Coming into Sunday's battle in Baltimore, the Ravens had the best rushing offense in the NFL. That still is true, but the 49ers actually held the Ravens in check, despite losing 20-17.
The Ravens, who average well over 200 rushing yards per game, ended with 178 on 38 carries. San Francisco's defense allowed only 4.7 yards per carry while its own offense had 174 yards rushing on 29 carries, good for a 6-yard average.
But quarterback Lamar Jackson did gain 101 yards rushing on 16 carries and scored once on the ground. Jackson only had 105 passing yards, but the threat of he or running back Mark Ingram carrying the ball still hurt the 49ers.
Jackson was significantly better passing with play-action Sunday as opposed to no play action, and his wide receivers gained much more separation against the 49ers' vaunted defense.
Baltimore's only touchdown through the air came off play action, with Jackson hitting tight end Mark Andrews to tie it up 7-7 in the first quarter.
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Any run-action from Jackson will keep a defense on its toes. The 49ers won't face another dual-threat QB until their rematch with Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, who they also lost to earlier in the year, when San Francisco goes to Seattle for the regular-season finale.
But if the 49ers do face the Ravens in the Super Bowl as they hope, there will be plenty to digest from the film, especially with defending play action.
The Warriors emerged from an historically tough stretch over the three last weeks just one Justin Tucker field goal away from completing it with a perfect 3-0 record. All three games came against teams currently ranked among the top three seeds in their respective conferences, and the last two came on the road in extremely tough environments.
You could say they passed their biggest test of the season with flying colors. Luckily for San Francisco, the degree of difficulty should decrease moving forward. After defeating the Saints in a thrilling 48-46 victory Sunday, the 49ers return home to face the visiting Atlanta Falcons in Week 15.
The Falcons, currently last place in the NFC South, earned their fourth win of the season by doubling up the Panthers on Sunday, but will enter their Week 15 game at Levi's Stadium as significant underdogs, and rightfully so.
11.5 points is quite a large spread, but given how both teams have performed so far this season, it seems about right. The 49ers are two last-second field goals away from being undefeated, and the Falcons lost seven of their first eight games. And while San Francisco incurred injuries to some key players in the win over the Saints, the same thing happened to Atlanta in the victory over Carolina. Cornerback Marcus Trufant reportedly broke his forearm, and wide receiver Calvin Ridley left with an abdominal injury and did not return.
Both of those would be big losses for Atlanta. However, it's worth mentioning the Falcons have been playing better football as of late, going 3-2 over their last five games, including a road win in New Orleans. The 49ers would be unwise to take them lightly for fear of undoing some of what they just achieved.
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With a win over Atlanta in Week 15, San Francisco would clinch its first playoff berth since 2013.
The 49ers earned a huge road win over the Saints to improve to 11-2, but that wasn't the end of their good news on Sunday.
Hours after San Francisco prevailed 48-46 in New Orleans, the 49ers' temporary place atop the NFC standings was solidified for at least the next week after the Rams defeated the Seahawks 28-12 in Los Angeles. With the loss, Seattle dropped to 10-3 on the season and fell out of the No. 1 overall seed in the conference.
The 49ers' win combined with the Seahawks' loss puts San Francisco in the driver's seat to win the NFC West, but with Seattle holding the tiebreaker, the division might come down to the Week 17 game between the two teams.
However, it is possible for San Francisco to clinch the division title before Week 17. That would require the 49ers to win each of their next two games against the Falcons and Rams -- both at home -- and the Seahawks to lose at least one of their next two. San Francisco would also clinch a first-round bye in that scenario.
Seattle travels to Carolina to face the sliding Panthers in Week 15 before returning home to host the Cardinals in Week 16. The Seahawks rightfully will be favored in each of those games -- just as the 49ers will be in theirs -- but crazier things have happened.
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Here's what the NFC playoff picture looks like heading into Giants-Eagles on Monday night:
- San Francisco 49ers (11-2)
- Green Bay Packers (10-3)
- New Orleans Saints (10-3)
- Dallas Cowboys (6-7)
- Seattle Seahawks (10-3)
- Minnesota Vikings (9-4)