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.

How George Kittle's new contract compares to tight ends, NFL stars

How George Kittle's new contract compares to tight ends, NFL stars

A record-setting tight end deserves a record-setting contract. And that's exactly what the 49ers handed George Kittle on Thursday morning. 

Kittle's agent, Jack Bechta, confirmed to NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco that his client has agreed to a five-year, $75 million contract extension. That is the largest contract handed out to a tight end in NFL history, and it's not even close. 

Kittle was the set to earn just over $2.1 million this season as he entered the final year of his rookie contract. He has been incredibly underpaid since the 49ers took him in the fifth round of the 2017 draft, to say the least. Ahead of the 2020 season, they took care of that and kept him in Santa Clara for a very long time. 

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

This whole time, Kittle and his agent have been looking for a contract that properly fits what he brings to the 49ers. He's much more than just a tight end. Kittle is the closest thing to a unicorn in the NFL, someone who thrives as both a blocker and receiver. His peers voted him as the seventh-best player, not just tight end, in the NFL for a reason.

When it comes to top receivers, he still has a ways to go. Atlanta Falcons star Julio Jones leads the way with $22 million in avergae annual salary. Among receiver, Kittle would come in at 12th, right behind Jarvis Landry of the Cleveland Browns ($15.1 million). Even Brandin Cooks ($16.2 million), who only had 583 yards receiving last season, makes more than Kittle.

[RELATED: Kittle, 49ers' front office come to only reasonable solution]

The highest-paid 49ers receiver, however, is Kendrick Bourne at just under $3.26 million.

Kittle has proven he's far and away the best tight end in football. He's now paid like that, along with being a top receiver as well.

George Kittle, 49ers get to only reasonable destination with extension

George Kittle, 49ers get to only reasonable destination with extension

When teams get good in a hurry, as the 49ers did last season, there are difficult decisions that must follow.

Trading defensive tackle DeForest Buckner? Yes, that qualifies.

Holding onto George Kittle? Not exactly.

Sure, it took a while to arrive at the years, dollars and structure that agent Jack Bechta negotiated with the 49ers, but this was something that had to get done. There was no other reasonable option.

It is a five-year, $75 million contract with a signing bonus of $18 million, Bechta told NBC Sports Bay Area. The contract includes $30 million guaranteed at signing and $40 million in total guarantees.

[RELATED: Jaquiski Tartt didn't worry Jamal Adams would replace him on 49ers]

Even during a pandemic with an uncertain salary cap for future seasons, this makes complete sense for the 49ers. This was the wise decision. The recent past dictated that there was no other decision for the present and future of the franchise.

After all, if you’re not going to pay George Kittle, who are you going to pay?

It’s not hyperbole to recognize that Kittle is the most impactful offensive player -- not playing quarterback -- in the league.

At the very least, with his combination of receiving production and dominance as a blocker in the run game, there’s no other offensive player who possibly could be more valuable to the 49ers and coach Kyle Shanahan’s system.

Kittle is getting what he deserves.

And this is a load off everybody’s mind heading into the season.

George Kittle is not going anywhere for a while.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]