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The San Francisco 49ers came into Week 13 as one of the hottest teams in the NFL, but the Baltimore Ravens came in even hotter, and they left with a victory in one of the most anticipated cross-conference showdowns of the week, claiming a 20-17 win thanks to more Lamar Jackson athleticism and a 49-yard go-ahead field goal by Justin Tucker as time expired.
Both sides wasted little time getting on the scoreboard in Sunday's affair, with the Niners striking first on a ridiculous adjustment by Deebo Samuel on a fourth-down heave by Jimmy Garoppolo and the Ravens responding after a strip-sack with Lamar Jackson's floater to Mark Andrews. Jackson's legs helped Baltimore enter halftime with a narrow lead, while the rainy conditions seemed to aid San Francisco's long second-quarter scoring run, when Raheem Mostert avoided a number of tackles to knot the game at 14.
Things stayed close entering the fourth and final quarter, with both Baltimore and San Francisco logging a turnover en route to a 17-17 gridlock. The teams also traded fourth-down stops as the minutes wound down, before Jackson led the game-winning drive and set up Tucker's 14th career game-winning FG.
Let's take a deeper dive into how the Ravens survived the 49ers on Sunday afternoon:
Why the Ravens won
On a rainy day in Baltimore, Greg Roman got only 105 passing yards from Lamar Jackson, but fortunately for the Ravens the NFL's leading MVP candidate isn't an MVP candidate just because of his arm. Jackson was unsurprisingly active on the ground Sunday, and he made just about every carry count, leading Baltimore with 101 yards (6.6 yards per rush), including a second-quarter score that capped a 13-play drive and put the home team ahead by seven.
John Harbaugh's aggressiveness also contributed to the win, with the Ravens converting two of three fourth-down tries, including a crucial one late in the fourth. The defense surrendered too many chunk plays early on but rebounded with some timely stops, while the weather also played a factor, allowing the Ravens to lean on their ground game against a so-so 49ers run defense.
Why the 49ers lost
San Francisco had quite a few splash plays early on, none bigger than Deebo Samuel's inexplicable touchdown catch on the Niners' opening drive. Raheem Mostert also headlined Kyle Shanahan's ground attack with ease, averaging nearly eight yards a carry to total 146 yards against Baltimore. But for whatever reason, they never seemed completely in rhythm, with Jimmy Garoppolo struggling to connect on any big passes (save for the first-drive Samuel score).
More so, the defense -- particularly the front four -- was predictably neutralized by Jackson's speed. Dominant as the 49ers may be, they couldn't keep up with the Ravens signal-caller, and his mobility was a factor all afternoon.
This thing was tied up for most of the afternoon, so our game-changing moment came with just under six and a half minutes to play. The 49ers had just stopped the Ravens on fourth down and were moving into Baltimore territory before facing their own fourth-and-1 at their opponent's 35. But a Jimmy Garoppolo incompletion, prompted by Shanahan's understandable decision not to rely on Robbie Gould for a long kick in the rain, gave the Ravens the ball with plenty of time to operate. From that point forward, Jackson and Co. simply played their game, kept the ball on the ground and milked the clock en route to the game-winner from Tucker.
Play of the game
It didn't necessarily change the game since it came in the first quarter, but Samuel's 33-yard TD catch from Garoppolo was easily the most highlight-reel-worthy act of the afternoon. Under any other circumstances, Garoppolo's pass, thrown up in the air into double coverage on a fourth-and-1, would've easily been batted down or intercepted, but somehow, some way, Samuel maneuvered around Marcus Peters to come down with the ball and cross the goal line with ease, putting the 49ers up 7-0.
"I was on the sideline the whole time praying ... We chasing something right now. I'm chasing one thing right now." -- Lamar Jackson
Jackson was giddy talking with Pam Oliver after FOX's broadcast of the game, first saying he was proud of Tucker's game-winning kick and then addressing more speculation about his MVP odds. Jackson remains insistent that he's focused not on winning awards but winning Baltimore a title, and with each passing week, it's becoming harder not to believe him.
The Ravens (10-2) will hit the road for Week 14 with a 1 p.m. ET showdown with the Buffalo Bills (9-3) on Sunday, Dec. 8. The 49ers (10-2), meanwhile, will visit the New Orleans Saints (10-2) in a potential NFC Championship preview, kicking off at the same time on Dec. 8.
Relive all the action from Sunday's anticipated NFC clash right here: