Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

49ers-Bengals Quotebook: Praise for Jauan Jennings; Ambry Thomas evaluation; No stopping George; Would 49ers have gone for a tie?

Dec 12, 2021 at 8:41 PM--

How did 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan view the efforts of wide receiver Jauan Jennings and cornerback Ambry Thomas in the 26-23 overtime win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday? And would he have played for a tie if the situation presented itself?

And what, if anything, could the Bengals have done to stop George Kittle?

Those topics were among a large number of items that came up after an eventful game. Here's a rundown of some miscellaneous quotes to come out of Sunday's game from both teams.

* Jennings steps up: The 49ers have an emerging young wide receiver in Jauan Jennings, who had three catches for 43 yards in the game, including a key 25-yard catch in overtime. A seventh-round pick in the 2020 draft out of the University of Tennessee, Jennings was a practice squad player as a rookie, but has since become an important depth piece at wide receiver and is earning more trust with each game.

"It gets stronger each week," Shanahan said following Sunday's game. "Jauan's a guy that plays with a lot of energy, a lot of passion. It's one of the reasons he makes the plays he does. He's been great for us this past month, whether he's catching the ball, whether he's not. He's just a very good football player out there, I thought that was a huge play that he made on the sideline that helped get us down there."

* Ambry Thomas' first start: Third-round pick Ambry Thomas has had a mostly quiet season as a rookie, but he was pressed into his first NFL start at cornerback against the Bengals due to an ankle injury to Emmanuel Moseley and the death of Dontae Johnson's mother. How did he do? It wasn't perfect, with two penalties for illegal hands to the face being the low points of his first start. But given the situation, Shanahan was satisfied with what he saw.

"Just watching him play when he was out there, I know it was a tough game because of those two penalties and what happened on those two penalties," Shanahan said. "So I know that sticks out. I think he had his hands to the face on both of them. I saw one of them—he just slipped up and hit the guy on the chin. I didn't see the other one. But I thought he held his own for the most part today."

* Coming through in the clutch: It seemed like the 49ers were on the ropes after the Bengals rallied from a 20-6 deficit to eventually take a 23-20 lead in overtime. But the team stayed poised, due in part to the leadership of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Garoppolo led the 49ers on the game-winning drive, which was capped with a 12-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. Aiyuk told reporters Garoppolo was confident the 49ers would win, and that confidence carried over to the rest of the team.

"Jimmy's a dog," Aiyuk said. "He's a dog. When we're all in the huddle and the quarterback has no doubt we're going to go down and win games, everybody feels it."

Garoppolo said the entire team remained calm as the game got tight and even got excited after the overtime field goal, knowing they now had a chance to get the win.

"No magic words or anything, but I think just guys looking at each other in the eyes," Garoppolo said. "Guys knew we've been here before, we've done this before, and we've just got to go finish the game. After they hit the field goal, there was an excitement on the sideline. You could feel we just needed a touchdown to go win it, and that's what we did."

* Playing for a tie? The 49ers were fortunate enough to get the win on their final play, but what would Shanahan have done if a fourth down situation arose and he had to choose between a win and a field goal?

It sounds like he would have most likely taken the tie, which isn't the most exciting option but would have been the smart one considering what a loss would have done in the 49ers' chase for a Wild Card berth.

"It's very hard to end with a tie, but it's not always the smartest thing to do to go off those emotions," Shanahan said. "It's important to us that we didn't lose this game. If it had been a reasonable fourth down, just as a normal situation there's a chance we would have gone for it, but we never looked at it as four-down territory."

* Equally frustrating: The 49ers gave up 16 unanswered points in their 30-23 road loss to the Seattle Seahawks last week and almost had a similar collapse when they lost a 20-6 lead against the Bengals this week. It seems like a loss this week would have been even tougher to swallow given that the 49ers were in control in the third quarter as opposed to the back-and-forth affair they were in with the Seahawks, but Shanahan says it wouldn't have surpassed the frustration he felt after losing in Seattle.

"I'd like to say more than usual because there were some frustrating parts, but I don't know if I can be more frustrated than I was last week, so it probably would have been equal," Shanahan said.

* Nothing could stop George Kittle: After catching nine passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns against the Seahawks, the 49ers got another monster game from tight end George Kittle, who had 13 catches for 151 yards and one touchdown against the Bengals. According to StatMuse, Kittle's performance against the Bengals set a record for the most games (four) of 150 yards with one touchdown by a tight end.

Was there anything the Bengals could have done to stop him? It doesn't sound like it.

"We tried everything," head coach Zac Taylor said. "He's one of the best tight ends. We've known that for a long time. He had similar production last week. I think he almost had 200 yards receiving, and it's not like he surprises people. You saw the catch he made that almost won them the game in regulation that put them in field goal range. When a guy is that explosive and that big, that good of hands, that catch radius, he makes a lot of plays. I promise you we tried like hell to take him away, and he finds a way to make those plays."

* Burrow on 49ers D: Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow had a solid game against the 49ers, throwing for 348 yards and two touchdowns while almost leading his team to a come-from-behind win. But he and the Bengals offense didn't get as much as they wanted for most of the first three quarters, which he praised the 49ers for after the game.

"They were playing two-high the whole game," Burrow said. "Teams are daring us to run the ball. They played one-high one snap the whole game and we threw it over their head for what was close to a touchdown. So they had a good plan. They did. They were able to maintain their two-high shell and still get a seventh guy in the box to defend the run. In that second half we started to figure it out a little bit."

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