The Los Angeles Rams had no trouble beating the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday, but the game did have some positives for the 49ers. Notably they were able to prevent defensive tackle Aaron Donald from breaking the single-season sack record of 22.5 held by Michael Strahan. Going into the game the final game of the season, Donald had 19.5 sacks and needed just three more to tie and 3.5 to break it.
Donald walked away with one sack to his name.
This is rather interesting because one of the inflations in his totals was his monster Week 7 performance against the 49ers where he got four sacks—his best game of 2018. Those four went along with the seven total sacks allowed that day. In their second meeting, the 49ers allowed less than half that with three to the Rams.
It’s worth noting Donald did have a monster game on Sunday. He led the Rams with six total pressures, including the sack, three hurries, and two hits. He was the top PFF-graded player by a long shot, and had his way with the 49ers line for significant stretches.
49ers quarterback Nick Mullens had several passes deflected by the Rams defensive line, and felt pressure much of the day. He was able to elude Donald a decent amount, but he knew the best defensive player in the game was breathing down his neck.
“Yeah, I felt him a couple times. He’s a great player and very quick for his size. He causes a lot of problems for a lot of offenses. I think everybody has seen how good of a player he is and we felt him today. He did a good job. He plays with good energy and he’s fast. He uses his skillset well.”
The 49ers were looking for their own record: George Kittle and the most receiving yards by a tight end. When Kittle was closing in on the yardage needed during the final minutes of the fourth quarter, the Rams made a strange decision going for it on fourth down in an attempt to keep the 49ers off the field. On the flip-side, the play calling from the 49ers sideline consisted of quick passes getting the ball out and keeping Donald from getting to Nick Mullens. Mullens still took a beating with his nine quarterback hits despite the 49ers allowing three sacks. Aside from trying to keep Mullens alive against the best in the business, perhaps the 49ers were doing the same thing to keep Donald from getting his own name in history.
In any case, Strahan’s record remains in the books and the 49ers stopped it from being broken.