Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers now improve to 5-0 on the season, after winning a tough, divisional road game at Los Angeles — even though L.A. Memorial Coliseum was a sea of red and gold on Sunday. The odds were stacked up against the 49ers, losing fullback Kyle Juszczyk and right tackle Mike McGlinchey this past week.
San Francisco put up 331 yards of total offense, but unlike the past few weeks, the majority came through the air, with the Rams limiting the 49ers running game to 2.4 yards per carry. Another misstep from last week was a pair of turnovers by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who threw a brutal red-zone interception and a fumble that proved to be meaningless at the end.
Despite the offensive miscues, the 49ers continue to find different ways to win each week. Here are the grades for the different position groups after Sunday’s game vs. Rams.
Offensive Play Calling — B+
Going into the game, I expected Shanahan to call a lot of plays that had Garoppolo get rid of the ball quickly to avoid pressure from the Rams’ dominant front. I also expected a lot of 12 (1 running back + 2 tight ends) personnel, where San Francisco would help the backup tackles and aid the running game.
Shanahan’s offense had four punts on the day, along to go with two turnovers (though the turnovers weren’t his fault). The biggest reason that this grade is B+ is due to the fact the call that led to Garoppolo’s first interception. With third-and-goal at the one-yard line, San Francisco should have run the ball with recently-activated running back Jeff Wilson Jr., but instead, they chose to throw to wideout Deebo Samuel.
Since that moment, Shanahan seemed to balance the run and pass better, and the 49ers seem to be just good enough on offense to win these games.
Quarterbacks — B-
It seems like each week, Garoppolo is going to have a high completion rate and have lots of play-action passes. At the same time, Garoppolo is also due for a bone-headed error in each game.
Against the Buccaneers, it was the pick-six right early in the game, and against the Steelers, it was the two interceptions, and now against the Rams, it was his end-zone interception and a late fumble that could have let the Rams back in the game.
Shanahan needs Garoppolo to execute at a high level and not turn the ball over, especially against some of the upper echelon teams in the league.
Running Backs — C+
After dominant performances by the running game the past few games, they came back down to Earth on Sunday. The Rams’ defense was committed to shutting down the running game and making Garoppolo beat them.
While it didn’t work, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ defense certainly slowed down San Francisco’s running attack. They were limited to 2.4 yards per carry, and none of the 49ers’ running backs reached 50 yards for the game. For comparison sake, San Francisco nearly had TWO guys get 100 yards each last week.
The longest run of the day did not exceed nine yards, and the 49ers couldn’t get uncorked in this facet of the game. I’m sure it wasn’t all on the running backs, as San Francisco was missing its starting tackles and offensive weapon AKA lead blocker.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends — B
Tight end George Kittle and wide receiver Dante Pettis were effective all game long, as Kittle had eight catches for 103 yards, including a soul-snatching, barreling, a 45-yard catch and run that put the 49ers in scoring position.
Pettis was targeted six times on Sunday and made three pivotal plays and looks to be hitting his stride as the season goes on. With each passing week, there are higher expectations on Pettis’ shoulders to come through.
Other receivers, wideouts Marquise Goodwin, Kendrick Bourne, and Deebo Samuel, were all pretty quiet, only combining for seven catches and 44 yards in the afternoon. Tight end Levine Toilolo played more snaps on Sunday, but was essentially a sixth offensive lineman and was pretty effective in that role.
Offensive Line — A-
This grade is definitely curved, considering the 49ers were down their best offensive lineman and were starting a rookie left tackle Justin Skule and an undrafted free agent Daniel Brunskill at right tackle.
Considering they had to block the likes of defensive tackle Aaron Donald, linebacker Samson Ebukam and defensive tackle Michael Brockers, they did a stellar job on Sunday.
Yes, the running game only averaged 2.4 yards per carry. Yes, Garoppolo was sacked two times and was hit on numerous other occasions. But given the circumstances they were up with, they held up in key moments to allow Garoppolo to complete 24 passes on the afternoon.
With another week under their belt, the 49ers’ offensive line should be even better against a decent — Jim Tomsula-coached — Redskins’ defensive line.