The 49ers are somehow tied with every other team in the NFC West through four weeks. Coming off their rough 11-10 loss to the Broncos last week, they defended home field against the Los Angeles Rams in a 24-9 butt-kicking of the reigning Super Bowl champs.
Here are position-by-position grades for the Niners big win:
After one of the worst performances of his career last week, Jimmy Garoppolo bounced back to a performance more in line with who he is as a quarterback. Garoppolo finished 16-for-27 with 239 passing yards and a touchdown, but as is often the case, Jimmy G’s numbers were popped up by an incredible play by Deebo Samuel. It’s not a knock on Jimmy, he is what he is and avoided making any costly turnovers. The Niners will be a top-three team in the NFC if he can play like this each week.
Running backs: B
Jeff Wilson Jr. received the lion’s share of carries once again and capped off the 49ers first drive by capitalizing on a massive hole created by the offensive line for a 32-yard touchdown. He averaged less than 2.5 yards per carry on his 17 other carries, though. Wilson is a solid backup running back, but he rarely can create more than what his blockers give him.
Kyle Juszczyk also rushed for nine yards in his only carry and hauled in a 35-yard reception.
Tight ends: B-
Garoppolo missed an opportunity for a big play to Charlie Woerner in the first quarter and George Kittle is still looking for his first gain of more than 20 yards this season. Kittle recorded 24 receiving yards on two receptions and was a few inches away from hauling in a game-sealing touchdown.
Wide receivers: A+
Deebo Samuel was sensational on Monday Night. Samuel already broke ESPN’s new metric at creating yards after the catch, and he might have broken it even more with some incredible moves after the catch. His 57-yard touchdown was obviously the highlight play, but it was far from his only big play. On a big third-and-13, the Niners drew up a simple screen for Samuel, and he turned it into a 29-yard gain.
Brandon Aiyuk caught all four of his targets for 37 receiving yards. Jauan Jennings hauled in a big third-down catch, but also had a drop.
Offensive line: B-
The 49ers offensive line got off to a rough start on Monday, with miscommunication between right guard Spencer Burford and center Jake Brendel allowing a free rusher to get at Garoppolo. However, they bounced back and ultimately had a solid performance.
The Niners playcalling made the offensive line’s job easier by getting the ball out of Garoppolo’s hands quickly, but they still allowed just four pressures over the course of the game.
In the run game, the line had several big highlights on Wilson’s touchdown run and on a few screens, but they struggled to generate push in the trenches in the second half.
Defensive line: A+
It still amazes me that the 49ers have been able to maintain such an elite defensive line after trading DeForest Buckner. The Rams depleted offensive line was no match for defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and the Niners line. Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford was pressured on 17 of his dropbacks and was sacked six times.
Nick Bosa was a force off the edge, as to be expected, adding a pair of sacks and tackles for loss, but Samson Ebukam was probably the second most impressive defensive lineman. He continued his improved play in his second year with the Niners, adding a couple of sacks and tackle for loss of his own.
The Niners linebackers missed a couple of opportunities to pick off passes from Stafford, but that’s the only knock I can make about this group. After some costly mistakes early in the season, Dre Greenlaw was all over the field and racked up a game-high 15 tackles, including one for loss.
Fred Warner was also his quintessential self, containing the Rams rushing attack while standing out in coverage.
The 49ers defensive line gave their secondary an easy task on Sunday, and the Niners corners had another solid performance. Emmanuel Moseley and Mooney Ward did a good job in coverage against the Rams receivers, although Ward understandably allowed some longer completions to Cooper Kupp.
Moseley and nickel corner Deommodore Lenoir were excellent open-field tacklers, combing for 11 solo tackles and two tackles for loss. Lenoir also got in on the pass rush with a sack on a perfectly called blitz.
I expected Tashaun Gipson to be a liability this season stepping in for injured safety Jimmie Ward. While Gipson has made some mistakes in the early weeks, he has been more than competent filling in for Ward.
Of course, this A+ has little to do with Gipson. Talanoa Hufanga may already be a top-three player on the 49ers star-studded defense. Hufanga put the game out of reach with an amazing pick-six on a screen pass from Stafford that, as Niners Nation’s Kyle Posey explained, showed off elite levels of anticipation.
check out the angle departure from the slot WR. hufanga can tell it's a screen cause he releases so flat. he sees 88 pop straight up, then darts in front of the throw. don't think hufanga baited stafford. it legit looks like he recognized a screen in a split second. bonkers play. https://t.co/lt6PW0ePWC— KP (@KP_Show) October 4, 2022
Special teams: D
After Robbie Gould missed a 42-yard field goal, Mitch Wishnowsky averaged fewer than 40 yards per punt on his four kicks and only pinned the Rams inside their own 20 once, and Ray-Ray McCloud fumbled a kick return. The Niners special teams had avoided big mistakes this season, but they have some things to work on after Monday’s performance.