The 49ers offense looked like the 49ers offense to begin the game as Sam Darnold led the offense to a 12-play, 75-yard drive that took half the clock of the first quarter.
Darnold’s first pass was completed to tight end Charlie Woerner for 20 yards. He also found Brandon Aiyuk, Elijah Mitchell, and Deebo Samuel for a perfect 5-for-5 on the drive for 49 yards. Mitchell capped the drive off with a touchdown run to give San Francisco an early 7-0 lead.
The Rams didn’t face much resistance on their initial drive. Carson Wentz went 4-for-5 for 47 yards, including a perfectly thrown pass to Puka Nacua over the outstretched arms of Charvarius Ward. That tied the score at seven, and Nacua needed one more yard to break the record.
Edge rusher Clelin Ferrell was ruled out with a knee injury on the drive.
Jaylon Moore replaced Trent Williams on the following drive. We also saw Jordan Mason in the game. However, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk remained on the field. Mason’s second carry went for 16 yards. Darnold had a designed quarterback run for nine yards. That was new.
After Mason picked up a 4th & 1 conversion, Mitchell added a 14-yard gain. San Francisco had the ball inside the Rams’ five-yard line with another scoring opportunity. Darnold couldn’t find a receiver open on 3rd & 4, but Los Angeles was flagged for a defensive holding call in the end zone, giving the Niners a fresh set of downs.
Darnold snuck it over the goal line for his 13th career rushing touchdown to give the 49ers a 14-7 lead after Jake Moody made his 60th consecutive extra point.
Wentz didn’t have the same success on the Rams’ second drive. His pass went through the hands of Tutu Atwell, deflected into the air, and into the diving arms of Tayler Hawkins for an impressive interception to give the Niners a short field.
Aaron Banks had a holding penalty to put the 49ers behind the sticks and make it 1st & 20. But Mason eluded a tackle on the next play to get 12 yards back. Unfortunately, Moody couldn’t convert the field goal to give the 49ers a two-score lead. That was Moody’s first miss inside 40 yards on the season.
Naturally, there were overreactions to Moody’s miss. Robbie Gould was automatic in the playoffs. For Moody, he’s been money when the ball is down the middle — as evidenced by extra points. But, for whatever reason, he hasn't been the same when the ball is on the hash. Moody has made 21 of 25 kicks up to this point, but the 49ers drafted him to be closer to 95 percent and not 84. Moody will be fine.
If you had Chris Conley on your bingo card for the longest play of the first half, come forward to collect your prize. Darnold made a deep throw along the sideline, and Conley raced 48 yards inside the Rams’ red zone.
Ronnie Bell caught his third touchdown pass of the season on 3rd & goal. Darnold threw Bell open, and Bell made the contested catch to give San Francisco a 20-7 lead. Moody would miss the extra point for the first time all season.
The Rams possessed the ball for over half of the third quarter. Nacua finally got his record and exited the game. Los Angeles had a promising drive. They were driving, but Robert Beal Jr. sacked Wentz to make it 2nd & 17.
The Niners’ defense failed to get off the field on third down as Wentz found a receiver streaking down the sideline as rookie Darrell Luter bit on an underneath route. That set up the Rams for a 1st & goal situation. The defense put up a good fight, but Wentz threw his receiver open in the end zone to bring the Rams within a touchdown after their kicker missed the extra point to make it 20-13.
At halftime, Kyle Shanahan commented about Moody’s misses to the sideline reporter: “Uh, yeah. He’s missed two. Hopefully, he doesn’t miss anymore.”
The 49ers had to punt on their next drive. Darnold scrambled for a first down on 3rd & 2, but was sacked on the following play.
The Rams faced a 4th & 1 on the 49ers 43-yard line on their ensuing drive. The quarterback sneak was a popular yet effective play in this game. Wentz converted on a sneak once again.
Steve Wilks dialed up pressure on third down, which caused Chase Young to be a free rusher on third down. On 4th down, there was a circus of a play. It appeared as though Wentz was down, but he lateraled the ball to a running back who bounced it wide and magically picked up the first down.
Shanahan threw the challenge flag before the Rams could get another play off. The challenge was successful. Oren Burks picked up his first sack of the season, and the 49ers forced a turnover on downs.
There were changes along the offensive line on the next drive. Matt Pryor took over for Colton McKivitz at right tackle. Ben Bartch moved to center.
Hawkins, who had the interception earlier in the game, was flagged for a defensive pass interference as he was guilty of grabbing the receiver when the ball was in the air. That flipped the field and put Los Angeles in a position to score.
It came down to 4th & 2 at the 15-yard line, and Wentz found Atwell, who had beaten Samuel Womack for a first down. The camera panned to Steve Wilks to get his reaction, and he was not happy.
Wentz scored on a design quarterback draw on the next play. The Rams went for two, and Atwell beat Hawkins to give Los Angeles a 21-20 lead.
Darnold had just under five minutes to lead a game-winning drive. It would also provide Moody another chance.
Darnold broke the pocket on the first play and heaved it deep to McCloud. But Ray-Ray couldn’t hold on after the hit, so the call was reversed to incomplete. Darnold was sacked on third down, forcing the 49ers to punt with 3:48 remaining in the game.
The defense forced as top, and the Niners had 55 seconds to get into field goal range. Darnold delivered another strike. This time, to Chris Conley, but he couldn’t hold on to the ball. That would’ve given the offense the ball at the 45-yard line. Instead, it was an incomplete pass.
Darnold fumbled, scrambling, which ended the game giving the Rams a win 21-20.