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The Good, the Bad and the Difference in the Rams ugly 23-20 loss to the 49ers

What went wrong? A little bit more than what went right

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There are many words to describe the Rams’ 23-20 loss to the 49ers on Sunday and not all of them are bad.

Aaron Donald continues to play like the NFL’s premier defensive athlete; a legend who not only lives, he thrives with each breath and heartbeat. Jordan Fuller may qualify his interception — his third in seven days — as being in “the right place, right time” and nothing more. Funny how often the rookie has found himself in those situations and as author Simon Van Booy once wrote, “Coincidences mean you’re on the right path.”

And another first year player, Cam Akers, proved again — to anybody still ignorant enough to not understand football — that running backs matter.

Los Angeles has dropped to 7-4 and Jared Goff has not yet proven to be passable, so to speak, when the Rams are in a must-win situation against a quality defense. That is an issue and the “The Bad” section will cover that. But as quickly as the Rams found themselves in first place after defeating the Seahawks and Bucs in the last two games, so too could the NFL find LA back in the driver’s seat by season’s end.

The Good

Jordan Fuller interception

Fuller picked off Tom Brady twice last week and he grabs his third career interception here against Nick Mullens. He’s now made a name for himself on defense against one of the best quarterbacks he’ll face in 2020 and also against Brady.

Jeff Wilson fumbles it back to Rams

Sebastian Joseph-Day was to be displaced somewhat by A’Shawn Robinson, but he had seven tackles and this forced fumble on Sunday. I’m not sure the snap counts yet, but Robinson finished with one tackle. Morgan Fox had the recovery and later added a sack.

Aaron Donald forced fumble, Troy Hill recovery for touchdown cuts lead to 4

Aaron Donald sack

I want Aaron Donald to be considered for MVP. Even if the Rams did lose this game, who was the most valuable player on either team? Who was the most valuable player in the world on Sunday? It might have been Patrick Mahomes. It might have also been Donald.

Cam Akers has a 61-yard run and then a touchdown

Akers came into the week having posted a previous career-high of 61 yards for a single game total. He got all of that on a single carry against the 49ers, the longest run by a Rams player this season. Akers now has the two longest runs for the Rams this year and he’s the closest thing to an explosive weapon that they have outside of Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp.

Darrell Henderson gained only 19 yards on 10 carries. Akers finished with 84 and he’s scored twice in the last two games.

The Bad

Malcolm Brown fumble

Unfortunately, Brown had four yards on three carries and a fumble.

Deebo Samuel for 33 yards

This is one of many plays for Samuel, who returned to the field after sitting out the previous month. Samuel bullies players in a similar way to how George Kittle bullies players.

Raheem Mostert touchdown

Mostert has been out since a week before Samuel went out. He had 43 yards on 16 carries with one touchdown and a fumble.

Richard Sherman intercepts Jared Goff

“Right place, right time” is right for Richard Sherman, who had been out since Week 1. San Francisco was as healthy as they’ve been in weeks, and they still aren’t all that healthy, having played without Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk and Nick Bosa, among others.

Jared Goff fumbles near end of first half

More bad news for Goff to end the half. The odds of them getting at least a field goal here were high prior to this play.

Jared Goff throws pick-six to open second half

This is no worse than maybe a 10-point swing because of Goff and not protecting the football. In a matter of one minute of game play.

Can’t stop Deebo Samuel

Samuel had 11 catches and 133 yards.

Goff’s inaccuracy in fourth quarter gives 49ers the ball back in final two

Sean McVay’s end of game coaching

It’s hard to fathom how a coach can have both the high-highs and the low-lows of Sean McVay.

Jalen Ramsey offsides penalty makes for a shorter field goal attempt

Ramsey may be an elite cornerback but he was far from that adjective in attempting to block Robbie Gould’s game-winning field goal from 47 yards out. Gould missed from 50 earlier in the game but he got into a much more comfortable range when Ramsey jumped offsides for no good reason.

The Difference

This game featured a lot of action early and a lot of intensity late but was packed with a whole lot of little in the middle. The score was 7-3 at halftime and at one point the teams combined for 19 straight drives that didn’t end in an offensive touchdown. It’s easy (and fair) to point to how the Rams started and finished to find reasons for the loss, but perhaps the real culprit is the fact that McVay and Goff and the offensive line and everybody involved couldn’t come away with three more points during that destructively boring and mistake-addled middle.

Kyle Shanahan and Nick Mullens was the better head coach/quarterback combo this week and that’s why the 49ers are 5-6 and only two games behind LA with five games to play.