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3 quick takeaways from the 49ers 21-20 loss to the Rams

The 49ers played their starters for half the game in what felt like an exhibition.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Washington Commanders Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers dropped to 12-5 in what felt like an exhibition game against the Los Angeles Rams, as they lost 21-20 in a close Week 18 outing to cap off the regular season.

Offensively, the 49ers scored 21 points in the first half, but were left scoreless over the final 30 minutes when backups dominated the game.

Defensively, San Francisco had a good outing with their top players, but a few miscues let Rams score 14 second-half points, as they snuck away with the victory.

Here are three quick takeaways from the 49ers’ 21-20 loss to the Rams on Sunday.


As I shared in the keys to the game entering this week, health was the No. 1 prerogative for the 49ers this weekend.

And, for the most part, the 49ers got out unscathed, apart from a Clelin Ferrell injury, which doesn’t appear to be major.

It was a question of how long the 49ers would play their starters heading into Week 18, and a majority played nearly the entire first half, apart from Trent Williams, who played one series.

San Francisco held out tight end George Kittle and linebacker Dre Greenlaw as precautions due to back spasms and Achilles tightness, but it doesn’t seem that either issue is severe.

Now, the 49ers get a full week of rest before getting back into the motions during the divisional round of the playoffs.

Sam Darnold

Sam Darnold’s final play of the game will likely leave a sour taste in fans’ mouths, as the quarterback fumbled the ball with the game on the line at the end of the fourth quarter, similar to how he threw an interception at the end against the Baltimore Ravens on Christmas.

But, apart from that play, I felt that Darnold had a very good game, consistently hitting receivers, feeling pressures, and, most importantly, keeping the ball out of harm’s way.

Darnold looked especially crisp with the starters, leading the 49ers to four straight scoring opportunities in the first half, although San Francisco got only 20 points out of them, due to a missed field goal and an extra point by kicker Jake Moody.

Then, in the second half, Darnold’s stats didn’t pop off as the 49ers were held scoreless, but the quarterback did make a number of nice throws as well, including a deep ball to Ray-Ray McCloud and another to Chris Conley, both of which were dropped.

Darnold did face some issues with his receivers holding onto passes, but played with good confidence and consistently delivered the football with good decision-making. It was a good game for the quarterback.

Running Backs

While a majority of the 49ers’ backups seen on Sunday won’t get many opportunities in the playoffs, one position that will see a good amount of action is running back, as Elijah Mitchell and Jordan Mason will be counted upon to relieve Christian McCaffrey at times.

Against the Rams, Mitchell and Mason were the lead backs, and both had good performances, with the former rushing for 52 yards on 14 carries, while the latter had 36 yards on six carries.

Both players went off for a couple of explosive plays, and more importantly, showcased that they could be able to carry the load if needed, even if it was against lower competition.

McCaffrey is the key to San Francisco’s offensive success, but his backups will be called upon in key moments to deliver when the star needs a break.

It’s a good sign that both Mitchell and Mason are healthy for the stretch run, as they possess different capabilities, and have been able to flourish in this 49ers offense.