Gould, Garoppolo guide 49ers past Titans at gun
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — There are few things the San Francisco 49ers do better than most NFL teams. Kicking field goals is one of them.
So when the playoff-contending Tennessee Titans got into a soccer-style shootout with Robbie Gould on Sunday afternoon, it turned out to be a critical mistake.
Gould’s career-best sixth field goal of the day, a 45-yarder on the final play of the game, allowed the 49ers to overtake the Titans 25-23, handing Tennessee a damaging defeat.
The Titans (8-6), who were tied for the AFC South lead two weeks ago on the eve of road contests against the bottom two in the NFC West, now find themselves two games behind Jacksonville (10-4). To keep its division-title hopes alive, Tennessee needs the 49ers to win a fourth straight game next week against the Jaguars.
“To lose to two sorry teams like that, I’m at a loss for words,” Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said of the 49ers and Arizona Cardinals, who beat Tennessee 12-7 last week.
The defeat also dropped the Titans into a tie with Buffalo (8-6) and Baltimore (8-6) for the two AFC wild-card positions.
Gould’s 20th consecutive successful field goal came 67 seconds after Ryan Succop nailed a 50-yarder to give the Titans a 23-22 lead.
The win was the third in a row for the 49ers (4-10) since promoting Jimmy Garoppolo to starting quarterback. The ex-New England Patriot passed for a career-best 381 yards and a second-quarter touchdown to tight end Garrett Celek.
“Obviously the guys believe in Jimmy,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “But they all believe in each other, too.”
Gould accounted for all the San Francisco scoring other than Garoppolo’s touchdown pass. His field goals came from 38, 48, 28, 50, 48 and 45 yards.
“We talked a few weeks ago about making a run,” said Gould, whose team began the season 0-9 and 1-10 before Garoppolo took over at quarterback. “We’re coming together as a team. I think you’re starting to see that.”
Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin had 10 catches for 114 yards for the 49ers, who won at home for just the second time this season.
Succop went 3-for-3 on field goal attempts and Marcus Mariota threw for 241 and two touchdowns for the Titans, who were playing their final road game of the season.
Mariota fired TD passes to tight end Delanie Walker and wide receiver Rishard Matthews as the Titans rallied from a 16-3 deficit to take 20-16 and 23-22 leads in the fourth quarter.
However, down 22-20 with 1:20 to go and with a chance to get a key first down on third-and-2 that could have set up their own shot at a game-winning kick, the Titans elected to run DeMarco Murray up the middle.
He was stopped for no gain, and while Succop followed with a go-ahead kick, the 49ers were left with enough time to respond.
“I thought he would cram it in there and get 2 yards,” said Mariota, who blamed himself for not changing the play at the line of scrimmage.
Said Titans coach Mike Mularkey, “We didn’t want to take a sack. Felt like we had a good play call based on the fronts we were getting. Obviously, they stopped us, but (we) certainly didn’t want to lose any yards.”
Matthews finished with 95 receiving yards on six catches for the Titans, who were outgained 414-328 by the 49ers.
Succop’s field goals came from 40, 31 and 50 yards.
Gould’s fifth field goal gave the 49ers a 22-20 lead with 3:08 to play. It capped a 49ers drive that began with a 54-yard pass from Garoppolo to rookie Kendrick Bourne and nearly ended when Trent Taylor fumbled into the end zone after catching a pass.
Offensive guard Laken Tomlinson saved the game for the 49ers when he recovered in the end zone, and even though the score was negated by an offensive pass-interference penalty, San Francisco retained possession, allowing Gould to get a shot at a go-ahead field goal.
Mariota then drove the Titans to their go-ahead score with 1:07 left. However, Tennessee left just enough time for Garoppolo to complete three consecutive passes for 45 yards, positioning Gould in a familiar spot.
“One of my favorite looks,” he said. “I get that a lot in practice.”
The Titans trailed 16-3 in the second quarter and 16-10 at halftime, but they marched down the field for scores on each of their first two drives of the second half. Tennessee took its first lead of the game on Mariota’s second TD pass of the day, an 8-yarder to Matthews with 13:31 left in the game.
The 49ers then drove to the Tennessee 16 on their next possession, but Garoppolo lost 6 yards when he caught his own pass that had been deflected and another 10 when sacked on third down by Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard.
They had to settle for Gould’s fourth field goal of the game, a 50-yarder that cut Tennessee’s lead to 20-19 with 8:27 to go.
The 49ers dominated the first 28 1/2 minutes, building a 16-3 lead on the strength of Garoppolo’s 18-for-26, 189-yard first half.
However, three of San Francisco’s four scoring drives resulted only in field goals, allowing the Titans to stay within striking distance.
The Titans, limited to 57 yards to that point, went 79 yards in just six plays in their rally-igniting drive to Walker’s 4-yard touchdown catch that made it a 16-10 game at halftime.
NOTES: Tennessee (8-6) hosts Jacksonville (10-4) on the final weekend of the regular season. ... San Francisco PK Robbie Gould had made five field goals in a game twice previously in his career, both coming earlier this season (vs. Arizona and Chicago). ... Gould became the third NFL kicker to make six field goals in a game this season, joining Minnesota’s Kai Forbath and the Los Angeles Rams’ Greg Zuerlein. ... The record for field goals in a game, coincidentally, is held by a Titan — PK Rob Bironas, who made eight at Houston in 2007. ... Niners QB Jimmy Garoppolo had to change helmets during the first drive of the game because of communication issues. The 49ers had to use a timeout just two plays into the game because of the problem.