Both teams had nine drives, but the Niners made the most of theirs, scoring on four drives, with two kneeldown drives and three punts. All the punts were in the second half.
Versus SF, the Rams had enough offensive opportunities to post a winning score. LA is averaging 10 drives per game in 2021, and score on over 50% of their drives.
A review of each individual drive shows that uneven quarterback execution, questionable coaching decisions, and dropped passes in clutch situations sealed the Rams doom.
A horrible start
Drive #1 Two passes and a run get the Rams out to the 42. On 2nd and eight, Matthew Stafford throws deep into double coverage intended for Odell Beckham and the pass is intercepted. Did Beckham stop? Or was it miscommunication? Doesn’t matter, the pass should never have been thrown.
#2 Ben Skowronek is wide open at the 45, pass is overthrown. On the next play, Tyler Higbee lets a pass clank off his hands into those of a 49er, who returns it for a touchdown.
#3 In a little over two minutes, Rams use two runs and five passes to get into the end zone. Stafford threw incomplete high to a wide-open BSkow, and then came right back to Higbee for the TD, on the next play.
This was the turning point
#4 LA goes on a nice drive, mixing shortish passes and runs around a 33 yard completion to Van Jefferson to get into the red zone. A muffed snap by Center Brian Allen and a TE screen where Higbee cuts inside instead of down the sideline costs the Rams -7 yards. Here it gets strange. With less than a minute left in the half, Stafford doesn’t even look to the end zone and throws a short outlet to Henderson. Unless you are going to settle for the field goal, why throw the check down?
The fake FG attempt, although well designed, didn’t fool the 49ers, Blanton decided not to race the defensive lineman to the first down stick and instead, cut it up field.
It was just a bad decision, even if successful, the fake would have left the Rams at the 15 yard line 18 seconds left on the clock before halftime.
It’s still anyone’s game
#5 To start the 2nd half, the Rams defense forced a punt but followed it up with a three and out. The missed 3rd down pass looked like a set play, Stafford threw to a closely guarded Henderson without looking anywhere else.
#6 Another three and out. Staff misses a wide open Cooper Kupp on 1st down and then Kupp drops the 3rd down throw that would have went for a 1st down.
#7 To close the 3rd quarter, LA chalks up their third consecutive three and out. This time it was a wide open Higbee dropping a pass that would have moved the sticks.
All over but the crying
#8 By now it’s 31-7 and the only question is, “Why are the Rams starters still in the game with all their injury problems?” Four completions to Kupp and a pair of pass interference calls on 49ers covering him got LA into scoring position. Jefferson had two drops on the drive, including one in the end zone. On 3rd down from the seven, it looked like Stafford could have run it in but decided to back off and throw a pass beyond the line of scrimmage. Turnover on downs.
#9 After a poor punt, the Rams rode long completions to Kupp and Sony Michel inside the 49er ten yard line. Two incompletions and a sack later, LA was forced to take the field goal on 4th and 19. Final score 31-10.
With the Ram defense playing soft coverages and their inability to consistently tackle, the offense will have to continue scoring on their drives at a 50% clip to earn a playoff berth. If they continue at under 25%, like vs. SF, they are going to struggle against the tougher teams they play down the stretch.
The Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, and the 49er rematch pit LA against teams that can control the clock with short passing and a willingness to run the football, thereby limiting the Rams offensive opportunities.