You couldn’t have scripted the 49ers opening drive any better. Brock Purdy went 6-for-6, averaging 8.2 yards per attempt. Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffrey, and George Kittle all touched the ball at least once. And McCaffrey had five carries for 26 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown run to cap off an 11-play, 75-yard drive.
Jake Moody’s first kickoff of his young career resulted in a touchback. So, it was a promising start for San Francisco. Then, the Rams' offense took the field.
Stafford connected on his first four passes for 37 yards. Tutu Atwell’s speed gave both cornerbacks issues, while Puka Nacua caught the other two. It only took the Rams five plays to get into San Francisco’s territory.
Stafford used his legs to extend plays, and the Rams gave the 49ers a taste of their own medicine with a long drive themselves. But, on 3rd & 14, Drake Jackson made an impressive hustle play after recognizing a screen pass, and prevented Los Angeles from picking up a first down. Brett Maher’s kick was good from 43 yards out, and the Niners remained in the lead, 7-3.
Two possessions into the game, and there was just under two minutes to play in the first quarter. San Francisco wasted no time marching down the field, as McCaffrey had an explosive 51-yard run, followed by some trash talk to Ahkello Witherspoon:
But Aiyuk had his third down target jarred loose, and the 49ers had to settle for a field goal, which made it 10-3, Niners.
Stafford would find Nacua for 20 yards, then nine on the ensuing drive and just like that, the Rams were in the red zone. The defense offered little resistance, and a personal foul on Dre Greenlaw didn’t help. Greenlaw has to be careful, as he’s built somewhat of a reputation. Referees won’t give him any leeway.
Stafford found Kyren Williams for a six yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 10 apiece. That was two drives in a row where the 49ers had zero answers for the Rams. Quite the surprise.
The Niners had an opportunity to score on their next drive, but Purdy overshot Aiyuk on a double move. It was a beautiful route, where Aiyuk beat Ahkello Witherspoon. That would have been a walk-in touchdown. Instead, the Niners were forced to punt.
And the way this game was going, the offense couldn’t afford a drive without points. Sure enough, Stafford had completions of 11, 18, and 13 on the next drive. The Rams had a double-digit play drive that lasted over five minutes, and had no trouble reaching the red zone.
But would the 49ers defense bow up? No. A couple of carries later, and the Rams were up 17-10.
San Francisco would have an opportunity to score before the half, and it was a critical drive considering the Rams were set to receive to begin the third quarter. Deebo took a screen pass for 23 yards. Purdy found Jauan Jennings for a gain of 20, and, within a blink of an eye, the 49ers were in Rams territory. Purdy gave Samuel an opportunity in the end zone, and was rewarded with a defensive pass interference call. With one-second left on the clock, the 49ers went for a QB sneak. Purdy punched it in and the score was tied at 17 heading into halftime.
Both teams punted on their initial drive of the second half. Wilks came out aggressive. He blitzed three times on Los Angeles’s first drive. Then, brought a corner blitz on the next. Unfortunately, Charvarius Ward missed Stafford in the backfield, and he made them pay.
After it looked like as though the Rams would score, Isaiah Oliver was the beneficiary of a tipped pass. This was after making a crucial third down stop on the drive before.
Purdy had another opportunity to hit a receiver deep, but he overthrew him. That’ll be something to keep an eye on, Brock’s misses. You’ll never fault a quarterback for pushing the ball down the field, but these receivers are open.
So, it was a six-play scoring drive that was just over 40 yards, and rookie kicker Jake Moody made his kick from 57 yards. There was some slight confusion, as the Rams PA announcer said the kick was wide left, despite the refs signaling the kick was good. The Niners took the lead 20-17.
It was evident their intention was to target Deommodore Lenoir, but Stafford failed to connect twice, then Fred Warner sacked Stafford.
The Rams second-half drives:
Wilks’ answer has been to blitz. He’s sending pressure early and often. Oliver has blitzed quite a bit. Charvarius Ward did. Then Warner on that sack after blitzing twice before. Wilks is going down swinging and not playing passively.
The 49ers offense rewarded its defense with a score. Purdy found Deebo for 16, then completed “leak” to Jauan Jennings, who made a contested catch for 31 yards. After a Samuel run, he caught a short pass, broke a couple of tackles, and found the end zone to give the 49ers a 10-point lead. That score made it 27-17.
But you knew the Rams wouldn’t go away. Not with the way they had been moving the ball all afternoon. Stafford’s favorite target, Nacua, had receptions of 12, 8, and 9 on the drive. After getting inside the 49ers 30-yard line, Stafford had a killer intentional grounding call that stalled the drive. Within two plays, it was now 3rd & 22.
Maher’s 48-yard field goal trimmed the Niners lead to 27-20.
San Francisco punted the ball right back to Los Angeles, after the offense failed to convert on two plays from 2nd & 2. Deebo was stuffed on a run. Then, his pass was errant to Samuel on third down.
The 49ers have relied on their defense for years. It was up to them to get a stop. Deommodore Lenoir came up with a fantastic interception, where he blanked the wideout and undercut Stafford’s throw for an interception. That gave the offense a short field.
Moody’s 26-yard field goal attempt made it 30-20, 49ers.
The Rams would have another chance, but Oliver, Arik Armstead, and Nick Bosa tackled Williams in the backfield to stick a fork in any last-minute drive the Rams had in mind. After struggling in the first half, the 49ers defense forced three turnovers and limited Stafford and company to three points in the second half.