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3 Winners and 2 losers from the 49ers win over the Rams

The Niners can thank a Rams wideout for one of their turnovers

San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers played their closest regular season game against the Los Angeles Rams since January 2022; a pointless last-second field goal turned a two-score win into a one-score win. It doesn’t seem like much, but on paper - at least box score paper, it meant a ton on betting slip paper - it’ll read as a slim seven-point victory.

One lousy quarter, where the Rams scored more than half their points, kept Los Angeles in the game until late, but as standard, the 49ers’ defense came through when needed.

Deebo Samuel scored his first touchdown of the season and had an excellent game, but he didn’t have his usual field-flipping play against Los Angeles. My first winner, however, did:

Winner: RB Christian McCaffrey

McCaffrey was the only player listed as a running back to take every rushing attempt on Sunday. He became the third player listed as a running back under Kyle Shanahan to take 100 percent of the carries in a single, and the first since the 2021 season. The previous three instances:

  • Elijah Mitchell (2021 vs. Texans)
  • Jeff Wilson (2021 at Bengals)
  • Mitchell (2021 at Seahawks)

Samuel had a combined 15 carries in two of those games - he missed the game in Seattle due to injury - and had five carries for 38 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, but he’s listed as a receiver.

McCaffrey made good on Shanahan’s decision, rushing for 116 yards on 20 attempts and a touchdown. His fifth carry of the day opened the scoring for the 49ers with a cutback run that went 14 yards to give San Francisco an early 7-0 lead.

The running back wasted little time before his next big play, gaining 51 yards before being brought down by Ahkello Witherspoon to end the first quarter. The run wouldn’t have been possible without plentiful good blocking ahead of McCaffrey.

Trent Williams and George Kittle were able to open a hole on the line, not only to allow McCaffrey to get to the second level but also to allow Jauan Jennings through. Jennings and Deebo Samuel were able to seal off the second level, giving McCaffrey plenty of green grass ahead.

With his touchdown, McCaffrey extended his touchdown streak to 11 games.

Loser: 49ers defense in the second quarter

The second quarter on Sunday might have been the worst played quarter by a 49ers defense in a long while. The Rams' offense scored 14 of their 23 points in the second, with both scoring drives spanning at least 60 yards.

The quarter started ominously, with a Jake Moody kickoff going out of bounds, giving the Rams the ball at their own 40. Matthew Stafford then went five-for-six for 51 yards and a touchdown to tie the game at 10. The eight-play drive saw Charvarius Ward allow a 19-yard reception to Puka Nacua on a third-and-2.

Isaiah Oliver missing what should have been an easy tackle, and Dre Greenlaw getting called for an unnecessary roughness call on what would have been a Talanoa Hufanga tackle for loss.

The 49ers were forced to punt when, again, Stafford was able to lead the Rams’ offense on a 13-play, 88-yard touchdown drive to give the Rams their first lead of the game, this time ending in a Kyren Williams 4-yard run.

Winner: 49ers defense in the other three quarters

Let’s zoom out and look at the Rams’ entire offensive drive chart:

  • 11 plays, 50 yards, 6:31 - FIELD GOAL
  • Eight plays, 60 yards, 3:43 - TOUCHDOWN
  • 13 plays, 88 yards, 5:17 - TOUCHDOWN
  • Seven plays, 25 yards, 4:58 - PUNT
  • Seven plays, 41 yards, 4:35 - INTERCEPTION
  • Three plays, -10 yards, 1:01 - PUNT
  • 14 plays, 45 yards, 4:15 - FIELD GOAL
  • Three plays, 5 yards, 0:41 - INTERCEPTION
  • Four plays, 8 yards, 0:36 - TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  • 11 plays, 50 yards, 1:34 - FIELD GOAL

Everything around the two touchdowns was either three-and-outs, long drives that resulted in a field goal, or a turnover. Sean McVay’s offense averaged 4.9 yards per play, the 24th time in McVay’s 100 career games his offense has been held to under five yards per play.

