By Sam McPherson
The San Francisco 49ers have won four straight games for the first time since 2013, as they defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars, 44-33. It was a game of shifting momentum, but more often than not, the 49ers came out ahead on those swings, posting their most impressive win of the 2017 campaign to date.
After taking a 16-0 lead, the 49ers (5-10) watched the Jags—champions of the AFC South division—score 19 straight points to take the lead. However, San Francisco recovered to score three consecutive touchdowns before once again watching Jacksonville (10-5) come back by scoring two of its own.
In the end, a full-team effort by the 49ers staved off the comeback attempt by the Jaguars and helped claim their fifth win of the season overall, while S.F. quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo improved to 6-0 lifetime in NFL starts. He’s been the QB for all four of the consecutive 49ers wins.
San Francisco racked up 369 yards on the No. 3-ranked defense in the NFL, so this quieted all critics that noted the “weak opponent” aspect of the prior three victories. Garoppolo completed 21 of 30 attempts for 242 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Running backs Carlos Hyde and Matt Breida combined for 128 yards on 32 carries, the last one being Breida’s 30-yard scamper that clinched the game for the 49ers. This combined success on the ground and through the air resulted in a 10-for-15 effort on third downs and four-of-six TD efficiency in the red zone.
Even though Jacksonville gained 472 yards in the game, the 49ers secondary intercepted Jags QB Blake Bortles three times, including one pick-six TD that led to the early lead. The S.F. defense stuffed the Jacksonville running game all day, allowing just 92 yards on 28 carries.
The interceptions were huge, as the 49ers had just seven INTs all season prior to this game. In addition, the S.F. defense held the Jags to just 5-of-13 third-down conversions, which played a big part in the 49ers’ ability to open up the big early and second-half leads.
Special Teams: B
This was a mixed bag that luckily did not come back to haunt San Francisco. Up 16-0 in the second quarter, placekicker Robbie Gould has his PAT attempt blocked and returned for a safety, which jumpstarted the first Jacksonville comeback. Fortune came back the 49ers’ way late when Jags kicker Josh Lambo missed his own PAT, which changed the final-minute dynamics tremendously in San Francisco’s favor.
The young 49ers now know they can play with the best teams in the league. After all, the Jags beat Pittsburgh this season and won the AFC South. The San Francisco coaching staff deserves a lot of credit for putting up so many points on the stingiest scoring defense in the NFL. Garoppolo gets better every week, and the offense solved its red-zone issues against a quality opponent. The sky is the limit for the 49ers in 2018.
Up Next: Los Angeles Rams
San Francisco closes out its 2017 regular season in Los Angeles next Sunday against the NFC West Division champion Rams (11-5). Now that the 49ers have proven they can beat the league’s best at home, it will be their chance to prove they can do it on the road, too. Of course, San Francisco’s only two wins in 2016 came against L.A., and the two teams played an exciting game on Thursday Night Football earlier this season at Levi’s Stadium, with the Rams winning, 41-39.
But a lot has changed since then for San Francisco, hasn’t it? It should be a good game, with L.A. still fighting for a first-round playoff bye in the NFC postseason.