The 49ers needed Sunday’s win. Not just for standings and playoff purposes, but from a confidence level, it was everything. The offensive line didn’t allow a sack, and the only touchdown the Rams scored came on a deep heave in the fourth quarter. The Niners were superb against Los Angeles. Let’s hope they can build some momentum off the win and carry that into next week’s matchup against the Patriots.
“Clearly wasn’t my best,” Goff said after the game. “Uncharacteristic stuff, missing guys open early and something I’ve never done in my life and do not expect to repeat. Probably what I do best is accuracy and it would have given us a better chance to win.”
Goff finished the night 19 of 38 for 198 yards, but much of that success was created on the Rams final drive when they were down 15 points late in the fourth quarter. Before that drive, Goff was 12 of 31 for 123 yards with a 10-yard touchdown pass and an end zone interception.
“If I’m accurate early on, we’re not even talking about this right now,” Goff added in the short post game press conference.
Why the 49ers won
Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo were back on their “A” game. Things slowed down a bit in the second half, but including and beyond their 21-point first half, San Francisco just looked so at ease running its offense. Looking far more comfortable (and healthy) than in Week 5, Garoppolo did a tremendous job spreading the ball around, hitting nine different receivers on the night, and he wasn’t shy about pushing the ball downfield either.
Had Raheem Mostert not been forced out with an injury, he may have eclipsed 100 scrimmage yards as part of the attack. George Kittle and Deebo Samuel helped pick up the slack, as did JaMycal Hasty down the stretch. Defensively, the Niners weren’t necessarily doing anything special, but they did capitalize on some wildly erratic throws from Jared Goff to ice the divisional victory away.
Describe the game in two words: Uncharacteristic performance. This stat captures the Rams’ night: Typically sure-handed wide receiver Cooper Kupp dropped a pass in the end zone in the third quarter, which was the first Rams drop in the end zone since Week 5 of 2017.
Biggest hole in the game plan: Time of possession. The 49ers planned to play keep away, and it worked, particularly in the first half as they held onto the ball for 21:22 and gained 291 total yards of offense. The Rams had only 102 total yards in the first half. The 49ers ended the game with a dominant 37:55 time of possession to the Rams’ 22:05.
Troubling trend: The defense was unable to pressure Garoppolo. The Rams had 17 sacks in their previous three games, but Garoppolo was under duress only once in 21 dropbacks in the first half and he was not sacked the entire game. A week after Aaron Donald had four sacks in a win over Washington, the 49ers neutralized the star defensive tackle, who hit Garoppolo only once.
He proved he’s not the awful quarterback we saw Week 1 against the Cardinals and Week 5 against the Dolphins. In those games, head coach Kyle Shanahan did Garoppolo zero favors. In this game, Shanahan had a much better game plan, so Garoppolo played well. Granted, lots of his passes were shovel passes and screens, and 223 of Garoppolo’s 268 yards came after the catch, and he never had to make a difficult pass. But give him credit for managing the game, committing no turnovers, avoiding sacks and scrambling for a crucial six yards on the 49ers second-to-last drive of the game to set up a 49-yard field goal. Other quarterbacks might have unravelled and panicked, but Garoppolo didn’t. This game should boost his confidence and the team’s confidence in him, but I can’t help but notice how hard Shanahan had to work to make his $27-million-per-season quarterback comfortable. Eventually, Garoppolo will have to do more to justify his contract and lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl victory. But against the Rams, he did enough to win, and that’s all that matters. Good for him. His career in Santa Clara was hanging in the balance and he saved it.
– Fred Warner is really good. He’s chased down a couple sweeps to stop them for short gains.
– Sick throw by Goff to Robert Woods. Jaquiski Tartt had great coverage, but Goff fit it into a tiny window for a touchdown. San Francisco blocked the extra point. 49ers 14, Rams 6
– There’s 7:30 left in the first half and Mostert is already up to 12 carries.
– 16 first-half carries for Mostert is the second-most he’s had in a game in his career.
– Touchdown Brandon Aiyuk. It’s Garoppolo’s third TD pass of the first half, and it’s the first receiving touchdown of Aiyuk’s career. That was great work from Garoppolo to stand in and find the rookie sitting in the soft spot of the zone. San Francisco went 75 yards on 13 plays to chew up 7:16 of game time. 49ers 21, Rams 6
A week after Garoppolo struggled badly on an injured ankle and was benched in a bad loss to the Miami Dolphins, the 49ers made it simpler on offense. Basically, Garoppolo was going to throw a lot behind the line of scrimmage and get rid of the ball fast to the team’s offensive playmakers.
It worked. The 49ers got off to a fast start and the short passing game meant Donald, arguably the best player in football, wasn’t a big factor. The 49ers got a pretty easy 24-16 win to improve to 3-3. The Rams are 4-2.
The 49ers needed a big win, and their coaching staff might deserve the game ball.