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What we learned as 49ers avoid disaster, beat Bengals in OT

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Aiyuk and Kittle

CINCINNATI — It was not an aesthetic masterpiece, but that’s not necessarily the 49ers’ style anyway.

This week, the 49ers left the big mistakes to the other team and, in the process, regained their footing after their most disappointing loss of the season.

The 49ers blew a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter but avoided a disastrous collapse with a thrilling 26-23 overtime victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

Coming out of the two-minute warning in overtime, Jimmy Garoppolo found Brandon Aiyuk, who was able to stretch in past the pylon for the game-winning 11-yard touchdown.

The victory came one week after the 49ers fell back to the .500 mark with a sloppy 30-23 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

The 49ers (7-6) have had difficult achieving any consistency this season, and the same can be said about the Bengals (7-6), who gave the 49ers too many opportunities with mistakes on special teams.

Here are the takeaways from the 49ers’ Week 14 game:

Compromised 49ers secondary ... 

Third-round draft pick Ambry Thomas made his first career NFL start with the 49ers depleted at the cornerback position.

Starting cornerback Emmanuel Moseley will miss at least three games due to a high-ankle sprain. Dontae Johnson was not available because of a personal matter.

The Bengals scored their first touchdown of the game with 9:21 remaining in regulation on Ja’Marr Chase’s 18-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-down play when he turned around 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga on a play in which Joe Burrow scrambled and made the perfect throw.

 

With under 90 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Chase beat Thomas and Burrow hit him for a 32-yard touchdown.

The 49ers’ pass defense came up with a big play late in the third quarter when Nick Bosa and Samson Ebukam split a sack on a third-down play with the 49ers leading 20-6.

Then, Bengals kicker Evan McPherson missed a 46-yard field goal attempt.

Jimmie Ward had a mid-second-quarter interception that was nullified by Thomas’ illegal hands-to-the-face penalty. He had the same penalty in the third quarter that wiped out a Bosa sack.

Thomas was later in coverage on a play that was originally ruled a touchdown pass to Chase for a 37-yard touchdown. However, the play was ruled an incompletion after a review showed the ball hit the ground and Chase did not control it all the way through the catch.

Deebo picks up where he left off

Wide receiver Deebo Samuel was not assured of suiting up for the Week 14 game until Saturday, when his groin strain had improved enough to make everyone comfortable with him returning to action.

And coach Kyle Shanahan did not exactly ease him back into the action.

Samuel resumed his duties as a receiver/runner, and it paid off with the first touchdown of the game.

Samuel took handoff, got around the right side with the help of a Jauan Jennings block, received a downfield block from right tackle Tom Compton, remained in-bounds and took it 27 yards for a touchdown.

It was Samuel’s sixth rushing touchdown of the season.

Samuel finished the game with 37 yards rushing on eight carries, as well as one catch for 22 yards.

The presence of Samuel might have also helped opened things up for tight end George Kittle, who caught 13 passes for 151 yards and one touchdown.

Special teams benefits from mistakes

Coming off a stinker of a game against the Seahawks, the 49ers needed improved play from their special teams.

The 49ers on Sunday benefitted from a special-teams meltdown by the Bengals.

Cincinnati punt returner Darius Phillips muffed two punts in the first half, which the 49ers cashed in for 10 points to enable them to take a 17-6 lead at halftime.

River Cracraft recovered the first fumble in the first quarter. That takeaway led to Robbie Gould’s 33-yard field goal.

Near the end of the first half, the 49ers cashed in on when Trent Sherfield recovered another Phillips mishandle.

The 49ers looked to be stopped after three plays, but Bengals defensive back Vonn Bell kept the drive alive when he was called for taunting following a third-down play.

Garoppolo took advantage when he found Kittle for a 14-yard touchdown with 18 seconds remaining in the first half.

Garoppolo completed 27-of-41 passes for 296 yards and two touchdown passes, including the game-winner to Aiyuk.

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