SANTA CLARA — Here is report card for the 49ers’ 34-31 win over the Los Angeles Rams.
GAROPPOLO: C-PLUS. He was clutch, but he had to be clutch because he played poorly the first three quarters of the game. With 8:54 left, Garoppolo’s quarterback rating was just 31.4. He threw two interceptions and a third pass that sailed threw Rams cornerback Darious Williams’ hands. And Garoppolo got sacked six times, partially because he held the ball too long instead of quickly checking down to a running back the way Drew Brees would. Still, despite Garoppolo’s mistakes, he managed to play mistake free the final two drives. And he converted two third-and-16s on the final drive to win the game. Respect.
RUNNING BACKS: A. The 49ers averaged 5.2 yards per carry, and all of their running backs played well — even Tevin Coleman, who has struggled the past two months. Matt Breida suited up but didn’t play after fumbling last week against the Atlanta Falcons.
WIDE RECEIVERS: B. The 49ers leading receiver, Emmanuel Sanders, had just 61 receiving yards. Rookie Deebo Samuel dropped another pass — he seems to drop at least one per game. But, this group was clutch, too. Kendrick Bourne made a catch in the fourth quarter to convert a third-and-16, and so did Sanders. The 49ers wide receivers don’t shy away from pressure.
TIGHT ENDS: A. George Kittle had five catches for 79 yards, and he beat double coverage to catch a touchdown pass in the end zone. What an amazing player. And his backup is pretty good, too. Ross Dwelley made a 25-yard catch and drew a 15-yard roughing penalty on the same play. The 49ers have an elite duo of tight ends.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C-PLUS. This group blocked well in the run game. Daniel Brunskill started at right guard in place of Mike Person, and gave up a sack to Aaron Donald. No surprise there. Donald is the best defensive player in the NFL and Brunskill is a backup. All things considered, he represented himself well. This group did give up six sacks, and Joe Staley gave up his second sack of the past two games. He looks old. But Garoppolo brought a few sacks onto himself by holding the ball too long.
DEFENSIVE LINE: C. Two months ago, the 49ers had the best pass rush in the NFL. Now, it’s gassed. The 49ers sacked Jared Goff zero times after sacking him four times earlier this season. The 49ers need Dee Ford to return and make an impact in the playoffs. He missed this game with a hamstring injury.
LINEBACKERS: B. Dre Greenlaw and Azeez Al-Shaair got fooled a few times in the first half by play-action bootleg passes and screens, but they adjusted in the second half. Greenlaw still finished the game with a whopping 13 tackles. And Fred Warner had 11, plus a pick-six in the second half. The 49ers might not have won without that play.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: B. Ahkello Witherspoon struggled in the first half, as did the majority of the defense, but played much better in the second half. Richard Sherman played through a Grade 2 hamstring strain and performed well. And Marcell Harris almost ended the game in the fourth quarter with an interception, but he dropped it. He has improved every week.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A. Richie James Jr. had an 81-yard kickoff return, and Robbie Gould made all of his field goals and extra-point attempts.
COACHES: B. The Rams had a better game plan than the 49ers. The Rams abandoned their offensive identity and ran almost nothing but play-action rollouts and screen passes. This caught the 49ers defense off guard, because it sold out to stop the Rams’ running game. So the Rams scored 21 points in the first half. But 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh made all the necessary adjustments, and the Rams offense scored just 10 points during the final 31 minutes of the game while the 49ers defense scored seven points. Saleh is terrific and the 49ers are lucky to have him.
The Rams defense took away the 49ers long passes for most of the game and forced Garoppolo to check down, which he was reluctant to do. But in the fourth quarter, Shanahan made the right adjustments and hit the Rams with big play after big play.
The 49ers coaches won’t always have the perfect game plan. Give them credit for adjusting.