clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Winners & Losers: Mistakes plague Rams as they fall short to 49ers

WR Puka Nacua continues historic opening to his career; Kyren Williams emerges as RB#1

San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams fell short in their home opener 23-30 to the San Francisco 49ers. The crowd was very 49ers-friendly, as fans of San Francisco often refer to SoFi Stadium as “Levi’s South”.

While the 49ers didn’t necessarily play mistake-free football, the oblong object seemed to bounce in their favor. That wasn’t the case for Los Angeles as they finished on the wrong end of the turnover battle with two costly errors.

These are the players whose performances stood out on an individual level, either in a positive or negative way:


Puka Nacua, WR

The rookie receiver hauled in 15 catches for 147 yards on 20 targets, and for the most part he made it look easy. Nacua has had one of, if not the most, impressive two-game debuts of any receiver in NFL history.

There’s not much left to say about the former BYU product. It remains to be seen what sort of role Nacua will have when Cooper Kupp returns to health, but on paper a receiving attack of Kupp, Nacua, and Tutu Atwell seems pretty dynamic.

Raheem Morris, Defensive Coordinator

The Rams defense didn’t exactly stifle the 49ers offense, but based on LA’s current team build you hope the defense can at least give the offense opportunities to put together game-winning drives.

That happened on Sunday, and the offense fell short. The Rams faced one of the most efficient offenses in all of football, and they mostly kept San Francisco in check—especially in the second half. This young defense is surpassing any realistic expectations I had for them entering the season.

Kyren Williams, RB

Williams has taken ahold of the RB#1 role and doesn’t seem willing to even look back. He finished against the 49ers with 14 rushes for 52 yards (3.7), six receptions on 10 targets for another 48 yards, and two total touchdowns. He’s now scored four times in the team’s first two games.

Sure, we should ding him because of his dropped reception that resulted in Stafford’s first interception. Still, the second-year runner has proven he’s more of an every-down player than a change-of-pace back.

Byron Young, OLB

Young was the most consistent and effective player on the defensive line for Los Angeles on Sunday. He recorded a sack for the second week in a row, and his athleticism is important when it comes to chasing down the more mobile quarterbacks of the NFL.

With Nacua breaking out on the offensive side of the ball, it seems the Rams may have found something on defense too with Young.

Brett Maher, K

After missing his first two attempts last week (including a block), Maher made all three of his field goals against the 49ers. He was accurate on both of his point after tries as well.

Ethan Evans, P

Evans booted a 72-yard punt to flip the field when the Rams needed it most, and that punt was also downed within the 20-yard line. While the rookie has had issues outkicking his coverage, his power really is unique—and it didn’t come back to bite the Rams in this one.


Derion Kendrick, CB

The Rams forced San Francisco into a third and long in LA territory just before the halftime break. Kendrersick had tight coverage on Purdy’s intended receiver, but instead of playing the ball he got overly physical with the receiver and drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone—giving the 49ers’ the ball on the one-yard line. Kendrick committed another penalty with a facemask call, and then Purdy scored a touchdown on a QB sneak.

There were multiple occasions in this game where Kendrick was beat deep but Purdy overthrew his receiver. The second-year corner has been the biggest weak spot on the Rams defense through two games.

Van Jefferson, WR

Jefferson’s lone catch came in garbage time. He had another reception early in the game that was wiped out by a holding penalty on TE Tyler Higbee.

With Nacua and Tutu Atwell clearly the top two receiver options—and with Cooper Kupp expected back after at least two more games—it’s fair to wonder what sort of long-term role the fourth-year receiver has to look forward to.

It’s not like LA is boosting his stock ahead of free agency and likely to recoup a compensatory draft pick. There’s probably little value in trading him at this point. Why is he on the team if this is all he’s capable of?

Matthew Stafford, QB

“Good Matthew Stafford” hung around for the first six quarters of the season, but the veteran quarterback lost steam in the second half. LA became one dimensional in the fourth quarter, and the 49ers’ front seven started to break on the Rams’ short passing game.

Williams deserves blame for the first interception, where he tried to run with the ball before he secured the catch and the ball bounced directly into the awaiting arms of the 49ers. But the Rams defense forced an impressive stop to get the ball back down seven with plenty of time left, and Stafford threw an ugly interception on what could have been a game-winning drive.

This is a team that is supposed to be anchored by its offense. The defense more than held up its end of the bargain on Sunday.

Aaron Donald, DE

It was LA’s first time playing Purdy, and the right side of the San Francisco offensive line is vulnerable. The Rams didn’t force much in the way of pressure, but Aaron Donald didn’t come close to making his usual impact.

Cam Akers, RB

“We not me” does not seem to be a Rams mantra that Akers takes to heart. With the way Williams is playing, the off-field drama is soon end Aker’s time in Los Angeles.