The 49ers beat the Rams 20-7 Sunday afternoon. Here are the 49ers’ grades.
JIMMY GAROPPOLO: C-plus. He’s 13-2 in his career as a starting quarterback, so he’s doing something right. He throws beautiful passes, has a lightning-quick release and hangs tough under pressure. But, this season, he still hasn’t been the reason the 49ers have won a game. Against the Rams, he turned the ball over twice, and his quarterback rating was just 80.7. He has become a game manager who makes two or three bad decisions per game. Fortunately for the 49ers, none of his bad decisions have cost them a victory yet.
RUNNING BACKS: C. The 49ers running backs averaged just 2.7 yards per carry, which was to be expected – fullback Kyle Juszczyk is the engine of the run game and he will miss four to six weeks with a knee sprain. Without Juszczyk, the running backs had very small holes to run through. But, Tevin Coleman scored a touchdown, and Matt Breida caught four passes.
DANTE PETTIS: A. Last week, I tweeted that Pettis is a “flat-out bust.” That tweet may have been premature. He’s only 23, he still has played just 17 games during his career and he performed well against the Rams. Pettis led all 49ers wide receivers with 45 receiving yards, averaged an impressive 15 yards per catch and almost made a fantastic touchdown grab in the end zone, but got pushed out of bounds. Pettis is a highly-talented receiver who seemed to lose belief in himself during training camp. Sunday’s performance was a major confidence booster. Good for you, Dante. Sorry I called you a bust.
WIDE RECEIVERS: D. Other than Pettis, the 49ers receivers did very little. Deebo Samuel had 18 receiving yards, and Marquise Goodwin had just 15. Samuel is an inconsistent rookie, and Goodwin is a part-time player. The 49ers’ passing game will go as far as Pettis’ takes it. He is their x-factor.
TIGHT ENDS: A. George Kittle injured his groin Friday during practice, but you couldn’t tell Sunday against the Rams. He caught eight passes for 103 yards. He has improved every season in the NFL. His backups, Ross Dwelley and Levine Toilolo, were solid blockers, too.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C-plus. The 49ers were missing both starting tackles – Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey – and you couldn’t really tell. Sure, the offense averaged just 2.4 yards per carry, and Garoppolo got sacked twice. But, pass protection wasn’t an issue for most of the game. Backup left tackle Justin Skule gave up one sack to Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, but played well after that. And Backup right tackle Daniel Brunskill was solid.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A-minus. They gave up five yards per carry, which is too much. But, they were dominant against the pass. Arik Armstead was the player of the game. He made a touchdown-saving tackle on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line, recovered a fumble on the first play of the third quarter and sacked Rams quarterback Jared Goff late in the fourth quarter to put away the game. Solomon Thomas recorded a sack and had by far the best performance of his career. Ronald Blair recorded a sack. Dee Ford record 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. And Nick Bosa didn’t record a stat, but he generated lots of pressure.
LINEBACKERS: A-minus. Also partially responsible for the leaky run defense. But, Kwon Alexander made a touchdown-saving tackle on third-and-goal from the one-yard line. And Fred Warner recorded six tackles.
SECONDARY: A-plus. Gave up just 78 passing yards the entire game. Jimmie Ward broke up two passes. Jaquiski Tartt recorded an excellent tackle for loss. And the cornerbacks dominated a terrific group of wide receivers. The Rams leading wide receiver, Cooper Kupp, had just 17 yards.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus. Robbie Gould misses a difficult 55-yard field goal, but made two short ones.
COACHES: A-plus. Kyle Shanahan finally proved he’s a better coach than his former underling, Sean McVay. Shanahan outcoached him, even though Shanahan had four fewer days to prepare, had more injured players and had to travel to L.A. to play the game. Now, Shanahan has established himself as a serious head coach. And Robert Saleh has established himself as the best defensive coordinator in the NFL. He made Goff look like a scared 11-year old, and put the rest of the NFL on notice: The 49ers are back. As long as they have this defense, they can beat anyone.