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Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers 2nd Down, second guessing: The Professor’s review

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Welcome back, AD!

Los Angeles Rams v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

A defensive gem

The Los Angeles Rams took their vaunted offense up to the Bay area and let the defense do the job. The Rams Lock Down Los Angeles defense was outstanding. In clearly their best game of the year, they finally looked like the unit fans expected coming into the season.

DT Aaron Donald finally showed why he was highest paid defensive player in the game for at least one day. After a slow start to the season due to his holdout, he had the best game of his career with four sacks and a strip fumble. The Rams’ defense, which appears to coming together at the right time in the last two weeks, was able to force four turnovers as the offense, which didn’t have a great game on their own, converted them into twenty-four points.

As a diehard, watching the Rams’ defensive line treat the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive line like rag dolls was extremely pleasurable. The result was the Rams delivering a beatdown 39-10 win against their hated rival.

The Rams’ win keeps them undefeated, but their true destiny will be sealed depending on how they play their next four games. This starts with the QB Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers at home and following this up with the 5-1 New Orleans Saints in the Superdome. This match could well be a preview of the NFC Championship game even more likely to be the battle for gaining the home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Then, the Rams come home against the Seattle Seahawks whom they were barely able to beat on the road and after that travel to Mexico to face the 6-1 Kansas City Chiefs in a possible Super Bowl LIII preview.

Looking back at the 49ers game, the Rams cannot rest. They must keep improving.

The Rams’ offense

QB Jared Goff had a bad day. Although he was 18 of 24 for 202 yards, there were plenty of plays where he missed. He wasn’t as accurate as we have normally seen. Many of his throws were high and off the mark. Normally, throwing the ball over the receivers head is sign of nerves. He just didn’t seen relaxed in the pocket even though he plenty of time to get the ball to wideouts. Early on, he threw a ball three feet over a wide open TE Gerald Everett and almost got picked off. There was no reason for a hard and fast throw when a simple easy toss would have picked up the first down.

Goff hasn’t had the kind of 300-yard passing game Ram fans were getting used to since the Seahawks game. It’s not that the passing plays aren’t there. He just seems to be trying to hard.

It will all come together if he would just relax.

RB Todd Gurley had another big game demonstrating why he’s most complete running back in the game both on the ground and in the air. He did drop a gimme swing pass but that’s nitpicking at this point.

The Rams’ offense got 24 points off of four turnovers. It should have been 28.

When your special teams gets a safety, your offense should turn the ensuing kickoff/punt into seven points, not three. That’s a four-point differential. Had the Rams’ offense scored a touchdown inside the red zone on ensuing drive after the safety rather then a field goal, the score would have been 43-10.

This is second game in a row where replacement RB Malcolm Brown is demonstrating why he’s good complement in both the run and passing game to Gurley averaging five yards per carry on thirteen attempts. The mixing and matching is beginning to come together.

Of note, who is this guy Nick Williams? Outstanding pickup by the Rams. He made a great catch on a high ball on a critical third down which eventually led to a touchdown after only being with the team less then a week. As long as he’s making catches like that, he’s gonna be a real boost to an already elite receiving corps.

Despite LT Andrew Whitworth and LG Rodger Saffold being a bit banged up after the Denver Broncos game, the offensive line was extremely efficient not only in this game but have been throughout the season thus far. This offensive line was great last year; they’ve been even better this year. What a difference from the debacle the offensive line was two years ago. Even though Goff was sacked, it was once again a coverage sack. Goff needs to read this quicker and throw the ball out of bounds. His failure to do so led to taking a potential three more points coming off the board as the Rams were forced to punt instead.

Grade: C

The Rams’ defense

Rather then focusing on the obvious and having already previously mentioned the breakout game the Fearsome Threesome had, let’s talk about the secondary.

I have repeatedly mentioned that the key to having a great secondary is a pass rush. I have also noted that depending who the opponents quarterback is, sometimes great coverage will still lead to a completion.

In this game, I was happy to see Lock Down Los Angeles finally appear. Both CB Troy Hill and S John Johnson III got interceptions. Not only were they outstanding takeaways, it was necessary to give the unit confidence as 49ers QB C.J. Beathard is nowhere near the caliber of Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson or Patrick Mahomes whom the Rams will facing off in the next four weeks. That’s a lot of firepower,

There’s been a lot of criticism leveled at Hill for his play. Ignoring the noise, he played through it. Once CB Aqib Talib comes back, the secondary is going be a stout group regardless of who’s in there. If you’re playing in the defensive secondary and your name hardly gets mentioned during the broadcast, you’re having a good day. What happened to CB Marcus Peters, another cornerback who was also facing criticism after the Seahawks game? I don’t recall his name being mentioned once during the broadcast.

The one time the Niners scored a touchdown, it was their ability to run the ball that set up the play action to TE George Kittle. There’s no way the tight end can be so wide open unless the defense has lost focus on the playaction. Linebackers and safeties have to read the play as soon as it starts much sooner.

The only thing the Rams’ defense lacks is talent at edge rusher. The Rams need to either go out and trade before the deadline for one or hope that rookie OLB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo can fill the void coming off the PUP list.

If the Rams defense can find that edge rusher, it would make the unit an absolute monster. Just the thought of it makes me cringe, and I rarely feel sorry for opposing teams’ quarterbacks.

Remember, defense wins championships especially in a league where offense is the primary focus.

Grade: A

The Rams’ special teams

The NFL does not keep stats on blocked punts, but after scouring through the record books, LB Cory Littleton should be in the Hall of Fame. He has five blocked punts in two years, and no one is even close. How can any special teams coach allow him to go unblocked? It’s criminal! The blocked punt is one of the most exciting plays when your team is doing the blocking and a heartbreaker when your team is getting the punt blocked. Not only does it require great effort, but once the ball starts bouncing it usually winds up in the end zone for a touchdown for the team blocking the punt.

I just can’t say enough about Littleton, both as a linebacker and for his knack for laying out perfectly for the blocked punt. This is not an easy thing to do without getting a penalty for roughing the kicker, but Littleton makes it seem routine—amazing.

K Greg Zuerlein whom I was concerned about seems okay despite coming back from the hamstring injury.

And what about PR JoJo Natson? I said during training camp and preseason that this speedster is better then Pharoh Cooper, and he’s clearly proving it. When Cooper gets off injured reserve, he should concentrate on being a wide receiver.

P Johnny Hekker had a punt blocked himself. He’s not having a great year punting, but maybe its the result of lack of reps in the game.

Grade: A+

The X-factors

What turned into a blowout was a godsend for the Rams as the team got to utilize bench players. I loved the fact that OT Joseph Noteboom got action as well as all the others on the offensive line non-starters.

Even Mannion looked good handing the ball off to Brown evidence that everything is going right for the Rams for now.

Finally, the Rams should chuck the mustard yellow Color Rush uniforms. The unis are not only ugly. It’s hard on the eyes to watch on television.

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It’s nice to be 7-0 and undefeated yet the Rams cannot rest heading into the toughest part of their schedule.

Get better and keep improving

Final Grade: A- just cause I hate the Niners.