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Jennings emotional as career game comes at perfect time for 49ers

/ by Alex Didion
Presented By Toyota
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Jauan Jennings picked the perfect time to have a career performance and help the 49ers clinch a playoff berth after overcoming what initially seemed like an insurmountable deficit.

Prior to the 49ers' Week 14 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, Jennings never had more than three targets in a game this season. Jennings even had three games over that span where he was active but was not targeted once by a 49ers quarterback.

Over the 49ers' final five games, Jennings had just one game with fewer than five targets. It is hard to argue anyone made more of their opportunities in the 49ers' regular-season finale win over the Los Angeles Rams than Jennings.

The former seventh-round draft pick caught six of his seven targets Sunday for 94 yards and two touchdowns. Both of Jennings' touchdowns tied the game in the second half, including the 14-yard pass from Jimmy Garoppolo that evened the score with 26 seconds remaining.

Before that, Jennings nearly dropped this bomb from fellow wideout Deebo Samuel, as the 49ers completed a comeback from a 17-0 deficit.

A physical back-and-forth game was pushed to overtime, and after the 49ers got the ball first, Jennings again came up clutch with a long catch-and-run on third down to singlehandedly put the team in field goal range.

After an Ambry Thomas interception sealed the win for the 49ers, Jennings gave an emotional interview to ESPN's Lindsey Thiry from the field at SoFi Stadium.

"A whole year of work, and to get to where we are now, we know how much work we put in and it's a lot, this is an incredible story and it's not over yet," Jennings told Thiry.

 

Such pure, raw emotion and jubilation from a player who was waived by the 49ers coming out of his rookie training camp, before ending up on the practice squad for much of the season.

Even after making the 53-man roster in 2021, Jennings did not get much of an opportunity to demonstrate his talent until the final stretch of the year.

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Jennings reflected on his journey during his postgame media availability from Inglewood.

"Man it's humbling to get drafted in the seventh round, it's humbling to get cut, go on practice squad, it's humbling all around the board to get hurt and not be able to play at all, all that humbles you," Jennings said. "But it's the way you bounce back, and like I said, this team makes it easy to bounce back.

"No matter how great or how bad the play is, there's always somebody in your corner picking you up and that's what it's about."

Jennings has been resilient, and has shown up in big moments for the 49ers, even when his opportunities haven't always been plentiful. In Week 2, Jennings caught both of his targets, including Garoppolo's only touchdown pass with 12 seconds remaining in the first half to get the 49ers on the board. San Francisco went on to win 17-11 in Philly.

In the 49ers' win over the Minnesota Vikings back in Week 12, Jennings had another touchdown catch inside the final 30 seconds of the first half that tied the game going into the locker room.

This clutch gene has been inside Jennings since before he was drafted into the NFL. In his sophomore season at Tennessee, Jennings leaped up and hauled in this hail mary to clinch a critical conference road win over the Georgia Bulldogs.

As the 49ers enter the playoffs, Deebo and Brandon Aiyuk are the clear top two wide receivers for Garoppolo in the offense. 

However, if the 49ers need a big play late at AT&T Stadium next Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, don't be surprised if Kyle Shanahan elects to run a play for Jennings.

He has delivered under the brightest lights before, and he certainly is capable of doing so again.

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