The season of unexpected games continues.
The San Francisco 49ers beat the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football. The Rams entered as nearly 4-point favorites and were many people’s preseason favorites to win the NFC. They ended up losing by three touchdowns and did not look like a team ready to compete for a Super Bowl. Let’s take a deeper look into what exactly went down in this game.
What Went Right for the 49ers
San Francisco came to play, and it was not messing around. Head coach Kyle Shanahan was in his bag all night.
The Rams defense has Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, two of the best defensive players in the NFL who are on track to be in the hall of fame. They also recently added Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller, another future hall-of-famer. None of that mattered Monday night.
The 49ers ran the ball 44 times for 156 yards and completely took over time of possession with 40 minutes compared to the Rams’ 20 minutes. They had two drives of over seven minutes, including the longest offensive drive of the NFL season so far at 11 minutes and three seconds.
Left tackle Trent Williams was murdering every defender who lined up across from him, repeatedly obliterating guys and pummeling them into the ground. The highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL was playing like it and showed no signs of slowing down at 33 years old.
Receiver Deebo Samuel continued his dominant run this season with 133 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. Tight end George Kittle looked healthier after recovering from his injury, and was demolishing guys all night — just like Trent Williams and the rest of the offensive line.
It’s also worth spotlighting 49ers guard Daniel Brunskill. He’s not a name most people, even avid NFL fans, know, but every time he matches up with Donald, who is considered by many as the best player in football, he’s able to erase him from the game. He did so once again, with Donald basically being invisible all night.
Quarterback Jimmy Garropolo played well, giving his receivers chances to make plays and avoiding any game-breaking turnovers. That, combined with the effective run game and a strong defensive performance, with safety Jimmy Ward intercepting Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford twice and taking one to the house, allowed the 49ers to comfortably win this game.
What Went Wrong for the Rams
When things go right for one team, it also means things go wrong for the other team. The Rams got punched in the mouth from the opening drive and could not recover.
Their star-studded defense that was No. 1 in the NFL last season did not look anywhere near that last night. New defensive coordinator Raheem Morris had some big shoes to fill, and so far, the results are questionable.
The Rams defense couldn’t get off the field, allowing the 49ers to methodically move the ball with long, tedious drives all night long. 1st and 10, 2nd and 7, 3rd and 3, 1st and 10, 2nd and 6, and so on and so forth.
The Rams offense, which featured Stafford, a preseason MVP favorite and newly acquired quarterback from the Detroit Lions, looked out of sync and lost for most of the game. Stafford threw two interceptions, though you could make the case that neither were truly his fault — there were some bad bounces and bad luck there.
The receivers also generally struggled to get open and the run game was not able to get going. The Rams averaged 103 rushing yards per game coming into this matchup but were held to just 52 yards, their second lowest output of the season.
The 49ers have the Rams’ number, with the Rams being 0-4 against them the past two seasons. People thought it would be different this season, with the Rams having major success this season and the 49ers having major struggles, including a four-game losing streak. Yet, even with all of that, Shanahan managed to outcoach Rams head coach Sean McVay once again.
Still a Long Season Ahead
Football will always be won in the trenches. With the Rams defense unable to stop the 49ers’ demoralizing rushing attack and the Rams offense unable to get its own run game going, there was nothing much they could do.
The opening 11-minute 49ers drive was masterful to watch and play calling at its finest by Shanahan. The Rams are still a good team and still have a lot of talent, but they have work to do if they want to truly contend for a Super Bowl.
While this matchup definitely didn’t play out as expected, many, many games this season haven’t. All hope is not lost for the Rams, as they are still expected to make the playoffs and contend for a division title. The 49ers might be able to sneak into the playoffs, but they will have to basically win out, which will be very difficult.
It’ll be fun to see the direction both teams go in for the rest of the season and who will end up winning the NFC West. If this game proves one thing, it’s that parity in the league is at an all-time high, and that any given Sunday, Monday or Thursday, anything can happen.
Siddarth Srivastava covers women’s golf. Contact him at [email protected].