49ers come up short against Ravens
BALTIMORE — The San Francisco 49ers proved Sunday they can hang with an elite team on the road.
Next step? Showing they can beat the NFL’s best away from home.
“We had every chance to win that game,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said after absorbing a 20-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Neither rain, wind nor the 49ers’ top-ranked defense could prevent Lamar Jackson from guiding the Ravens to their franchise-record eighth straight win.
Jackson weathered miserable conditions to run for 101 yards and Justin Tucker kicked a tiebreaking 49-yard field goal as time expired to give the Ravens the victory.
With both teams now standing at 10-2, who’s to say there won’t be a Super Bowl rematch?
“Hopefully, we can earn an opportunity to maybe get the chance to play them some other time again,” Shanahan said.
Rather than look too far ahead, the 49ers will turn their immediate focus toward facing another team with championship aspirations. On Sunday, San Francisco plays in New Orleans against the Saints (10-2), who have already clinched the NFL South.
The winner gets the edge on claiming home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees will present the 49ers’ defense with a more traditional challenge. The veteran pocket passer will be a welcome sight after they were forced to deal with the Ravens’ Jackson, a dual threat who made San Francisco alter its usual tactic of relentlessly pressuring the quarterback.
Jackson passed for 105 yards and a touchdown and ran for 101 yards and a score. He directed the decisive drive, a 12-play, 34-yard march that culminated in Tucker’s field goal as time expired.
The possession lasted nearly 6½ minutes. Jackson went 3 for 3 for 27 yards and used his legs to convert on third down and fourth down.
“He’s going to make some plays,” Shanahan said of Jackson. “We had to change some stuff up and run some fronts a little bit different. I was happy with the scheme we put in, how the guys executed it.”
Still, it must be noted that San Francisco came in with the league’s top-ranked defense and a unit that forced an NFL-best 36 three-and-outs. Baltimore didn’t go three plays before punting even once.
Both teams played at their best in a steady downpour, producing a game that lived up to its advance billing.
“It was amazing. It was like a playoff atmosphere,” said 49ers safety Marcell Harris, who forced Jackson into his first lost fumble of the year.
Not that the weather bothered Harris, who’s surely seen similar rain and wind on more than one occasion in raw San Francisco.
“It wasn’t that bad,” he said. “I know it was raining and kind of cold, but at the end of the day, it’s ball.”
San Francisco’s rushing attack, second in the league entering play Sunday, stalled early in a driving rain before Raheem Mostert energized the offense. Mostert ran for a career-high 146 yards and scored a touchdown on a 40-yard jaunt against the Ravens, one of three teams he played for in his rookie year of 2015.
“I really wanted to show the organization what they were missing out on,” he said.