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Rams-49ers recap: LA’s hot season stumbles in San Francisco

Both teams seemed to resemble their 2019 selves

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The LA Rams did not lose to a typical “2-3 team coming off of a blowout loss to the Miami Dolphins.” As much as the San Francisco 49ers had the resume of an unthreatening team in 2020, they closely resembled the team that went 13-3 in 2019 on Sunday night. And the Rams followed suit in mimicking their output of a year ago rather than how they had played in the previous five weeks.

The 49ers won 24-16 and crept closer to Los Angeles in the NFC West standings by pulling out an “upset” at home that does not look like much of an upset with proper context and the hindsight that San Francisco is now only one game back of the Rams.

While the play of Jared Goff and LA’s general lack of efficiency on offense as compared to their previous five games deserves criticism, the 49ers are probably back to .500 on the season because of their offense’s ability to move the ball at will against the Rams defense in the first half.

On the second play of the game, San Francisco receiver Deebo Samuel powered over would-be tacklers to turn a potential loss into a 35-yard gain. Two minutes later, the 49ers took a 7-0 lead after a six-yard touchdown pass to Samuel. If the Rams had mapped a drive to get points on the board on either of their next two drives then the ensuing gameplan indeed could have been different, but errant throws by Goff and two-yard runs by Darrell Henderson stalled those opportunities.

San Francisco then went on a 10-play, 87-yard drive that took 6:08 off the clock and ended with a crushing 44-yard touchdown catch by George Kittle on fourth-and-2 that gave the 49ers a 14-0 lead.

Sean McVay’s offense was able to make up ground with their rushing attack on the next drive, gaining 56 yards on six carries, and Goff threw a touchdown dart to Robert Woods to cut the score to 14-6, but rookie kicker Sam Sloman continued his struggles with an attempt that was low and blocked by San Francisco.

Even worse, the 49ers outdid themselves by gaining 75 yards on 13 plays on the next drive, taking another 7:18 off the clock in the process. San Francisco converted a third-and-7 on a pass from Jimmy Garoppolo to Trent Taylor, picked up another first on third-and-1 from a neutral zone infraction penalty on linebacker Leonard Floyd and scored on third-and-goal from the two on a pass to Brandon Aiyuk.

At that point, the Rams trailed 21-6 and McVay was not going to be able to have his offense run the plays that he would have wanted to run against the Niners. Even worse, San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan isn’t in the blind about what Los Angeles might try to do to successfully come back since it was only a few weeks ago that the Rams trailed 21-3 at halftime against the Buffalo Bills and nearly won.

Though San Francisco didn’t score again until a late field goal, it didn’t matter because LA’s offense did not look built to cut another two-score deficit into oblivion. For the most part, the Rams passing offense did not look built to do much of anything. And though the Rams defense kept the 49ers out of the end zone in the second half, Shanahan didn’t have to run a high-scoring offense and Garoppolo chewed through the defense with short throws and long gains: 23 of 33 for 268 yards.

Goff finished 19 of 38 for 198 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, but even those underwhelming numbers are notably skewed by a late 40-yard score to Josh Reynolds that created a little bit of drama late in the game. That was put to an end with another first down catch-and-run by Samuel, this one coming on third-and-7 with the game on the line.

The Rams defense was not able to hold him off when they needed to and because that seemed to happen all game long, that’s why LA is now 4-2. It did not help that Goff was overthrowing his receivers, had an interception in the end zone, that Cooper Kupp had at least one drop and that the 49ers defenders were able to mitigate the Rams top weapons. But they were never in a position they were comfortable in.

Notes:

  • The Rams play the 5-1 Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football at SoFi Stadium next week
  • LA was 4 of 12 on third down, 0 of 1 on fourth down
  • The 49ers gained two first downs via penalties and 16 first downs via pass attempts
  • The teams were close in yards per play (SF 5.6, LA 5.5) but the 49ers ran more plays and controlled the flow of the game throughout
  • The Rams went one of three in the red zone, including an interception on fourth-and-goal from Goff
  • Darrell Henderson had 88 yards on 14 carries
  • Micah Kiser and John Johnson tied for the team lead with 13 tackles
  • LA had zero sacks. They had led the league in sacks over the last three weeks. The Rams also didn’t force a turnover.