Four months ago, Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers took the field in Tampa Bay not knowing what lay ahead for the 2019 season.
Despite a sloppy first game from Garoppolo and the offense, the 49ers eked out a win in Tampa Bay, the start of what would be eight straight wins to open the season.
When the dust had settled and the regular season concluded, the 49ers sat as NFC West champions and the No. 1 seed in the conference at 13-3.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan's team will kick off their quest for the Super Bowl on Saturday when they face the Minnesota Vikings in an NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Levi's Stadium. Before the Niners get on the road to Miami, let's take a look back at five plays that defined their 13-3 regular season.
5. Pick Bosa
49ers rookie defensive end Nick Bosa was a force early on in the season. After battling through injuries during the first three weeks, Bosa exited the 49ers' Week 4 bye as a new man and terrorized opposing quarterbacks accordingly. Bosa tallied four sacks in the 49ers' first six games, and then had his true coming-out party in Week 7 when he recorded three sacks and this interception in a 51-13 pantsing of the Carolina Panthers at Levi's Stadium.
NICK BOSA CAN DO IT ALL 🤩 pic.twitter.com/wxziikyjQp— 49ers on NBCS (@NBCS49ers) October 27, 2019
Good hands, Nick.
4. Third-and-16? No problem
Down the stretch they came and the 49ers and Seattle Seahawks were in a dead heat for the NFC West title. The 49ers also had their eyes on the No. 1 seed in the NFC but would need to beat the division-rival Los Angeles Rams to keep those hopes alive.
Tied at 31, the game seemed destined for overtime with the 49ers facing a third-and-16 from their own 31-yard line. Garoppolo had just converted on a third-and-16 three plays earlier, and this was no different. With the pressure bearing down on him, Garoppolo stepped up and threw a strike that Emmanuel Sanders hauled in to set up a game-winning field goal from Robbie Gould.
3. 49ers survive Kyler scare
Fresh off their first loss of the season to the Seahawks and staring at a brutal remaining schedule, the 49ers needed to beat the Arizona Cardinals for the second time in three weeks in order to steady the ship.
Kyler Murray and the Cardinals jumped out to an early lead and the two teams traded blows in the second half. A 22-yard rushing touchdown from Kyler Murray gave the Cardinals a 26-19 lead with six minutes remaining. An ensuing interception by Garoppolo put the 49ers' backs against the wall, but the defense stood tall and got the ball back.
Garoppolo then led an eight-play, 65-yard drive that culminated in a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Wilson Jr. to give them the lead with 31 seconds remaining.
NINERS TAKE THE LEAD 😱 pic.twitter.com/K0VsKKg8QK— 49ers on NBCS (@NBCS49ers) November 18, 2019
With games against the Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints looming, the 49ers needed that W in their caps.
2. Kittle goes Beast Mode in The Big Easy
After suffering a hard-fought loss to the Ravens in Charm City, the 49ers headed to New Orleans for a showdown between the two best teams in the NFC.
The game featured countless lead changes, but the Saints appeared to have plunged a dagger into the 49ers' hearts when Drew Brees hit Tre'Quan Smith for an 18-yard touchdown to take a 46-45 lead.
The 49ers never say die, though, and next George Kittle delivered the signature moment of the season -- to that point.
On fourth-and-2 from their own 33-yard line, Garoppolo hit Kittle and the tight end raced down the sideline, dragging multiple Saints defenders before being brought down at the Saints' 28-yard line. A facemask penalty was tacked on, placing the 49ers at the New Orleans' 14-yard line, setting up Gould's 30-yard field goal.
George Freakin’ Kittle 😱😱😱pic.twitter.com/y7ywfKYM2L— 49ers on NBCS (@NBCS49ers) December 8, 2019
This likely will be the most memorable play of the run, but we all know what No. 1 is ...
1. A game of inches in the PNW
Week 17 saw the 49ers visit CenturyLink Field in a winner-take-all game against the Seahawks.
The 49ers dominated the first half, but Russell Wilson just kept coming. With the 49ers clinging to a 26-21 lead, the Seahawks marched down to the 1-yard line, on the precipice of a division title. A delay of game moved them back and after three unsuccessful attempts to get in the end zone, the 49ers needed one stop to secure the division crown and home-field advantage.
Wilson hit tight end Jacob Hollister but he immediately was hammered by rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw, brining him down inches short of the end zone.
HE WAS SHORT 😱 pic.twitter.com/DBBrhL54qB— 49ers on NBCS (@NBCS49ers) December 30, 2019
Sixteen games down. Three more to go.