It’s not often good fortune is on the 49ers' side. It rarely feels like that, anyway. Luck could be penalties, fumbles, injuries, turnovers, and a few other outcomes. Against the Rams, San Francisco had three early penalties, but none came after the midway point of the second quarter.
The ball bounced their way as two of Jimmy Garoppolo’s tipped passes fell out of harm’s way, Ray-Ray McCloud recovered a Christian McCaffrey fumble, and while the play didn’t count, George Kittle pounced on a goal-line fumble from McCaffrey.
The 49ers won the penalty battle and didn’t turn it over or suffer any injuries while outgaining their opponent by over three yards per play. Add in the Rams not scoring in the second half, and that’s how you come away with a three-possession game.
On Monday, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was asked if Week 8 was different as far as the mistakes made compared to other weeks:
“We definitely still made some mistakes in this game, but when we did, we were able to survive it. I think in the past, when we made these mistakes, we either turned the ball over or instead of giving up a first down, we gave up close to a touchdown, if not a touchdown. I thought the mistakes we made here didn’t kill us, which gave us a chance to overcome them and we did that.”
A few mishaps defensively on the first two possessions led to scores for the Rams. But the 49ers answered each score with one of their own, which took the pressure off the defense. I asked Shanahan how important those early answers were, which led to an elaborate answer with references to the Chiefs game:
“Yeah, I thought the timing of how the whole game kind of went was good. The Rams went three-and-out I believe, and it was great for the offense to take advantage of that, and we didn’t on our first drive. And then the Rams got it, and they scored on a 19-play drive, and it was great.
After a 19-play drive, we got to third-and-seven, and you go three-and-out right there, and you never know what’s going to happen in the game, but yeah, I think Christian moved the chains on a third-and-seven, and then we went down and scored answered at 7-7, then they went and answered, made it 14-7.
And then we were able to go get that field goal at the end of the half, and I was excited to come out at halftime with the ball expecting we would score right away, similar to how it was with Kansas City, but we didn’t.
The difference was the defense held them right there, so they gave the offense another chance to get back some momentum, and then the offense, they scored on their next three drives and the defense never gave anything up, so, that was what allowed us to get a two-score lead and to really take control of the game.”
It’ll always be impressive to hear a coach recall what happened on a play-by-play basis throughout a handful of series in a row.
McCaffrey converting 3rd & 7 was one of the bigger plays of the game.
I’m not psychic but I can tell you the 49ers nailed their 2023 2nd round, 3rd round, 4th round and 2024 fifth round pick.— Steph Sanchez (@Steph49K) November 1, 2022
This was on a 3rd & 7 btw. pic.twitter.com/p6HN40L7JY
If he doesn’t make two players miss, one being Jalen Ramsey, then the Rams get the ball back, and with the way they were moving it early, they likely score.
Shanahan went out of his way to mention the defense getting the ball back to the offense. Earlier in the call, Kyle said Sunday was the best game the 49ers played as a team. His thought process is explained above. When the defense needed some help, the offense answered. And once DeMeco Ryans adjusted, that was all she wrote.
Not only did the offense overcome early mistakes, but they didn’t get stagnant as the game went along, and Shanahan kept his foot on the gas until the final possession. After the game, George Kittle said he was kind of upset the team had a bye week as he felt they started to figure some things out offensively. Expect a rejuvenated, healthy offense in two weeks.