With a playoff berth on the line, and down by 17, the San Francisco 49ers had to utilize anything and everything to prevent themselves from starting the 2022 offseason on Monday, January 10.
They used trick plays on the Los Angeles Rams. They turned to the running game to wear down the All-Pros and conference’s best pass rush on the opposite side. They unleashed their defensive linemen twists to rattle an NFL Offensive Player of the Year candidate behind center. They rode with a quarterback with a torn ligament in his throwing hand. They fed the ball to their most dynamic playmaker on handoffs and in the passing game…
But the 49ers also had a “secret weapon” in their disposal, as noted by Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle.
And this weapon surely caught the Rams by surprise in the 49ers’ climatic 27-24 comeback win over the Rams in overtime…and became the toast of 49ers Twitter after the game: Jauan Jennings.
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Jennings Has Career-Defining Game
Before the critical Sunday, January 9 contest with a postseason berth on the line, Jennings had never caught anything past three passes in every NFL game he played in the 2021 season.
But at SoFi Stadium, plus in front of the mix of 49er and Ram fans who sat in the 74,447 seats that were occupied in this NFC West showdown, Jennings found ways to sneak behind the Rams’ front seven and deliver game and career-defining plays — becoming that “secret weapon” as Killion described.
It all began late in the third quarter when it was Deebo Samuel feeding his fellow wide receiver the football:
But then along came the catch that forced overtime: Jennings going underneath the three deep Ram defensive backs and going untouched past the goal line afterward.
And, while this was a non-touchdown play, this catch-and-run still set up the eventual winning points of the afternoon:
Jennings was once a seventh round wide receiver out of the University of Tennessee. He also had never hauled in six catches or surpassed the 80-yard mark in a single game. But inside the “Rams House,” or a 49ers home venue as Samuel pointed out after the game in this Heavy on 49ers story, Jennings became the secretive option the 49ers turned to and got bombarded with praise afterwards.
Cameron Salerno of the Sacramento Bee called Jennings “a big reason why the 49ers beat the Rams.”
The account @OurSF49ers called Jennings “clutch money.”
Marc Adams of 49ers Webzone began to believe Jennings is filling a void left behind by one former third rounder of the 49ers.
One fan even declared that Jennings is an upgrade over ex-49er Kendrick Bourne.
And the highest graded 49ers offensive player? David Lombardi of The Athletic tweeted out who on Monday morning:
49ers All-Pro ‘Feeds Off’ Jennings’ Energy
As a captain and All-Pro tight end, George Kittle is often relied upon to be the tone setter of the 49ers’ offense. But after the win, Kittle revealed to reporters where his energy came from in Inglewood.
“I feed off Jauan’s energy,” Kittle said. “He feeds off mine. He definitely, no matter what the play is, always brings it 100 percent. When you have guys like that on the team, it makes it easier to play football.”
He wasn’t the only 49er who raved about Jennings. Head coach Kyle Shanahan said the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder had a growth spurt on the field in that playoffs or bust game.
“Jauan was a man today,” Shanahan said. “I love Jauan. You guys see the passion he plays with. You don’t want to tame it, but you’ve got to try to a little bit. But the fire he brings to the game is unbelievable.”
Jennings left it all on the line — and let his emotions spill over postgame.