Heading into Monday night, it was widely acknowledged that the 49ers had to win this game if there would be any realistic hope of making a push for a playoff spot this season. Not only did the 49ers defeat the Los Angeles Rams, but they also appeared to completely demoralize them in a 31-10 beatdown on national television. A Niners victory came as a surprise to many after how flat they came out at home only a week prior.
One of the many criticisms of the 49ers season thus far was that they had yet to look the part against a quality opponent, racking up all their wins against teams below .500 this year.
The Rams and their 7-2 record entering this game certainly fit the bill and provided the 49ers with the opportunity to do something they had been attempting to do all season: Record a signature win and establish some kind of identity as a team, both of which appeared to be accomplished.
The 49ers have been a talented team all year, outside of injuries, that has never changed. But, unfortunately, all season, they have been their greatest obstacle, constantly getting in their own way by playing sloppy, mistake-riddled football.
While Monday’s triumph over the Rams wasn’t perfect, the 49ers were able to avoid the greatest football transgression of them all, which is turning the ball over. The 49ers are now 13-4 under Kyle Shanahan when they don’t turn the ball over, and 9-1 in those games since the start of 2019.
On top of winning the turnover battle, the 49ers also dominated on third down. The San Francisco offense entered this game 30th in conversion rate on third downs but executed magnificently vs. the Rams, going 8-14 on the money down, including 5-5 in the first half as they jumped out to an early lead. The defense did its part as well, holding an explosive Rams offense to 3-10 on third downs, as well as 0-2 on fourth downs.
The 49ers also dominated the time of possession as well, holding the ball for nearly double the amount of time the Rams did. Their methodical approach and ability to execute in high leverage spots proved to be invaluable, as they repeatedly gave their defense ample time to rest on the sideline, which certainly appeared to translate to the field given how they stifled a potent Rams offense while holding them to only 10 points.
Additionally, the red zone efficiency was on full display, as an offense that entered the game ranked #1 in the league in that category was perfect on the night, scoring touchdowns on both their trips inside the Rams 20 yard line. The 49ers' defense showed a massive improvement as well, holding the Rams to one touchdown on four red-zone trips after entering the game ranked 24th in the league in red-zone defense.
A huge stop by DJ Jones in the open field on an attempted fake field goal inside the 49ers' 20-yard line quelled any hope the Rams had at entering the half with momentum on their side. However, this also represented so much of what led to this dominating win. Players just stepped up when they needed to, and they did so across all three facets of the game. As for the first time this season, we truly saw the 49ers play complimentary football from the opening kickoff till the final whistle.
As the 49ers prepare to head east to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars, a lot of uncertainty remains about what to expect from the remaining eight games on their schedule. One thing is unquestionable, however, and that is when the 49ers can stay out of their own way and play at the level they did against the Rams, they can go toe to toe with any team in this league.
Of course, this comes back to consistency, something the 49ers have been lacking to this point. However, this kind of win might have been just what the 49ers needed to remind a very talented locker room that they have the capability to run with anyone. The playoffs remain a very real possibility for now, but the focus has to remain week to week in the meantime. So buckle up. There is a lot of football left to be played.