said.
The 49ers fall to 10-2 on the season. The 49ers’ two losses have come on the final plays of their three-point losses at home to Seattle (in overtime) and on the road against the Ravens.
“We gave ourselves the chance,” 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman said. “That’s all you can do, give ourselves a chance to win, and we did that on both sides of the ball. We just didn’t make enough plays.”
The 49ers’ final possession ended with a failed fourth-down attempt. Baltimore succeeded on a fourth-down play on the drive on which it ended up scoring the winning points.
“It just comes down to us making those small plays in the clutch time,” 49ers linebacker Fred Warner said. “We’ve got to be cleaner. I feel like we just have to be better from the get-go, including myself.”
Here are the 49ers’ grades from their Week 13 loss.
Backup running back Raheem Mostert had a career day, as he gained 146 yards and a touchdown on 19 rushing attempts.
Mostert became the hot runner for the 49ers’ offense after starter Tevin Coleman could not find much room to operate. Coleman was held to just 6 yards on five rushing attempts.
The 49ers had some very good blocking at the point of attack with the offensive line opening holes for Mostert. Tight end George Kittle, fullback Kyle Juszczyk and the wide receivers also did their jobs.
Juszczyk credited Mostert for his decisiveness in recognizing openings and using his elite speed to blast through those openings.
Garoppolo completed 15 of 21 pass attempts for 165 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. His passer rating was 110.2. He was sacked twice for minus-8 yards, and one of those sacks turned into a costly turnover.
However, the 49ers’ passing game did not come up big on third downs. The 49ers converted on just four of 12 third-down opportunities. Garoppolo’s critical fourth-down pass in the fourth quarter was batted down at the line of scrimmage.
Rookie Deebo Samuel rebounded nicely from a dropped pass on the first drive to beat Ravens defensive backs Brandon Carr and Marcus Peters for a 33-yard touchdown, which came on a fourth-down pass.
Emmanuel Sanders had four catches for 41 yards; Kendrick Bourne added three receptions for 42 yards, and Samuel had two catches for 41 yards.
Kittle was held to two catches for 17 yards.
This had the makings of a disastrous game for the 49ers’ run defense. But after getting a good feel for what the Ravens were trying to do, the 49ers fared a lot better than most teams that have tried to defend Lamar Jackson and Co.
Jackson had a very good game as a runner. He gained 101 yards and scored a touchdown on 16 rushing attempts. However, his 6.3-yard average was nearly a full yard less than his season’s average.
Safety Marcell Harris, who replaced Jaquiski Tartt, produced the best play for the defense when the tore the ball away from Jackson at the end of a run on which he had already picked up the necessary yardage on a third-down scamper.
The 49ers’ defense did a solid job against Mark Ingram, who accounted for 59 yards on 15 tries. Gus Edwards had six attempts for 15 yards. Warner had a team-high 11 tackles, while Dre Greenlaw collected eight tackles.
Jackson and tight end Mark Andrews immediately took advantage of the 49ers’ lone giveaway when they hooked up for a 20-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter between Warner and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon.
But the 49ers continued to be very stingy against the pass. Jackson completed 14 of 23 pass attempts for 105 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
The 49ers did not deploy the same kind of aggressive pass rush against Jackson because of his ability to break down a defense with his legs. DeForest Buckner registered the 49ers’ only sack of the game, which accounted for zero yards.
Warner broke up two passes, while Jimmie Ward was credited with one pass defensed.
Robbie Gould returned to action Sunday after missing three games with a right quadriceps injury. His 51-yard field-goal attempt at the end of the first half proved to be a pivotal play.
Ravens defensive back Marlon Humphrey made it around Arik Armstead on the left side of the 49ers’ line to deflect the kick, which landed about midway into the end zone. It’s a difficult job for Armstead, who is responsible for blocking two players.
But the missed kick goes on Gould’s ledger. On the season, Gould has made 14 of 22 field-goal attempts, including 0-for-4 from 50 yards or longer.
Punter Mitch Wishnowsky averaged a net 36.0 yards on his two punts. The 49ers gave up an 18-yard punt return, but that play did not factor into the scoring.
One thing is for certain: The 49ers stack up against any team in the NFL. They have proven that much through 13 weeks of the season. But …
“We didn’t get the win,” Warner said. “That’s what matters.”
That is very true.
The 49ers are in a fight in the race for the NFC West with the Seattle Seahawks. They are battling for playoff seeding in the NFC.
The 49ers had a lot of opportunities in this game, but they did not come through at the most crucial of times. Coach Kyle Shanahan’s game-management at the end of the first half can be hotly debated.
But, as he explained, the last thing he wanted was to give the ball back to the Ravens one last time before the end of the half. The 49ers faced a first-and-20 and opted to work the clock. Two plays later when Mostert peeled off a 16-yard gain, the 49ers wish they had that time back that they had already burnt.
Neither side of the ball played poorly. But the Ravens played a little better and came up with the plays that mattered most.