49ers takeaways: What we learned in nail-biting 20-17 loss to Ravens

49ers takeaways: What we learned in nail-biting 20-17 loss to Ravens

BALTIMORE -- Two NFL heavyweights went at it Sunday, and the fight lived up to expectations -- and then some.

On a cold, wet and thoroughly miserable afternoon, the Baltimore Ravens put together a drive to eat up the final 6:28 of the fourth quarter to have the final word against the 49ers.

Justin Tucker’s 49-yard field goal as time expired gave Baltimore a 20-17 victory over San Francisco at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Ravens extended their win streak to eight games, as both teams now have 10-2 records -- tied for tops in the NFL.

Here are three things you need to know about the 49ers' loss in Week 13.

Two of the best in the league

What happens when the NFL’s best offense meets the league’s top defense?

The Ravens had averaged 433.3 yards of total offense entering the game. The 49ers’ defense had allowed just 248.0 yards through the first 12 weeks of the season.

On Sunday, the Ravens managed 283 yards. The ones that mattered were the 39 yards they marched to set up Tucker’s game-winning field goal.

The 49ers' defense showed it certainly has what it takes for this team to go as far as it wants in January -- and, possibly, February.

Jackson keeps 49ers guessing

There is no question that the 49ers would love another opportunity to play Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. If that occurs, it would be the first Sunday of February in the Super Bowl.

The 49ers have faced dual-threat quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson in recent weeks. But Jackson is the best in the game at handling the ball and creating deception.

Jackson rushed for 101 yards on 16 carries to become the first quarterback in NFL history with four 100-yard rushing games in a season.

Jackson elicited chants of “MVP! MVP!” from the home fans. And he looked the part in the first half while rushing for 57 yards and a touchdown. He also threw a 20-yard TD pass to tight end Mark Andrews between linebacker Fred Warner and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon in the first quarter.

The 49ers were called for two roughing-the-passer penalties, as Azeez Al-Shaair and Sheldon Day were flagged for illegal hits on Jackson. Nickel back K’Waun Williams, known for his sure tackling, was a victim of Jackson’s ability to make defenders miss in the open field.

Safety Marcell Harris, who entered the game when Jaquiski Tartt injured his ribs, made a big play for the defense when he ripped the ball out of Jackson’s hand on a third-down play on which the QB already had gained the necessary yardage.

[RELATED: Get the Baltimore perspective at NBC Sports Washington]

Mostert emerges in run game

Matt Breida missed his third consecutive game with an ankle sprain, and starting running back Tevin Coleman did not have much room to run. But the 49ers got a huge day from Raheem Mostert, who gained a career-high 146 yards on 19 carries and scored a touchdown.

Mostert got great blocks from Mike McGlinchey, Mike Person, George Kittle and Richie James on a 40-yard scoring run that tied the score in the second quarter.

But other than Mostert, the 49ers had difficulty sustaining anything on offense. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo used a variety of short passess to complete 15 of 21 attempts for 165 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions.

Coleman managed just 6 yards on five carries.

Chiefs' Eric Bieniemy indentifies 'heart and soul' of 49ers' defense

Chiefs' Eric Bieniemy indentifies 'heart and soul' of 49ers' defense

The Kansas City Chiefs offense is stacked. They have an elite quarterback in Patrick Mahomes and a track team of receivers in Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman and Travis Kelce, the best tight end east of George Kittle.

They shouldn’t fear anybody. Not with that lineup. They do have great respect for the 49ers defense, its ferocious front in particular.

That’s an appropriate stance. The 49ers might have the NFL’s best defensive line, featuring Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Dee Ford and Arik Armstead.

The 49ers have the league’s best pass defense and ranked fifth with 48 sacks during the regular season. They have nine more this postseason, largely by taking opponents off schedule and setting up favorable pass-rush situations.

All that’s why the Chiefs attack versus the 49ers defense is strength on strength. Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy understands that and identifies what makes the 49ers go.

“They are fast, and they do a great job of rushing the passer,” Bieniemy said in his Thursday press conference. “They have some big boys up front. That’s the heart and soul of who they are. I’m not knocking anybody on that defense because everything starts up front. It’s just like on offense. We want our guys to be the heart and soul of who we are.

"Well, the heart and soul of that defense lies up front. Those guys do a great job of getting off the ball. On top of that, they have a couple of backers who just fly around. On the back end, those guys are playing very, very sound, with one hell of a leader in Richard Sherman.”

[RELATED: 49ers' Robert Saleh details what makes Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes elite]

The 49ers have linebacker depth and legit players in a secondary that plays its coverages well. It’s a complete unit that has earned Kanas City’s respect.

“Obviously they have a ton of playmakers on the defense with the defensive line, linebackers and in the secondary,” Mahomes said. “They have guys that have experience and they have young guys that are super talented and so you can see that the young guys have really grown as the season has gone on and they have learned from other guys around. They’re very sound in what they do and in the coverages that they play. For us, it’s about executing at a high level and knowing it’s going to be a challenge every single play.”

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (5:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 6:00 p.m. Friday).

Jimmy Garoppolo's first encounter with Patrick Mahomes left impression

Jimmy Garoppolo's first encounter with Patrick Mahomes left impression

SANTA CLARA -- In Week 3 of the 2018 season, the Chiefs beat the 49ers 38-27, but more important than the loss alone, the trajectory of the losing club was changed forever. 
Late in the fourth quarter, down by 12 points, Jimmy Garoppolo faced a third-and-20 situation. The quarterback scrambled for 13 yards and in the process tore his ACL, ending his season. 

There were several impressions made on Garoppolo from the experience but one of the positives was his first interaction with Patrick Mahomes. After the game, Garoppolo was on a cart in the tunnels of Arrowhead Stadium and the Chiefs quarterback sought out Garoppolo to wish him luck in his recovery. 

It’s a moment that Garoppolo was asked if he still recalled. 

“Absolutely,” Garoppolo said. “I didn’t even know Pat at the time. For him to come out of his way after the game and wish me luck and everything, just a real class act. The guy is awesome, on the field, off the field, he does it all.”  

The 49ers went on to finish the 2018 season with a disappointing 4-12 record but an argument could be made that there was a huge positive from those results. The 49ers, in turn, had the second pick in the 2019 NFL draft and were able to select Nick Bosa. 

The addition of the Ohio State product, as well as free agent Dee Ford, has added speed to the defensive line. Those two, among other key additions, helped the team to a 13-3 regular season. Subsequently, the club is now preparing for Super Bowl LIV to face off with Chiefs once again, but this time for all the marbles. 

[RELATED: McGlinchey calls out Jimmy G naysayers]

The two quarterbacks have not had the chance to interact since that fateful game but Garoppolo still has a lot of respect for the gesture. 

“Not really since then, no, but just for him to do something as simple as that, it went a long way.”

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (5:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 6:00 p.m. Friday).