Fred Warner led the way for the 49ers’ defense with 11 tackles, a sack, and a tackle for loss, with the sack coming late in the third quarter with the 49ers only up three. Then, at the midway point of the fourth quarter, Warner had a pressure that forced an incomplete pass on a third-and-21. That forced the Rams to kick a field goal to shrink the 49ers’ lead to seven, but those would be the Rams’ last points until the final play of the game.

The two interceptions came from Isaiah Oliver and Deommodore Lenoir in the second half. The defense was credited with 27 pressures - five from Nick Bosa and Javon Hargrave and four from Javon Kinlaw.

The 49ers defense is at a point where a bad quarter feels like a bad game, but that’s all it was: a single bad quarter. Everything around the second quarter was what we’ve come to expect from the 49ers defense.

Loser: QB Brock Purdy

The numbers are acceptable, 17-for-25, 206 yards, without a touchdown or interception - although Samuel’s rushing touchdown sure did look like a forward pass - but Purdy finds himself as a loser Sunday for the numbers he didn’t have.

On three separate occasions, Purdy overthrew three deep shots to wide-open 49ers receivers, leaving one, possibly two touchdowns off the board. The first overthrow came in the second quarter, intended for Brandon Aiyuk, which would have moved the ball at minimum 30 yards downfield and maybe more, but the 49ers were forced to punt two plays later.

Then, in the third quarter, Jennings had a step on his man, but Purdy overshot again, missing what could have been a 20-yard gain. If Purdy hits Jennings, and he makes a move, a possible 79-yard touchdown, but again, Purdy’s miss resulted in a punt and the first three-and-out of the young season.

His third overthrow was his most egregious. Samuel had a step on his man in coverage for what should have been an easy touchdown to put the 49ers up 24-17 late in the third. Instead, Purdy missed his man deep again, and the 49ers had to settle for a Jake Moody 57-yard field goal and just a four-point lead.

There was even another missed pass on a third down in the fourth quarter that would have moved the chains and allowed the 49ers to chew more clock with a seven-point lead. But the Rams' offense could not capitalize on the miss and Stafford threw his second interception of the game three plays later.

It’s one off-game for Purdy in his early career, but it’s tough to ignore how much better his stat line could have been.

Winner (at least for the 49ers): WR Tutu Atwell

Atwell made - or didn’t - what could have been the play that saved the game for the 49ers. The Rams drove 56 yards in 11 plays with just runs and short passes when McVay decided to take his shot.

I’m the last person you’d want to have explaining routes, so I’ll allow Rich Madrid to explain:

Van Jefferson took Lenoir down the middle of the field with him, leaving the front pylon wide open for Atwell to take, with Oliver taking the flat and Tashaun Gipson the lone safety. Stafford threw a perfect pass near the pylon in the space.

Unfortunately for Stafford, Atwell just sat on his route and never ran the “speed cut” portion, allowing the ball to fall harmlessly four yards into the end zone right on the sideline.

As Stafford was visibly upset with Atwell for not finishing the route, the referees were meeting and determined Stafford’s overthrow - which wasn’t his fault - was so far over they ruled intentional grounding,

Instead of a potential touchdown to make it a four-point game, it was a loss of 11 and a loss of downs. Which forced Los Angeles to kick a field goal to cut the 49ers lead to seven, 27-20, in the middle of the fourth instead of 27-24.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter as the 49ers won by seven, and a touchdown on the Rams’ final drive wouldn’t have changed the result. But in the moment, it was a massive shift for the Rams as the Rams couldn’t convert and second-and-21 with back-to-back incomplete passes.

Maybe the rest of the game goes the same way; if that’s a touchdown, it didn’t change the game, but perhaps the rest plays out differently if Atwell scores. Either way, the 49ers caught a considerable break late in the game.