The 49ers needed to beat the Rams. For seeding purposes, sure, but they also needed that win to prove to themselves that they are still capable of overcoming their mistakes, no matter how many injuries there are. I believe the victory will help catapult San Francisco to a first-round bye. Let’s take a look at some winners and losers from the game.
I don’t care what else happens; if you score a touchdown on defense, you are going to be a winner. We know with Fred Warner he’s going to make more than one play in a game. On the night, Warner had five run stops continued to make plays in coverage as he has all season. It’s scary when you remember Warner is only in his second season.
Armstead should have brought an air mattress because he was living in the Rams backfield. He didn’t turn any of his six pressures into a sack, but that doesn’t take away from how often he was winning. He finished against the run plenty, though. Armstead finished with four run stops on the night, and he also found a way to get into the passing lanes to break up a pass. He’s a stud. He has been all season.
Kittle had five catches for 79 yards and a touchdown, and blah blah, he looked unguardable what’s new. For as worried as some are for Week 17, do you remember that the 49ers played without their best player? Do you know how difficult it must’ve been to rely on a young receiving core and not the guy who you can count on to not only catch the ball but get a handful of yards after the catch every time? Life will be easier for San Francisco once they have one of the best players in the NFL back on the field. Shocking, I know.
When a cornerback has a bad play, fans are willing to pull the plug. When a cornerback strings together two poor performances in a row, they riot. That’s been the case for Witherspoon, who gave up a pair of touchdowns and another long reception. With cornerbacks, you have to let them play through it. On the big plays he gave up, there’s no telling Emmanuel Moseley would have done any better. It sounds like a copout, but it was more of the Rams scheming their guy open than it was on Witherspoon. He could have done a couple of things different, but he didn’t, and the result looked bad. I still view him and his season as very good, so you don’t give up on a player after two weeks of bad play when they’ve had a season’s worth of good.
This was the real culprit in my eyes. On the Cooper Kupp touchdown near the end zone where Witherspoon had to chase him across the entire field, the 49ers were in “Cover 1 jump,” where the free safety “jumps” all crossing routes to help the cornerback. Jimmie Ward has been phenomenal all season at it. Harris was the deep safety in this case and was so far out of position he didn’t give himself a chance to make the play.
On the long corner route Witherspoon gave up to Robert Woods, Harris is underneath and lets Woods run right by him without re-routing Woods. Witherspoon jumped down as if he was expecting a bump, and you could see his frustrations after the play. The difference between Jaquiski Tartt and Harris in coverage, for what the 49ers need, is massive. Harris doesn’t recognize routes, and it’s hurting the rest of the secondary.
This was the first game where I felt like Sanders couldn’t shake free. That was, in large part, to Jalen Ramsey. The Rams are a heavy man-principle team, which meant Sanders would be matched up with Ramsey early and often. His long 46-yard reception saved the day, but that was more of a coverage bust than anything. I love Sanders, but for the other 30-some odd routes he ran, he wasn’t getting open, and that led to Jimmy having to hold the ball.
Aaron Donald is good at football.
Samuel had 31 yards through the air and 28 yards on the ground. It was a perfect balance for the rookie wideout, and I appreciate Kyle Shanahan getting him involved early. Deebo is always moving a million miles per hour, so getting him an early touch like an end-around calms his nerves and builds confidence. Of his 28 rushing yards, 25 came after contact. Deebo had the 19-yard touchdown run. If you give him the ball, good things happen. The drops remain frustrating, but Samuel is a special talent. When the defense has to defend the “threat” of Samuel, the 49ers offense is near impossible to stop.
Fourth-quarter Jimmy Garoppolo
Garoppolo had a poor QB rating because that stat is not a fan of sacks. Both interceptions were on Jimmy as well. Through three quarters, it was back to, “Garoppolo sucks!” Then the fourth quarter came along. Jimmy scrambled for a first down run after the pressure forced him to run. He found Kittle on a 3rd & goal after pressure once again fled him from the pocket. Then on the final drive, Jimmy G converted two 3rd & 16’s to help give the Niners a win. Aggressive, mobile, bullets-flying I have to make a play Jimmy is the best version of the 49ers quarterback.
It’s 2nd & 10 with 34 seconds to go in the third quarter. The Rams throw a screen to Cooper Kupp, and it looks like he has running room. K’Waun Williams takes on a block, strips Kupp, and the ball goes backward five yards, and the Rams recovered. Los Angeles went from 2nd and short in 49ers territory, to 3rd & 11. The next pass was incomplete, and the Rams had to punt. That sums of how Williams has played all season.
Williams blitzed three times on the night. He had a quarterback hit on one play, and a pressure on another. The third play he blitzed was an incomplete pass on third down to force a punt. Williams also had three run stops on the night. It was good to have him back on the field.