Fred Warner had played almost two complete seasons, 30 games overall, before getting his first interception in the NFL.
But when it finally came, it was at just the right moment.
The linebacker picked off Rams quarterback Jared Goff just before halftime Saturday night and returned the ball 46 yards for a touchdown to give San Francisco its first lead of the game at 24-21 – they had trailed early, by 14-3 and 21-10 scores – en route to a significant 34-31 victory over visiting Los Angeles that puts the Niners in position to earn the NFC West championship and a first-round bye for the NFC playoffs.
At 12-3, the 49ers lead the Seahawks (11-4) going into the regular-season finale in Seattle Sunday. The 49ers need to beat the Seahawks, who defeated the 49ers in overtime earlier this season.
For Warner, it was a huge game against the Rams. He was in on 11 tackles, including four solo run stops, and earned the best grade of the day on the 49ers defense, according to the analytic website Pro Football Focus.
Warner, an athletic linebacker from BYU who has been terrific in both run and pass coverage his first two seasons, said he was just following his assignment on the play when he made his interception.
“Do your job, that’s all that was,” Warner said on the NFL Network after the game. “Man coverage, I got the back. I hung up (with him) and he threw it to me, that’s it.”
Warner’s teammate, veteran cornerback Richard Sherman, said it was just what the 49ers needed and helped fuel the comeback in a must-win game.
“Fred makes a huge play – pick-six, the first of his career,” Sherman told reporters. “It’s a pick-six in a big game.”
With the victory, Warner is looking forward to the matchup in Seattle. He likes that the Niners control their destiny.
“Everything depends on us,” he said.
Kickoff for Sunday’s game is set for 5:20 p.m.