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2020 Rams Recall: A Week 6 loss to the 49ers

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

I like to look back as a way to look forward, and LA’s two games against the 49ers last season are a reminder that something needs to change before the Rams can move ahead. Kyle Shanahan has gotten the better of Sean McVay in each of the last four matchups, and since scoring 87 points against San Francisco in two 2018 games, LA’s offense has sputtered for most of the game time since.

The Rams and 49ers both entered this game relatively healthy, so this seems as close to a true test against each other as we could have possibly gotten.

In two games against San Francisco last year, the Rams averaged 15.5 first downs, 309 total yards of offense, 190 passing yards, and 2.5 turnovers. Defensively, they allowed 21 first downs, 365 total yards of offense, 250 passing yards, and 1.5 turnovers.

Both games against the 49ers were among LA’s four worst outings of 2020.

What will change next season against San Francisco? Because the Rams can’t just hope that they’re injured again. Even if that never seems to be a concern for the Niners when they’re building a roster full of players with injury histories.

Week 1 - Win over the Cowboys

Week 2 - Win over the Eagles

Week 3 - Loss to the Bills

Week 4 - Win over the Giants

Week 5 - Win over a Football Team

Week 6 - (4-1) LA Rams at (2-3) San Francisco 49ers

Important Personnel Notes:

  • This was the beginning of a three-game run without Jordan Fuller. The Rams went 2-2 without Fuller, but 2-3 if we include the game against the Bills when he left after eight snaps.
  • Micah Kiser returned to the field.
  • Darrell Henderson led backs with 32 snaps, followed by Malcolm Brown with 27, and Cam Akers with only one.
  • This is one of only six starts for 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo. The Niners also had Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Trent Williams, Raheem Mostert, and Jerick McKinnon, making it perhaps their healthiest game on offense all year.
  • Season-high 42 snaps for Sebastian Joseph-Day.
  • Justin Hollins also played more than usual, getting 35 snaps.

I’ve been monitoring how well the Rams do in the first quarter and this would not be one of those times that they “did well”. Through the first five games, the Rams scored four touchdowns on their opening drive, with the other instance being a missed field goal on a 53-yard drive.

However in this case, LA allowed the 49ers to score a touchdown on a 76-yard opening drive, with Garoppolo completing four-of-four attempts for 69 yards and a touchdown to Samuel. The Rams responded with a five-play, 19-yard drive that ended in a punt. Their second drive was a three-and-out. And then when San Francisco got the ball back, Garoppolo went five-of-five for 68 yards and a touchdown to Kittle.

Need we be reminded that the 49ers just traded three first round picks for a quarterback project who had 318 career attempts in college, all at an FCS program, with only 30 of those attempts coming last year?

Garoppolo looked as good as ever in this game, finishing 23-of-33, 268 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. Some of that has to do with his health. A lot of that has to do with the health of others around him.

The Rams cut the lead to 14-6 when Jared Goff and Henderson motored the Rams down the field for a 64-yard touchdown drive that culminated in a 10-yard score to Robert Woods on third-and-10. Sam Sloman’s extra point attempt was blocked by former number three overall pick Dion Jordan.

The Niners kept moving in the right direction from there, as Mostert had seven carries on the ensuing drive for 24 yards, Kendrick Bourne caught two passes for 44 yards, Leonard Floyd had a costly neutral zone infraction on third down, and the rookie Aiyuk caught a touchdown.

The score was 21-6 at halftime.

Key Play:

Sloman cut it to 21-9 early in the third quarter and that remained the score late in the third quarter when LA found themselves at San Francisco’s 1-yard line. Henderson had six carries for 44 yards on the drive up to that point. He then lost a yard on second-and-1 and the Rams called a timeout. Goff had an incomplete throw to Cooper Kupp on third down and McVay elected to go for it on fourth-and-2.

That pass, intended for Josh Reynolds, was instead intercepted by Jason Verrett.

Instead of a 21-16 game heading into the fourth quarter, the Rams found themselves in a hole they could never climb out of. Goff completed a 40-yard touchdown pass to Josh Reynolds with 3:24 remaining to make it 24-16, but Jamycal Hasty had a 10-yard run on first down, then Samuel caught an 11-yard pass on third down a few moments later to seal the win for the 49ers.

Final Score: 49ers 24, Rams 16

Up next: The 4-2 Rams host the 5-1 Bears on Monday Night Football