49ers 34, Rams 31: Grades

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) celebrates after scoring against the Los Angeles Rams during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/John Hefti)

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.

This article has 32 Comments

    1. He did play poorly overall, but as Grant said he was better in the second half. You may have missed it if you turned the game off when you called it over at the start of the second quarter. 😉

  1. Thanks Grant. Not the best performance by far, but it was enough to get the W!

    Terrible news for CJ Beathard and Family, my condolences go out to them. Glad the team rallied for their brother CJ, and honored his wishes of “just go out there and win this game”!

    As for the grades, I think you’re being more than fair with your post game assessment. Next week’s game is our mini Super Bowl, as I really believe that getting our guys some rest and getting players back healthy for the playoffs will be the difference between a playoff appearance and a Super Bowl run!

    Go Niners! Hard fought and much deserved win! Beat those Sea Chickens! Let’s win the NFC West! Then we win the NFC!

    Go Niners!

  2. Not many teams could survive the nightmare of injuries SF has endured this year along with the killer end of regular season schedule. To think after last couple of seasons SF could win NFC next weekend is mind blowing. That SF could have realistically been 15-0 at this point in time this season is truly epic. Finish it next weekend SF. Defeat the west coast version of the Patriots.

  3. Witherspoon was awful the whole game. He plays with little physicality and at least twice gave up 5 yards after contact defending the run.

    1. I agree, Jack. Maybe it was the vantage point of the cameras, but it sure looked like Witherspoon just gave up or wasn’t even trying to bring down receivers who got somewhat beyond him and made catches.

      1. Hes been this way all too long. He needs to be replaced by E-man.

        You watch the defenses pick on Witherspoon and the guy avoids contact if at all possible. Hes playing not to get hurt and isn’t really in the game. Thankfully Sherman and William’s are back and hopefully stay healthy to negate Witherspoon being on the field as much.

  4. JG did struggle for 3 quarters, but he was clutch in the 4th quarter.
    .
    He deserves a solid B, for leading his team to victory.

  5. The Niners need to make brutal player assessments, and shrewd adjustments.
    .
    The O line is allowing JG to get sacked 6 times? Time to change things up.
    .
    Protect JG more with 22 personnel. 2 TEs should help the run game, while still being receiving options.
    .
    Richie James can run for 81 yards on one play? Give him more opportunities to make plays.
    .
    Dwelley made a 25 yard catch? Use him more as a receiver.
    .
    Breida did not make a single run? Activate Jeff Wilson Jr.
    .
    Al Shaair struggled? Put in Elijah Lee.
    .
    Witherspoon allowed too many big plays? Put in Emmanuel Moseley and/or Tarvarius Moore.
    .
    Niners had ZERO sacks? Saleh better dial up some exotic blitzes.
    .
    Coaches seem to be out out coached early on. They need to prepare more thoroughly, anticipate better, and make quick adjustments.
    .
    The Niners are in the playoffs, but one more win will give them a first round bye. Beating Pete Carroll in the Clink will be a daunting challenge. The Niners need to improve throughout the team, including the coaching, in order to secure a win.

  6. Honestly I think the grades are too high in general.

    Jimmy C+, he played poor most of the game and seemed to hold the ball forever. But once again when a play had to be made, he made it.
    WR – C+, they were OK and had a drop or 2, but didn’t seem to be getting open.
    RB – B, They played well both running and catching.
    TE – B+, they both made plays but Kittle also got beat on a few blocks.
    Oline – C, they seemed to struggle but were not helped by Jimmy or the play calling.
    DL – C+, they were able to get pressure but nothing was consistant and they were fooled quite often on the boot.
    DB – C-, they were playing zone but were often either slow in their pass-offs or not tight enough against the man in their zone. AW and RS also got beat outside when they had contain.
    LB – A, this is largely due to the pick 6 but they seemed to playing well in the run game.
    Coaches. D+, they get the lowest passing grade you can get. Kyle seems to either hunt for big plays or throw fast slip screens, he needs to incorporate some more quick hitters and Jimmy needs to throw the ball.
    On D, they have failed to get a late stop 4 weeks in a row now, and the rams put up their 3rd highest point total of the season and it seems to take them some time to adjust… but they didn’t allow the turnovers to kill them.

