We knew we were in for a wild ride and, based on the start of the game, the Rams and 49ers did not disappoint.
After a three-and-out, the 49ers had a chance for a big play and potential touchdown, but Jimmy Garoppolo missed a wide-open George Kittle streaking down the sideline. That led to a punt and a promising drive for the Rams.
Heading into the end zone, Matthew Stafford threw it slightly behind Cooper Kupp. K’Waun Williams tipped the pass in the air and into the hands of Jimmie Ward. Those are the types of plays the Niners have been coming up with as of late.
The offense moved the ball, but a risky throw into coverage fell incomplete, which forced a Rams punt. Trent Sherfield downed the punt at the three-yard line, but that didn’t prevent the Rams from moving the ball.
Kupp’s 16-yard touchdown catch on third and long capped off an 18-play, 97-yard drive that took over nine minutes off the clock. The Rams converted five first downs on the drive. On their ensuing drive, they’d pick up another and were 7-for-9 on third downs at one point in the second half.
San Francisco answered Los Angele’s touchdown drive with an impressive drive of their own. Garoppolo found Brandon Aiyuk on a deep pass for 31 yards. Trent Williams had a false start after, but it didn’t matter.
Deebo, as we’ve seen seemingly every game, took a screen, broke a couple of tackles, and outran everyone for a 44-yard touchdown. Samuel is impossible to stop. We’ve spoiled because these plays aren’t the norm, yet, we’ve seen them so often that we’ve grown accustomed to his greatness.
The Rams would fail to convert a 3rd & 8 after the pressure started to get to Stafford. Matt Gay’s 54-yard field goal was short and wide right, giving the Niners a short field.
The situation was perfect as San Francisco had a short field and would receive the ball to begin the third quarter. After Deebo Samuel took a scary hit, Kittle and Aiyuk caught first downs, which led to a 38-yard field goal before the half.
Samuel returned the opening kickoff and would carry the ball to start the third quarter. He wasn’t affected by the big hit. The Rams would have two penalties on the drive to give the 49ers a first down, and they were into Los Angeles territory in no time.
On 3rd & 9, after doing a great job of avoiding two sacks on the drive, Jimmy’s pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage, and his pass intended for Kittle fell incomplete. Kittle likely picks up the first down, but San Francisco was forced to punt. Wishnowsky’s 31-yard punt would force Stafford and company to march 91 yards.
Field position doesn’t mean much against a potent offense like the Rams. Within four plays, they were at midfield, and it only took a minute to get there. The coverage was soft on the outside, and Stafford took advantage of it. Odell Beckham Jr. had receptions of 13 & 26 on the drive.
It came down to 4th & inches, and the defense stopped Stafford short of the marker — he might have ended up losing yards. Once again, the defensive line proved they’re the best unit in the playoffs.
After Aiyuk beat Ramsey on 3rd & 4 for a 13-yad gain, Deebo would break multiple tackles for 14 yards. The drive came down 3rd & 10, and Garoppolo was patient and wound up finding Jennings, who had to fight for extra yards to pick up the first down.
Garoppolo would find Kittle on a “sail” concept in the end zone to give the 49ers a 10-point lead. The play-calling on the drive was perfect from Shanahan, and kudos to Jimmy for executing, the receivers holding on, and the line giving Garoppolo time to scan the field.
A 17-7 lead wasn’t going to keep the Rams down, though. It only took them four plays to reach the Niners' red zone after gains of 11 and 20. Los Angeles took a timeout with 19 seconds to play in the third quarter, which felt like it’d come back to haunt them.
Kupp beat Williams on 3rd & 1 in the slot for an 11-yard touchdown reception to cut the lead to 17-14.
The 49ers made their way to the Rams 45 but wound up punting on 4th & 2 after taking a delay of game penalty. At the time, it was a terrible decision. Jaquiski Tartt would drop an interception, leading to a field goal, but that ignores the punt. It should have never come down to Tartt.
The Rams had moved the ball all game. You weren’t preventing them from crossing midfield. You have a chance to add points if you convert a first down. Instead, the offense punted the ball back to Los Angeles on the 15-yard line. After Tartt’s drop, Jimmie Ward was flagged for unnecessary roughness, which aided the Rams drive.
The score was tied at 17. Garoppolo threw the ball directly to Ramsey, who dropped it. A delay of game on the drive didn’t help, but the offense couldn’t get anything going. That was the 49ers' second three-and-out of the game.
The Rams quickly made their way to midfield after Wishnowsky’s punt only went 41 yards. The Rams converted two third downs, including a 25-yarder to bring the ball to the 12-yard line.
McVay dropped back to pass on second down, leading to Bosa’s second sack. That saved a timeout for San Francisco, and they’d need it. After a field goal, the Rams took the lead 20-17 with 1:46 to play.
After a tipped pass and a completion for a loss of two, Garoppolo’s pass was intercepted on third down to give the Rams the victory. I thought Shanahan coached cowardly in the fourth quarter. The team didn’t execute, but you can’t punt the ball on 4th & 2 in that situation.