By Mitch Stacy | The Associated Press
CINCINNATI (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers took what the Bengals gave them and stayed in the playoff race.
Mistake-prone Cincinnati, however, made its path to the postseason more difficult.
Jimmy Garoppolo threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Aiyuk and the 49ers beat Cincinnati 26-23 in overtime Sunday. Garoppolo completed five passes in the overtime drive, including a pair to tight end George Kittle, who was again San Francisco’s offensive star.
“They made some amazing plays, George Kittle with some big catches,” Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard said. “We felt like we were going to win that game.”
On the final play, Aiyuk dived to the pylon and was initially ruled short, but a replay gave him the touchdown and San Francisco (7-6) a critical win.
“I looked at the ref and he seemed pretty sure I was not in,” Aiyuk said. “A lot of challenges hadn’t been going my way the last couple of weeks, so I was a little bit nervous. When I saw the replay, I knew I was in.”
Evan McPherson hit a 41-yard field goal on the opening possession of overtime to give the Bengals (7-6) a brief lead, their first of the day.
San Francisco’s Robbie Gould missed a 47-yard field goal with 4 seconds left in regulation that would have won it.
That came after Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow found Ja’Marr Chase for two fourth-quarter touchdowns — the first on fourth-and-5 from the Niners’ 17 — to claw back from a 20-6 deficit and tie the game with 1:19 left.
Deebo Samuel rushed for another score for San Francisco.
The Bengals had trouble getting out of their own way in the first half and lost their second straight, squandering a chance to take advantage of losses by AFC North foes Baltimore and Pittsburgh this week.
Two fumbled punts by Cincinnati returner Darius Phillips led to 10 first-half points for the 49ers. A taunting call against Bengals safety Vonn Bell extended the second of those Niners drives, which ended in a 14-yard TD pass from Garoppolo to Kittle that gave San Francisco a 17-6 halftime lead.
“Can’t beat yourself,” Hubbard said. “Can’t make the mistakes we have been making the last few weeks and win games.”
Garoppolo was 27 for 41 for 296 yards and two touchdowns. Burrow was 25 for 34 for 348 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked five times after going down a season-high six times in the 41-22 loss to the Chargers on Dec. 5.
Cincinnati’s Tee Higgins had five catches for 114 yards. Chase had five for 77 yards and the two late TDs.
The 49ers currently are the sixth seed in the NFC race, and the Bengals dropped to the ninth seed behind the Browns, who beat the Ravens on Sunday.
“If we just keep winning, we don’t have to look at anybody else,” San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said.
KITTLE KEEPS GOING
Kittle had 13 catches for 151 yards and a TD. That came after a great individual performance a week ago, when he caught nine passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-23 loss to Seattle. That was the first multi-touchdown game of his career. He has six TDs in his last six games.
“We tried everything,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “He’s one of the best tight ends, we knew that. I promise you, we tried like hell to stop him.”
Said Garoppolo: “George showed up today.”
UP AND DOWN
San Francisco managed to string together three straight wins last month before losing to Seattle on Dec. 5, and then turned around to beat the Bengals. Cincinnati hasn’t been able to win more than two in a row this season and has lost the last two.
San Francisco defensive end Nick Bosa had two sacks of his LSU buddy Burrow, giving him a career-high 14 for the season for 114 yards. … Bengals running back Joe Mixon went over 1,000 rushing yards for the season, and Chase eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards. … Burrow said he had about 85% velocity with a sore pinky finger on his throwing hand that he had dislocated a week ago.
49ers: LB Azeez Al-Shaair left with an elbow injury in the third quarter and didn’t return.
Bengals: DE Trey Hendrickson suffered a back injury in the second quarter and was ruled out. … RT Riley Reiff left with a left ankle injury in the fourth quarter and didn’t return.
49ers: host Atlanta next Sunday.
Bengals: at Denver next Sunday.
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