The Los Angeles, having already clinched a playoff berth, elected to rest most of their starters for Sunday’s game. It showed, quite a bit. It was especially clear considering that the Rams were facing a Niners team that has caught fire behind Jimmy Garoppolo. With Sean Mannion under center and Malcolm Brown taking the majority of the carries, the Rams lacked the focal points of their offense. However, the most notable lack of depth for the Rams may have come in the secondary. Apart from Kevin Peterson, who performed quite well, the Rams struggled to stop the 49ers pass attack all day.
The 49ers found their way right out of the gate, moving the ball down the field through the air. Garoppolo found his tight end George Kittle for a huge gain into Rams territory and the Niners notched a field goal. After a quick three-and-out for the Rams, the Niners turned around and threw the ball down the field again. Exploiting the L.A. lack of depth in the secondary, Garoppolo found Marquise Goodwin out of the flat for a touchdown.
Now trailing and falling behind fast, the offense was able to find their way down the field. Sam Ficken was good on his first field goal of the day, a good sign for the Rams special teams. Robbie Gould wanted to get even, coming on next drive and nailing a field goal of his own. The Rams next drive fizzled out quickly, much like most of their drives on the day. On their next drive, the 49ers started to do some damage on the ground, mixing running and pass and allowing Carlos Hyde to get his first rushing touchdown of the day.
Right before the end of the half, both teams traded turnovers and the Rams took over shy of midfield with just 13 seconds remaining. Mannion reared back and threw deep for Michael Thomas, finding him inside the five-yard line. It is shocking the Thomas’ play remained a catch, and that it was called a catch on the field. However, that is how the cookie crumbles in the NFL. When Thomas reeled the ball in he did not appear to establish himself with two steps and become a runner before the ball was popped loose, but the Rams did not mind. Ficken came on and nailed a field goal as time expired in the half.
The second half was all 49ers, as they expanded their lead to 34-6 just after the start of the fourth quarter. Scoring through the air, on the ground, and seemingly at will, the Niners offense was dominating the Rams defense in every facet of the game. However, in garbage time the Rams were able to put together a scoring drive of their own. Mannion put together a series of first downs, including one with his legs. Afterwards, Lance Dunbar took an eight-yard carry to paydirt to give L.A. something to show for the day in the endzone.
Most Valuable Player – Kevin Peterson
Rams backup cornerback Kevin Peterson had an excellent day in an expanded role on Sunday. Typically playing only a few snaps in the rotation, Peterson capitalized on his starting role against the 49ers. The rookie cornerback notched the first two interceptions of his career, both in the first half. In addition, he also defended a few other passes and caused incompletions. Peterson spent training with the Rams this offseason and played quite well, but only landed a practice squad spot after final cuts were made. However, the young cornerback found his way to the active roster throughout the year and now seems like a valuable depth piece in the Rams secondary.
Least Valuable Player – Gerald Everett
Rams rookie tight end Gerald Everett had possibly his worst NFL game on Sunday. Receiving his highest volume of snaps on his young career, Everett failed to capitalize. He was able to haul in a few short passes for a couple yards, but made almost no other impact on the game. Everett also made many notable drops, including a potentially huge gain when he broke up the seam seemingly uncovered. Also, Everett fumbled in the third quarter and set the 49ers offense up with good field position.
Key Stat: Two-For-Two
Ficken finally found his way on Sunday, something could be the difference-maker in the Rams playoff run. The young kicker struggled mightily in his NFL regular season debut last week, missing two kicks and not performing well on kickoffs either. Ficken nailed both of his field goal attempts on Sunday, both of which were under 25 yards. Since the loss of Greg Zuerlein the Rams have faced issues in the kicking game. Losing Zuerlein for the season after his Pro Bowl campaign could be a big loss for this Rams team. While Ficken’s field goals on Sunday may not have have had a high degree of difficulty on Sunday, the young kicker’s confidence will still be boosted by his perfect performance. The young kicker also nailed his only extra point, something he was unable to do last week.
L.A. took a very tough loss on Sunday, one that may be easy for fans to blow off. However, I assure you that Sean McVay will not say “well we were resting our starters”, he expects the best out of whatever players take the field. The Rams, however, remained the number three seed and will face Atlanta in the first round of the playoffs. This is not the 0-9 San Francisco 49ers football team that the Rams faced today, and it showed. Rams fall 34-13.