49ers clinch playoff berth in overtime thriller with Rams

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  • Los Angeles Rams
    Los Angeles Rams
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  • San Francisco 49ers
    San Francisco 49ers
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  • Jauan Jennings
    Jauan Jennings
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  • Ambry Thomas
    Ambry Thomas
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  • Jimmy Garoppolo
    Jimmy Garoppolo
    American football player

The San Francisco 49ers punched their ticket to the postseason as Ambry Thomas' overtime interception clinched a dramatic 27-24 comeback win over the Los Angeles Rams.

San Francisco went into the Week 18 clash knowing a win would see them reach the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. A loss would allow the New Orleans Saints, who cruised past the Atlanta Falcons, to sneak in and claim the final Wild Card berth.

The latter outcome looked the more likely when the Rams surged to a 17-0 lead and, even though the Niners got a field goal before half-time, San Francisco still faced an uphill battle.

However, Deebo Samuel scored a touchdown on the ground and then threw another to Jauan Jennings on a trick play to tie things up.

A juggling interception of Jimmy Garoppolo by Jalen Ramsey in the endzone followed by a Matthew Stafford strike to Cooper Kupp put the Rams in a seemingly commanding position at 24-17.

However, Garoppolo - playing with a torn ligament in his right thumb - led a five-play, 88-yard drive that finished with him connecting with Jennings, forced overtime at SoFi Stadium.

The 49ers won the coin toss and a 12-play, 69-yard drive on which Jennings featured heavily set up a Robbie Gould field goal to give San Francisco the lead for the first time.

And it was an advantage they held as Stafford's deep shot for Odell Beckham Jr. was plucked out of the air by rookie cornerback Thomas to set up a mouth-watering Wild Card matchup with the Niners' historic rivals the Dallas Cowboys.

For Los Angeles, it is a sixth successive defeat to the 49ers, though they still won the NFC West after the Seattle Seahawks beat the Arizona Cardinals, whom the Rams will host in the opening round of the playoffs.

Saints come up short

The Saints made light work of the Falcons despite a Lisfranc injury to quarterback Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemian tossing two touchdown passes in relief of the starter.

New Orleans' vaunted defense forced three Falcons turnovers as they dictated matters throughout but a 30-20 victory proved immaterial as the Saints were left to wonder what might have been.

Elsewhere in the NFC South, Tom Brady threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns as the 44-year-old became the oldest player to throw for 5,000 yards in a season in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 41-17 rout of the Panthers, which clinched the second seed in the NFC for Tampa.

Cardinals' costly missed opportunity

With the Niners prevailing, the Cardinals would have won the NFC West had they beaten Seattle, and they looked to be on course to do so after James Conner's second touchdown gave them a 24-17 lead in the third quarter.

But Russell Wilson hit Freddie Swain for a 25-yard touchdown to tie the game and a fumbled punt by Andy Lee on his own goal-line set Wilson up for a four-yard run to give Seattle a lead they did not relinquish, going on to triumph 38-30.

By contrast, the Buffalo Bills did not waste their chance to win the AFC, doing so with a routine 27-10 defeat of the New York Jets. The Bills would still have secured the division had they lost as the New England Patriots went down to a 33-24 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

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