A rare thing happened this morning around the water coolers of America — people were saying “did you watch the game last night? It was fun.”
Why is that rare? Because the two teams involved, the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers, don’t exactly have the connection of being “fun” or even more specifically, they don’t have the recent reputation of being watched.
Unexpected: The Rams and 49ers played in the most exciting Thursday Night Football game in the history of the NFL.
The final score of 41-39 wasn’t on anyone’s radar and it shouldn’t have been. The 49ers hadn’t scored a touchdown in the first two weeks, but Thursday night was different. Way different. In a game that wasn’t made for lovers of a staunch defense, scoring was the main ingredient and made the case that these two young teams have some firepower once they put everything together.
Expected: The Rams failed to take the easy path to a victory.
A young team with a young coach is bound to make some mental errors, and that’s clearly what happened tonight. WR Tavon Austin muffed a punt, their off-side penalty on a 49ers 4th down gave them a new set of downs, and the Rams bungled the off-side kick near the end of regulation. Thankfully, this didn’t cost them the game, but may have taken some years off the lives of Rams fans.
Unexpected: The Rams defense is no longer their strong suit.
It seemed like just yesterday that the Rams were able to hang their hat on the fact that they pretty much have a top-10 defense that would have to carry the shaky offense led by Jared Goff. The tables have turned rather quickly with the reemergence of RB Todd Gurley, an impressive arsenal of pass catchers, and a newly confident quarterback. And the defense? Woof. Simply put: they gave up 39 points to the San Francisco 49ers led by QB Brian Hoyer. Let’s get some wrenches and fix this. Quick.
Expected: Aaron Donald provided heroics in the clutch like the star that he is.
With a thrilling sack in a 41-39 game with 1:50 left on 4th down, DT Aaron Donald capped off a strong performance. And it feels like he’s only going to get better.
Aaron Donald sealed victory for the Rams...then he took us inside the house and made us pancakes pic.twitter.com/FKwYYT9rWw— Brandon Bate (@NoPlanB_) September 22, 2017
The rest of defense did have some moments as well — LB Mark Barron had a clutch tackle in the red zone late in the game, and LB Mark Longacre, LB Connor Barwin, and DE Morgan Fox all made their presence felt with a sack (four sacks total).
Unexpected: Three passing touchdowns for Jared Goff AND Three touchdowns for Todd Gurley
These two have been playing well, but this evening was a breakout performance for both of them. This was by far Jared Goff’s best game as a pro and it was arguably Todd Gurley’s most dominant game as well. What was most surprising was how they came off like superstars, as if they have completely put 2016 behind them.
Expected: WR Sammy Watkins is a special player
That deep ball from Jared Goff to Sammy was a gift to Rams fans — it was a tantalizing promise of what we could have more of in the future. With 6 catches on 106 yards and two touchdowns, Watkins finally made a connection with Jared Goff. And the best part? It felt like they are just scratching the surface. With a legit #1 receiver in Watkins, the Rams will be able to keep hanging 40+ points in a game. C’mon! Look at this play:
That’s worth a second round pick and E.J. Gaines, right?
Before the game, the national sports media was quick to dismiss this Rams-49ers matchup as a dog that shouldn’t be watched — and it’s safe to say that the wildest Thursday night game in history was anything but expected.