Dontae Johnson had never blocked a field goal.
“Not in high school, middle school – never since I started playing,” he said.
But he did on Sunday, firing off the right edge of the 49ers’ defense and getting a hand on Greg Zuerlein’s 48-yard attempt in overtime. The block prevented the winning score for the Rams and gave the 49ers one last possession, which ended with Phil Dawson’s 23-yard game-winning field goal.
Dawson was 4 of 4 on his attempts and has been excellent from 50-plus yards throughout his career. However, when the 49ers had a chance at a 55-yard field goal at the end of regulation, Jim Tomsula chose to punt.
Never miss a local story.
Tomsula said the wind was in Dawson’s face at the time and that it was decidedly more difficult to kick into the north end of the field on Sunday. Dawson said he had no problem with the decision.
“Fifty-five yards, into the wind, St. Louis had two time outs left – no, that’s a low-percentage kick,” Dawson said. “If you miss that, now they’re two first downs from kicking a 50-yard field goal with the wind at their back. And they have a strong-legged kicker.”
Johnson said he hasn’t gotten many opportunities to block field goals because the starting cornerbacks are used on the edges on the block units. However, he started the past two games at right cornerback, which gave him a chance Sunday.
Bowman strong – Linebacker NaVorro Bowman finished the season with a career-high 154 tackles and said that next year should be even better for him.
“I had several missed tackles this year where I felt I could have made them but I didn’t,” said the inside linebacker, who missed the 2014 season because of a badly injured knee. “Guys were still pushing me and saying that I was doing a good job. All of those things continue to drive me to fight throughout the year.”
What may be more encouraging than Bowman’s tackle total is that he played nearly every snap for the 49ers this year. He said he plans to go through “a tremendous workout every single day” in the offseason and that he’ll be even healthier next season.
Brooks sits – For the second time in two seasons, outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks spent most of the game on the sideline after losing his cool.
During the second quarter, he struck Rams center Tim Barnes in the face mask in plain view of the officials and drew a 15-yard penalty. That turned a third-and-12 scenario for the Rams into a first down, and they scored a field goal on the drive.
As has been the case at various points over the past two seasons, Brooks was sent to the bench and remained there for the rest of the first half. He played sparingly in the second half.
Brooks was benched last year after arguing about playing time with then-defensive line coach Tomsula during a game against the Giants. He missed another game that season after being late for a team meeting.
Earlier this season in Chicago, Brooks threw his helmet on the 49ers’ sideline, which earned him a brief benching from Tomsula. Brooks later re-entered that game.
Brooks and offensive lineman Erik Pears finished the season tied for the team lead in penalties with 11. Seven of Brooks’ penalties have been defensive offside or neutral-zone infractions.
Average at best – Mike Davis’ first run of the game went for a season-high 13 yards. The 49ers rookie entered the game with 24 yards on 25 carries and was in danger of becoming only the second runner since the merger to average less than one yard an attempt with at least 25 carries.
Davis, a fourth-round pick, instead finished the day with 10 carries for 34 yards. He ended the season averaging 1.7 yards per carry.
Et cetera – With Quinton Dial out because of a back injury, Arik Armstead (Pleasant Grove High School) made his first start of the season on the defensive line. The first-round draft pick finished with one tackle and one quarterback hit.
▪ DuJuan Harris became the fifth running back to start for the 49ers this season. He finished with 153 combined rushing and receiving yards and had a game-high eight receptions.
▪ Banners that have been unflattering to team CEO Jed York have flown over Levi’s Stadium for the past three home games. Sunday’s read: “Jed, here’s our banner – where’s yours?”