LOS ANGELES – Moments before the 49ers took the field Saturday against the Los Angeles Rams, they finally experienced a “victory.”
Hours later, the 49ers experienced a true win -- and all the job and exuberation that goes along with it.
The 49ers, whose only previous victory on the season came against the Rams in the opening week, rallied with 15 points in the final five minutes to claim their second win on the year with a raucous 22-21 victory at the Memorial Coliseum.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick led a fourth-quarter comeback with a touchdown run, a touchdown pass and a two-point conversion run for the winning points.
He scored on a 13-yard touchdown run to bring the score to 21-14 with 5:06 remaining in the fourth quarter. Kaepernick followed that up when he engineered a 73-yard drive that was capped off by his 10-yard touchdown pass to Rod Streater.
With the game at 21-20 with :31 remaining, head coach Chip Kelly elected for the two-point conversion, and the win. On a run-pass option, Kaepernick kept it himself to cross the goal line for the go-ahead points. Cornerback Rashard Robinson preserved the victory with an interception of Rams rookie quarterback Jared Goff with :16 remaining.
The Cleveland Browns, who entered the day in control of their own destiny for the No. 1 overall draft pick with continued losing, defeated the San Diego Chargers to bring their winless streak to an end in their 15th game of the season.
That development meant that if the 49ers lost their final two games of the season, the 49ers would likely own the No. 1 overall pick in the draft – based on their lower strength of schedule.
The 49ers offense certainly looked worthy of the No. 1 overall pick with a dismal showing for most of Christmas Eve. Prior to the consecutive touchdown drives, the 49ers had one interception and a fumble sandwiched between seven consecutive punts.
Very little was going right for the 49ers through most of the game. And the club was dealt another blow when running back Carlos Hyde went down with a knee injury with more than 12 minutes remaining in the game. Hyde was just 12 yards shy of becoming the 11th player in 49ers history to gain 1,000 yards in a single season.
Hyde caught a pass to the left when Rams cornerback E.J. Gaines went low, just as Hyde was turning to run upfield. Hyde fumbled, and the Rams defensive lineman Morgan Fox recovered the ball.
Hyde was led back to the locker room for further observation. The 49ers immediately announced he was out for the remainder of the game.
The Rams cashed in five plays later on Goff’s 2-yard scoring pass to tight end Tyler Higbee for a 21-7 lead.
The 49ers made their first trip to Los Angeles to face the Rams since the 1994 season before the organization moved to St. Louis. It was the first 49ers-Rams game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum since 1979. The Rams moved to Anaheim Stadium the following season.
Cornerback Tramaine Brock stepped in front of a Goff pass intended for Kenny Britt for his first interception of the season. Brock returned the pick 39 yards to the Rams’ 17.
Two plays later, Colin Kaepernick hit Hyde on a 19-yard scoring pass for a 7-0 lead.
The Rams immediately tied the score with a nine-play, 52-yards scoring drive that was capped by Todd Gurley’s 1-yard touchdown plunge.
Kaepernick badly overthrew tight end Garrett Celek on the 49ers’ next possession, and Rams safety Cody Davis came up with the interception. On the next play, Tavon Austin sprinted 30 yards untouched around the left side for a touchdown to give Los Angeles a 14-7 lead.
Goff, the No. 1 overall pick from Cal, completed 11 of 24 pass attempts for 90 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. His passer rating was 35.1.
Meanwhile, Kaepernick completed 28 of 38 passes for 266 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Kaepernick's passer rating was 99.2.
O-line shuffle: Rookie John Theus made his first career start, while Trent Brown moved to left tackle for his first career action protecting the quarterback’s blind side.
With left tackle Joe Staley out of action for the third game in a row, the 49ers switched things up on the offensive line. Veteran Zane Beadles made his first career start at center. In the past two weeks, Beadles made his first career starts at left tackle.
Center Marcus Martin, who started last week, was among the 49ers’ inactive players due to an ankle sprain.
Near the end of the first half, Garnett left the game with a finger injury. Rookie Alex Balducci, who played defensive tackle at the University of Oregon, made his NFL debut at right guard.
Tankin’ it: The 49ers selected Tank Carradine in the second round of the 2013 draft. After his conversion to outside linebacker in the offseason prompted some in the organization to have optimism for a breakout season, the club signed him to a one-year contract extension before the start of the season.
But Carradine has not produced for a 49ers pass-rush that has been one of the team’s many weak spots this season. Carradine has not recorded a sack in the 13 games in which he has appeared. On Saturday, the 49ers made Carradine a healthy scratch as one of the team’s seven inactive players.
The 49ers’ other inactive players, in addition to Carradine, Staley and Martin, were quarterback Blaine Gabbert, running back Mike Davis, cornerback Dontae Johnson (groin) and Glenn Dorsey (knee, ribs).
This ‘n’ that
--Rookie cornerback Rashard Robinson started at left cornerback in place of Jimmie Ward, who was placed on injured reserve with a fractured collarbone. Robinson was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty against Britt on a third-down play to the opposite side of the field on the first series of the second half. The play gave Los Angeles a first down. It was not costly, however, as the 49ers forced a punt after the next series of downs.
--Rookie defensive lineman DeForest Buckner took the team lead with his sixth sack of the season late in the third quarter. Ahmad Brooks and Buckner shared the 49ers lead in that category entering the game with five sacks apiece.
--Buckner also tied Aaron Lynch for the fifth-most sacks in franchise history for a rookie.
---Rookie cornerback Rashard Robinson sealed the win with a game-ending interception.