Not too much to be negative about with the 49ers' 24-9 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. The offense didn’t turn the ball over while producing big plays, and the defense prevented big plays and didn’t allow a touchdown against Matthew Stafford and the Rams. The defense topped it off by forcing two fourth-quarter turnovers to put the game away.
It was a good team win, and there were more positives than negatives, so here are the four winners and two losers from Monday:
Winner: Bending but not breaking
Six of the Los Angeles Rams' ten drives Monday night finished in 49ers territory. Those drives combined for 61 plays and 268 yards, taking 28:57 off the clock and resulting in nine points and two turnovers. The Rams had no issues moving the ball, but the 49ers prevented big plays (the Rams had zero plays that gained 20 or more yards) while preventing the Rams from getting into the endzone.
The 49ers' defense continued their early season dominance and have now allowed only 18 points over their last three games while allowing a league-best 11.5 points per game.
Winner: WR Deebo Samuel
Samuel scored what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown with a, as Joe Buck called it, “highlight reel” play, taking a Jimmy Garoppolo screen pass 57-yards, making three Rams miss before running over Jalen Ramsey en route to the touchdown.
The play came on the 49ers' sixth third down of the game, with it being Samuel’s first third down target on the night after the first four third down targets went to Jauan Jennings. Samuel later saw his second third down target with a screen pass he took for 29 yards on a third-and-13 to put the 49ers in field goal range. Samuel finished the night with a team-high six receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown.
Loser: The 49ers the week before beating the Rams
With last week’s ugly loss to the Denver Broncos, the 49ers fell to a 2-5 record in games the week before playing the Rams since 2019. With the win on Monday night, the 49ers moved to 7-0 against the Los Angeles Rams in the regular season in that same span. The losses have been particularly bad: the 2019 Week 15 loss to the 5-9, the 2020 43-17 loss to the Dolphins, the Colt McCoy game last season, and most recently, the 11-10 loss to the Broncos have all preceded the Rams.
Likely more coincidence than a trend, but if the 49ers happen to look bad in Week 7 against the Chiefs, history shows you can mark the 49ers down for a win against the Rams.
Winner: The 49ers' pass rush
The 49ers' pass rush got to Matthew Stafford four times in the first half, tied for the most times he’s been sacked in a first half in his career, finishing with seven sacks on the night. Nick Bosa, in particular was a nightmare, finishing with two sacks, three tackles, five quarterback hits, and 14 pressures on the night. Samson Ebukam also finished with two sacks of his own against his former team, with Charles Omenihu, Hassan Ridgeway, and Deommodore Lenoir adding sacks of their own. DeMeco Ryans sent more pressure than usual which resulted in a few Fred Warner free runs at Stafford as well.
Loser: Kyle Shanahan and his fourth-down conservatism
This small gripe about an overall good performance from Kyle Shanahan is something that has been nagging for a while now, but Shanahan showed just how conservative he could be on Monday night. With 14:56 left in the game and the 49ers leading 14-9 with the ball at the Rams' two-yard-line, Shanahan opted to extend the 49ers' lead from one score to one score with a two-point conversion and took a delay of game to give Robbie Gould a 25-yard field goal to extend the lead to eight.
The Rams' offense the whole night showed they couldn’t get anything going against the 49ers' defense, and a potential 98-yard drive seemed to be too tall of a task.
The decision ended up working as the 49ers won the game, so again, it’s a small gripe, but in the loss to Denver, Shanahan didn’t try for a single fourth down despite having four fourth-and-less-than-5 opportunities. With how good of a play-designer Shanahan is, a two-yard play shouldn’t be an issue, and it would be a good change to see some aggressiveness from Shanahan in those situations.
Winner: game-sealing interceptions for a touchdown
Talanoa Hufanga put an emphatic stamp on the 49ers defense’s pure dominance of the Rams with his 52-yard interception return for a touchdown to put the game away. Not only did it seal the game for the 49ers but also was the perfect way to cap off a very solid first month as the 49ers starting safety.
The interception was the second of the season for Hufanga and his first-career defensive touchdown. Four of the 49ers' last five interceptions returned for a touchdown have come against the Rams, dating back to 2019, with the one not against the Rams coming off of Jared Goff last season against the Lions.