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Power Rankings: 49ers are only chasing the Patriots

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Nobody saw this coming.

San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers were fourth in the NFL power rankings last week after destroying the Browns on Monday Night Football. The team dismantled the Rams this past Sunday and moved up two spots to No. 2. What made the Niners victory impressive was Kyle Shanahan, and Robert Saleh put their game plans together on a short week and were missing key starters. Sean McVay was missing starters as well, but he had ten days to prepare. If you didn’t know any better, the Rams looked like the team that played on a short week.

Here is the NFL’s blurb on the 49ers:

49ERS (5-0)

Previous rank: No. 4

Quite a six-day span for the Niners, who stole the Browns’ souls on “Monday Night Football,” then bullied their former tormenters with a convincing win over the Rams in Los Angeles on Sunday. Again, the defense keyed the victory, holding Sean McVay’s once-unstoppable attack to just 157 yards of total offense. Los Angeles marched 56 yards down the field on seven consecutive runs to score the game’s opening touchdown, then was held scoreless the rest of the way. The game’s biggest sequence began on third-and-goal with the Rams 1 yard away from a go-ahead score late in the second quarter. The 49ers stuffed two Rams rush attempts for no gain, and Los Angeles never reached the red zone again. The Rams’ next six drives after that goal-line scuffle totaled zero yards. The Niners have the best defense in the NFC -- maybe the NFL -- right now. They’re for real.

Now that I’ve had a chance to rewatch the game, the game ended when the 49ers stopped the Rams on the goal line. McVay and company had no answers or fight after that. The adjustments by Robert Saleh can’t go unnoticed. He went from trying to “out-strength” the Rams to using his athletes. Inserting Solomon Thomas as the “one-technique” and using movement upfront threw Los Angeles off, and they never were able to recover.

I try to avoid being a prisoner of the moment, but from a passing standpoint, this is one of the better defenses I’ve seen in recent memory. The pass-rush is awesome yet unpredictable. Jared Goff didn’t know who was coming on Sunday. The Rams wide receivers couldn’t shake free, and that’s how you end up with six drives in a row totaling zero yards. The defense is elite, and the 49ers as a team are rolling.

As for the Rams, not so much. They made two trades on Tuesday, and I’m not sure either of them makes sense. Los Angeles dropped seven spots to No. 16:

From a regular-season perspective, Sunday was the low moment of the Sean McVay era in Los Angeles. The Rams’ offense -- once the envy of the league -- was held to just 157 yards in a humbling 20-7 loss to the undefeated 49ers at the Coliseum. Jared Goff put up the type of numbers that would have looked bad even during his Jeff Fisher days (13-of-24 passing for 78 yards), his job made infinitely more difficult by an offensive line that has gone from team strength to liability seemingly overnight. And while it would be grossly premature to declare the Rams out of the NFC West race, the fact of the matter is, they’re now three games back, with a head-to-head loss to division-leading San Francisco on their ledger. McVay has been hailed as a young genius -- can he use those brains to fix a broken offense before it’s too late?

McVay better learn how to adjust in a hurry, because it hasn’t been pretty. I’ve given him crap the last few years for only running six plays, and defenses are starting to catch on.

As for the rest of the NFC West, the Cardinals are one spot after beating the Falcons to No. 27. Seattle keeps squeaking out wins. They’re up two spots to No. 5.