The opening drive for the Rams saw the 49ers making similar mistakes that led to an opening-drive touchdown. Jared Goff went 4/4 for 66 yards and a touchdown. Ahkello Witherspoon appeared to be baiting Goff but was a half step slow to react, and that led to Brandin Cooks scoring a touchdown. That made it 7-0.
Richie James took the following kickoff 81 yards to put the 49ers in field goal range, but the offense couldn’t convert the field possession into a touchdown. Robbie Gould made a 26-yard field goal to make it 7-3. That wouldn’t be the last time the 49ers didn’t take advantage of good field position, as Jimmy Garoppolo threw an interception in Rams territory later in the quarter. Jalen Ramsey made a nice play, but it looked like Jimmy didn’t account for the underneath defender. That’s been one of his biggest issues all season.
The Rams turned that drive into points after Todd Gurley beat Richard Sherman to the edge. That made it 14-3. You can’t give teams the ball with short fields at this time of the year. The defense had responded well before the scoring drive but had no answers for the Rams passing attack.
The 49ers needed an answer in a big way. It felt like the hopes of the game were riding on them, answering, and they did. Deebo Samuel started and ended the drive after scoring on a 19-yard touchdown. Shanahan made an effort to get the rookie wide receiver involved early, and I think that gives him confidence for the rest of the game. That score made it 14-10. We saw a heavy dose of screens on this drives to slow down the Rams aggressive pass rush.
The Rams didn’t have any resistance on their next drive, as they went 11-plays and 64 yards that was capped off by a one-yard touchdown run by Todd Gurley. There wasn’t any pressure on Goff all drive, and that’s the one thing you can’t do, let Goff get comfortable. It wasn’t as if the Rams were doing anything out of the ordinary, but the Niners had no answers. That touchdown made it 21-10.
Not to be outdone, the 49ers had an answer themselves. The Niners scored on a nine-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off with a Raheem Mostert 16-yard touchdown run. We saw Emmanuel Sanders get involved for the first time on this drive. I know the Rams have Jalen Ramsey, and I know there are a lot of mouths to feed, but you can’t forget about a talent like Sanders. Daniel Brunskill, who got the start at right guard, had a key block to spring Mostert. That score made it 21-17.
The Rams were driving, but Jared went full Goff and threw it right to Fred Warner, who made up for his drop against the Cardinals on Halloween and returned this one for six. It was a nice Christmas gift from Goff. That score was what the 49ers needed. It was 24-21 going into the half.
The 49ers received the ball to open the second half, but a pass behind Emmanuel Sanders allowed Jalen Ramsey to get his hands on the pass, and ultimately that led to an interception. The defense held, and the Rams missed a long field goal. The inconsistencies from the offense were maddening all night. One drive they’d make it look easy and move the ball with ease, and the next drive they’d go three-and-out.
The Rams answered on their next possession, as Ahkello Witherspoon gave up two long passes that led to a touchdown. Bunch routes were giving San Francisco issues, and the Rams took advantage of that. That touchdown made it 28-24. The offense had a chance to answer, but a pair of sacks ended the drive. Garoppolo did not move around the pocket, and that made him an easy target. The 49ers had 18 yards of offense in the third quarter. Their four drives to open the second half went interception and three straight punts. On the fourth drive of the half, Garoppolo was inaccurate to Deebo on one pass and was sacked on third down to force a punt.
Despite a missed tackle from Witherspoon that gave Los Angeles the first down, the defense held on third and short to provide the offense with another chance. George Kittle was wide open and broke a tackle from Jalen Ramsey to take the pass 36-yards. That was a much needed big play for the offense. A 12-yard run followed that by Tevin Coleman, and a throw down the seam to Ross Dwelley for 36-yards as well. That got San Francisco in the red zone, where they needed a touchdown. Garoppolo scrambled to find Kittle in the end zone, and that gave the 49ers the lead 31-28. He’s so good when he’s on the move and using his legs. I wish Shanahan would move him around more.
Marcell Harris had an opportunity to all but ice the game, but he dropped a second down interception that was right in his hands. Greg Zuerlein made a 52-yard field goal to tie it at 31. You can’t drop those. You just can’t. The offense took over with just over two minutes left to go in the game, but Jimmy was sacked on first down. The 49ers faced a 3rd & 16 and Jimmy threaded the needle to Kendrick Bournne to convert. It was a huge first down as it moved the chains and kept the ball away from the Rams. On the next play, Garoppolo took a killer sack that stalled the drive. On 3rd & 16, because. why not, Jimmy Garoppolo finds Sanders down the field after he beat Ramsey for a huge play. Goodness gracious, what a play. That’s why you don’t give up on third down plays. Loved the aggressive call. San Francisco caught Los Angeles napping. What a play.
That gave Robbie Gould an opportunity to win the game from 33-yards out, and Gould came through. 34-31, good guys.