The San Francisco 49ers continued their winning ways with a dominant road victory against the Los Angeles Rams. In what sounded like a home game, the 49ers controlled the game and did not relinquish control. The 49ers remained unbeaten with the victory, announcing themselves as a serious threat for a championship. Today we take a look at the victory and offer the three biggest takeaways.
While it was typically an afterthought, the 49er championship teams had more than talented offenses in common. All of them, from 1981 through 1994, featured stingy defenses who showed up in big moments. None of those defenses are on the same level as what Robert Saleh has going on with this unit. Aside from the 2011 and 2012 seasons, this is the best 49ers unit in recent memory. On Sunday, against an explosive Rams offense, the defense stepped up and took over the football game. Jimmy Ward, Dee Ford, Nick Bosa, the defense was swarming and everyone played their part.
The opening drive for the Rams was impressive. Los Angeles went 56-yards on seven plays, all runs, and scored a touchdown on a run by Robert Woods. In the subsequent ten offensive drives, the Rams gained a total of 101 yards. The pass rush got to Jared Goff four times but applied constant pressure. Goff finished with 78 yards on 13 of 24 passing. Saleh’s defense set the game early on a goal-line stand in the second quarter. On back to back plays, the Rams ran the ball inside from the two-yard line. Both times, the 49ers’ defense stood tall and could not be moved. Overall it was an impressive performance against a team that had 10 days to prepare. This defense is the real deal.
Garoppolo the Perfect General
The dollar amount on the contract undoubtedly casts a large shadow for Jimmy Garoppolo. However, the 49ers’ quarterback has been golden since his debut. Garoppolo has now started 13 games for the 49ers, going 11-2 so far. While his numbers do not measure up to his $19.35 million cap number, Garoppolo is efficient in leading the San Francisco 49ers. On Sunday, Garoppolo with 243 yards through the air on 24 of 33 passing. He also scored on a one-yard sneak. Garoppolo had a terrible interception where it looked as if he short-armed a corner throw intended for George Kittle. The throw was easily intercepted by a Rams defender and ended a possible scoring drive.
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Garoppolo did better in the second half of the game. He led the 49ers on multiple lengthy drives, keeping the Rams offense on the sidelines. Most importantly, Garoppolo showed his worth by helping the offense convert on 8 of 17 third-down attempts and was converted the only fourth-down play. By contrast, Goff and the Rams failed on all nine of their third-down attempts and all four of their fourth-down attempts. Garoppolo didn’t make it easier but a pair of drops would have given the quarterback over 300 yards of passing and likely two touchdown passes. At the end of the day, Garoppolo’s record as a starter and the level of play for the team overall, point to a better team with him on the field.
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Next Man Up
The 49ers entered the game with an offense missing three starters. San Francisco used a rookie, sixth-round pick at left tackle starting his second career game, in addition to a second-year right tackle making his first career start. Regardless of the shuffling and inexperience on the line, the 49ers surrendered just two sacks on Garoppolo. Aaron Donald was the only Rams player who found any success with the pass rush but he was often just too late to affect Garoppolo. The relative success of the San Francisco offensive line is equal parts a unit stepping up, offensive schemes, and Garoppolo making plays in the pocket.
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Garoppolo hung in the pocket and kept plays alive long enough for someone to get open. He willingly made throws with defenders bearing down on him. At one point in the first half, Garoppolo stood in the pocket and delivered a strike to Kittle, with Donald in his face. Kyle Shanahan called a fantastic game on offense. There was a healthy mix of quick throws and routes down the field. He also included a variety of screen passes to running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. The play-calling kept the Rams off-balanced on defense and often left an open receiver. At the end of the day, the 49ers made the necessary adjustments to compensate for what was missing on the field.
It’s More than Just Talent
The San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams hired new head coaches after the 2016 season. The Rams struck first with the hiring of Sean McVay. It was a surprising hire due to McVay’s youth. San Francisco made the final hire of the offseason, bringing in Kyle Shanahan. Since that time, the Rams have been the better team, both on paper and the field. Now it seems like the 49ers have flipped the script. On Sunday, the 49ers outexecuted, outplayed, and outcoached the Rams. Shanahan and his staff have this team ready to play each week and there is no lack of effort on the field. San Francisco travels the nation’s capital for a battle with Washington on Sunday. A win there would make it a half-dozen.
– Ryan Adverderada is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage 49ers. Like and follow on Follow @ryanadverderada