For the first time in 393 days, the San Francisco 49ers have won a game at home. This latest victory comes in the form of a 31-10 rout against the Los Angeles Rams on “Monday Night Football.” Out of the gate, San Francisco was able to impose its will on the Rams and take advantage of their mistakes.
On the opening drive of the game, an errant pass from Matthew Stafford intended for Odell Beckham Jr. was picked off by safety Jimmie Ward. That handed the ball to the San Francisco offense which would drive 93 yards down the field to find the end zone, capping off an unrelenting drive that drained roughly 11 minutes off the clock over 18 plays. On the very next defensive possession, Ward would again pick off Stafford, this time taking a bobbled ball that fell out of the arms of Tyler Higbee 27 yards down the field for a touchdown.
That immediately put L.A. in a 14-0 hole, which ultimately proved to be insurmountable. Sean McVay’s team was able finally to reach the end zone on its possession following the pick-six, but that was essentially the biggest punch it would throw on Monday night.
For the second week in a row, Stafford appeared to be out of sync in the offense as he had a number of throws come in off-target. He finished with 243 yards passing, a touchdown, and those two picks while completing just 26 of his 41 attempts. It also didn’t help that some of his key receivers also had a case of the drops at various points throughout the evening.
As for the Niners, a large part of their victory was their success on the ground. As a team, they ran the ball 44 times for 156 yards. Meanwhile, Jimmy Garoppolo began the game completing 12 straight passes and finished with 182 yards and two touchdowns. The star for San Francisco on the offensive side of the ball, however, again was Deebo Samuel, who was a big factor in the running game (new career high in carries) on top of his usual prowess as a pass-catcher. He caught all five of his targets for 97 yards and a touchdown while carrying the ball five times for 36 yards and another score.
To read more about how this game unfolded, check out our takeaways below.
Why the 49ers won
San Francisco played exactly the type of football it wants to play on a weekly basis. It dominated time of possession and nearly doubled up the Rams thanks to an unrelenting ground attack. In the first half, the 49ers did not have a single passing attempt on first down as Kyle Shanahan elected to lean on his running game to not only move the chains but keep the L.A. offense off the field. That plan was apparent pretty early in this game as they ran the ball on 13 times during their opening 18-play drive.
The 49ers also showed off a rare wrinkle to their offense with Samuel coming out of the backfield. He came into this game with just six carries on the season but logged a career-high five attempts on Monday night that he turned around for 36 yards including an 8-yard touchdown. Samuel also had 17 snaps in shift/motion, which tied the second-most in his career (h/t Next Gen Stats). When San Francisco did opt to pass, Garoppolo remained efficient in the short passing attack while 49ers receivers — particularly Samuel and George Kittle — piled up yards after the catch.
Defensively, the early turnovers were naturally a major swing that helped push the Niners to victory as they directly led to points being put on the board. In the second half, this unit continued to shut down L.A. and forced three three-and-outs right out of the locker room where the Rams only held the ball for a total of 3:22.
Why the Rams lost
It was another off day for this offense. In a similar fashion to their loss to the Titans in Week 9, the Rams committed two early turnovers (one pick-6) that put them in a hole that they couldn’t get themselves out of for the bulk of the game. The first was Stafford seemingly having some miscommunication with Beckham, who was making his Rams debut after signing with the team on Friday. On a broken play, it appeared like Stafford was expecting Beckham to continue moving deep up the middle of the field, but was slowed up for a moment. That threw the timing off on Stafford’s throw and Ward was able to set himself under the ball to make the pick.
While Stafford’s second pick was more the fault of Higbee, who let the ball bounce out of his arms, it was an erratic day for the Rams quarterback. He had a number of throws that were either a tick behind his intended receiver while there were also a few passes that were off by quite a large margin. That rough sledding in the passing game contributed to a miserable day on third down where they would go 3 of 10. L.A. also began pressing a bit too hard once it found itself in that 14-0 hole. That was clear as McVay elected to attempt a fake field goal pass play on fourth-and-8 with Johnny Hecker just prior to the half. That attempt was sniffed out by the 49ers’ special teams unit and they went to break trailing 21-7.
As we noted above, the Rams’ run defense didn’t have much of an answer for the San Fran running game early and struggled to get off the field, particularly in the first half when the 49ers converted all five of their third-down opportunities. On the night, they allowed the offense to average 9 yards per play and score on each of their two red-zone trips, which is hardly a winning formula.
While the long touchdown drive following the first interception was impressive, Ward’s pick-6 truly put us on upset alert. That put the Rams in a quick 14-0 hole and had the 49ers riding with all sorts of confidence for the rest of the game. Turnovers have been something this 49ers team has been starving for this season. Coming into Week 10, they had only two interceptions on the year, meaning they matched their season output in a matter of minutes.
Play of the game
On a fourth-and-5 play in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, Garoppolo and Samuel put the dagger in the Rams with a 40-yard touchdown to go up 31-7. Garoppolo made a nice throw into the second level and in between three Rams defenders to hit Samuel over the middle. From there, the wide receiver was able to shed a couple of would-be tacklers — as he’d done for most of the night — and scamper to the end zone.
From here, the 49ers will head down to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars, who are fresh off a Week 10 loss to the Colts. Meanwhile, the Rams enter their bye week and do some self-scouting to try to snap their two-game losing streak when they face the Packers in Week 12.