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Breaking down the LA Rams’ second half, OT collapse against the 49ers: What happened?

49ers take away the game and LA’s #2 playoff seed

San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams came out of halftime flat and allowed the San Francisco 49ers to dominate the second half and erase a 14 point deficit on their way to 27-24 overtime win. Many of the same problems that have plagued LA in this seasons previous losses reared their head after the break. Missed tackles, soft pass coverage, and missed assignments kept the Rams defense on their heels for the final two quarters.

Untimely interceptions, questionable game management, and a lack of push from the offensive line kept LA from moving the football with any continuity.

Before their at the 2nd half travails, the Rams play while jumping to a 17-3 lead in the first half was a vintage Sean McVay offensive showing. Matthew Stafford completed 15 of 16 passes in short to medium range, the running game didn’t gain much but was still used enough to make play action believable, and and they doubled up their rivals in time of possession. The Rams defense held the 49ers to 83 yards, 61 of which came in the last 38 seconds of the first half. But alas, that final 1st half drive by San Francisco was harbinger of things to come in the final half.

3rd quarter- Rams foundations begins to crumble

The 49ers came out to establish the run. They moved 75 yards in seven plays, four runs and three passes. The three pass plays were all wide-open in front of the Rams soft coverage and the hole on the TD run at 10:48 was big enough to drive a truck through. SF closest gap to 17-10.

LA went three and out. Two short runs vs. an eight man box and then against an all-out blitz, an incomplete pass that clanked off Van Jefferson’s hands, which would have been short even had he made the grab.

On their second drive, the ‘Niners pound ten straight running plays, all between the tackles. Their RB’s slither through tight holes, bust through arm tackles and fight and fall forward for extra yardage on every carry. The TD comes on SF’s only pass of the drive, a RB option pass. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey bites on the run and deep safety Taylor Rapp does not rotate with the flow of the play, even though there were no other 49ers running pass routes. In all honesty, I guess Brandon Aiyuk half-assed about five yards of the line of scrimmage. In any case, the result is a wide-open TD pass at 1:53 and a tie game 17-17.

Stafford is sacked on the first play of the Rams second drive, he never looks at his checkdown and Sony Michel has daylight down the sideline. A nice play call on the second snap, a RB screen, but it misfires, again Michel has a grip of room before any defenders can be seen. Play three is a streak down the left boundary by Ben Skowronek, he beats two 49er defensive backs, but the pass is four yards short and intercepted. Good play call and good route, the pass was just too short.

Fourth Quarter- LA tries to hold up but collapse is imminent

After an exchange of punts to start the final quarter, San Francisco drives down the field. Hate to sound like a broken record, but again, the drive is fueled poor tackling and wide-open receivers.

After moving his team down to the red zone, ‘Niner QB Jimmy Garoppolo throws over the middle into triple coverage. TE George Kittle can’t make the the grab and the ball caroms into the air, at 7:55 Rams CB Jalen Ramsey makes a juggling interception at the goal line and tumbles into the end zone. Instead of staying down with a touchback, Ramsey inexplicably tries to advance the ball and is immediately downed on the Rams eight yard line.

The Rams offense picks Ramsey up by clutching up and driving 92 yards in nine plays. Cooper Kupp accounts for 52 yards of the drive on a jet sweep and two catches, one being the TD that gives LA a 24-17 lead with 2:34 left in the game. 77 of the Rams 103 total second half yards were on this drive.

After the kickoff with 2:29 left in the game, the Rams defense makes three big plays, forcing a three and out punt. Edge Von Miller makes the big play with a third down sack.

That should be it, right? After the punt, LA takes over at their own 40 with 1:50 left in the game and although the 49ers have all three timeouts, one first down will put it away. McVay plays it conservatively and calls three straight runs into the teeth of the ‘Niners stacked box front. Michel can only gain five yards on three carries and Johnny Hekker drops a beautiful punt at San Francisco 12 yard line. The 49ers take over with 87 seconds left an no timeouts.

The Rams are in a cover4 defense, the kind scheme used when protecting the end zone, only there is no backline to help out. SF coach Kyle Shanahan doesn’t try and be cute like the last ‘Niners drive that ended with a punt.

San Francisco goes back to the Rams Achilles heel, quick passes underneath the soft coverage that matriculate them down the field. Three straight completions to wide-open receivers and an off sides penalty put SF in the red zone. On the TD pass, there seems to be some confusion in the secondary and no LA defender is near the play. An easy touchdown. Victory slips from the Rams grip.

Overtime-The walls come tumbling down

The 49ers win the toss and march down the field on a 13 play drive. The big play is a short out pass where Dont’e Deayon misses the tackle and and it becomes a 34 yard gain. Inside their own 10, the Rams defense stiffens and force a field goal. SF 27-24.

Brandon Powell brings out the ensuing kickoff out the end zone to the 18. At 2:45, the Rams come out throwing.

  • Play #1- Cooper Kupp looks open on a short out, but Odell Beckham seems to run the wrong route and reaches up with one hand and deflects the pass.
  • Play #2- Beckham gets open on the sideline and Matthew Stafford under throws him.
  • Play #3- Pass interference on Kupp’s short crossing route gives the Rams a first down.
  • Play #4- Higbee corrals a short pass and powers his way out of bounds for nine yards.
  • Play #5- Michel runs up the middle for four yards and first down at the 2:00 minute warning.
  • Play #6- Beckham streaks past the defense 50 yards down the sideline, but Stafford only throws it 47 and the pass is intercepted. Rams lose 27-24.

In the aftermath

What could the Rams have done different in the second half?

On offense, the Rams ran just six plays on two drives in the 3rd quarter. You can’t do much do much sitting on the sideline. In the fourth quarter, LA had over 100 yards of offense and was able to move the ball when they ran the offense. Even when the run game is not gaining much yardage it is imperative to stay with it. During overtime, the deep pass on the final play was a good call, he was open and Staff just has to get it there.

On defense, this was a perfect primer for the playoffs. Every weakness in the Rams scheme and and execution was spotlighted in the 2nd half. You are not going to win games in the NFL giving up 300 yards in a half, let alone make a deep run in the playoffs.

As far as coaching, I don’t think that any decision that Sean McVay made had any bearing on the loss. His most controversial moves were the deep pass in overtime, which I thought was a gutsy, stellar call and his decisions at the end of the half and game where he passed on on the former and ran on the latter. Since neither worked, he should face the scrutiny, but in reality, they are both damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situations. I just cannot follow the thinking of Raheem Morris. All season long, good teams have not had any problems navigating through his soft pass coverage. 49er receivers were wide open all day and only some SF miscues kept the Rams, after totally dominating the 1st half, in the game at the end.