    1. Hopefully they pull it together next week with some luck too!!!. If they play like they have the last 2 weeks, they won’t get past teams like N.O and the Ravens who seem to be peaking and not as tired looking..

  7. 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.

    Yeah if only someone would tell him he can make adjustments on the fly. The worst part was it was essentially only one play he needed to stop, and he could have done so by sitting the back side end. This kind of adjustment should have been made after the opening drive… not after the rams scored 21 points.

    1. Amen Brother, I am an old man who has been watching the 49ers since before Bill Walsh. I have seen a lot of football over the years and I know when my team is getting outcoached. Robert Saleh has an extremely talented defense. They would be good regardless of the coach. I have always told my sons, A good coach will make an average player good, a good player great and a great player hall of fame. As you said it should not take a half to make an adjustment. Let alone 4 games. The forty niners are not setting the edge. Not just this game, it goes back to the Ravens game. Every offense they are playing knows this. Robert Saleh has called some good games but he has also shown that he is slow to make adjustments, if he can make them at all. Right now the d line has been unlucky in the number of injuries. The once deep line is thin and showing signs of fatigue. Saleh better figure it out quick, some well timed and well scripted blitzes might help.
      Side notes: The officiating last night was very good. I did not know about Beathards’ Brother till this morning, that likely affected the whole team especially Kyle Shanahan. My prayers to the Beathard family.

  8. Shanahan..D- for play calling. Where were the rub plays, crossing patterns, bunch formations to beat man defense? Draw play? Counter play to beat an over aggressive defense??? At least there were no game clock issues.

  9. The defense is gassed because there chasing ghosts. New Orleans was doing something similar. Fake to the backs then they chip the rush and sidestep to an open pocket. You cant just rush full speed every game. Coach should know how teams are going to attack us now. They get to the outside of the pocket and run around the rush. That shouldn’t of been a hard gameplan to stop. Same plays over and over again.

  10. A win is still a win no matter how ugly it is. Yes the defense is gassed due to the number of injuries the D line has taken in the last 5 games. Dee Ford is the key, Bosa needs help on the other side in order to contain the edges.
    Before Witherspoon got hurt it seemed like he was unstoppable, now he’s toast. Don’t think so. Constant pressure from an healthy D line would make him seem to be an all pro. Too many key players are hurt on the D line.
    As long as Jimmy G is upright this team is out of any game.
    Pearson is the key to the O line. If he can make it back for the Haggs the game Jimmy G might be able to control the ball longer.
    Bring on the Sea Haggs.

  11. Jimmy G. needs to snap out of his slump. We need him to be at his best in Seattle. What a gem Mostert has been for an undrafted player. I wonder whether Mosely would be a better choice than the doubtful Witherspoon?

  12. Outcome = A.

    Niners are Seahawks are both playing for top see in NFC, regardless of SeaHawk’s outcome today.
    And, no injuries.

    So that’s what we wanted and needed; and it’s in hand.

    Go Niners!

  13. I’ve been to or watched every 49er game this season. I enjoy watching Nick whenever he’s in. He’s been great except for 1 flaw. He’s been consistently susceptible to options where the qb keeps the ball and runs to his side. Because he bites on the rb. Are the coaches teaching him to do that? If the rb gets the rock he sometimes will get him. But often he not a factor when the running play is away from him. Why aren’t the coaches telling him to stay on the qb? If the qb gives the ball to the rb, Nick probably won’t make the tackle anyway. Just my 2 cents.

  14. I agree with these grades as well. Especially the Grade of “C” for the D line. The last couple of games the four man rush just hasn’t been getting the job done. The outside pressure is just pushed to the outside, the QB just takes a few steps up in the pocket and buys a couple more seconds to hit the open man. Why no delay blitzes up the middle to greet the QB ? We did see more blitzing in this game but it was sorely needed in the Atlanta game. We need Dee Ford back ! BADLY !

  15. When 9er D has a lot less experience on the field, it is clear that they are susceptible to over-commits on RPO and Play-Action . This is noticeable on film. Usually corrected in-game, but its a free first half to an experienced OC.

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