49ers take NFC West lead with 30-23 win over Rams; 5 Burning questions answered

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 17: Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers scores a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on September 17, 2023 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

It wasn’t perfect, but the 49ers used a dominating second half effort to defeat the Rams 30-23 on Sundy to improve to 2-0 on the season. With the victory, San Francisco’s ninth consecutive regular season win over their rivals, the 49ers took sole possession of the NFC West lead.

Here are the answers to my five burning questions for this game.

1 Will Brock Purdy keep the streaks alive? Not all of them.

Brock Purdy’s streak of throwing at least two touchdowns and having a passer rating over 95 came to an end against the Rams. More importantly, he extended his regular season win streak to seven in a row.

Although the 49ers offense scored 30 points for the sixth time in Purdy’s seven regular season starts, the quarterback was far from perfect.

Three times Purdy had the opportunity to hit a deep throw for a touchdown. All three fell incomplete but one of them, a deep throw to Deebo Samuel, resulted in a pass interference penalty in the endzone. Purdy scored a couple plays later with a quarterback sneak as time expired in the first half.

On the previous possession, Purdy had Brandon Aiyuk deep down the right sideline, but his throw was long. He was sacked on the next play to force a punt.

During the 49ers second offensive possession after the half, Purdy had Deebo Samuel open on a deep post and once again his throw was too long. Rookie Jake Moody came on and drilled a 57-yard field goal to give San Francisco a 20-17 lead.

Despite the misses this was still a solid performance for Purdy. The quarterback finished 17-25 with 206 yards passing. His best throw of the day may have come on the 49ers first possession. Facing third and seven, Purdy found Brandon Aiyuk over the middle as Aaron Donald closed in on him.

The best series of the day for Purdy came at the end of the first half. Taking over at his own 25 with just 1:45 remaining and no timeouts, Purdy hit passes of 23, 9, and 20 yards to quickly get the offense to the Rams 20. After an incompletion came the throw mentioned above to Samuel resulting in a pass interference. Purdy finished the drive with a touchdown run.

2 Will Spencer Burford and the 49ers offensive line contain Aaron Donald? YES

San Francisco’s offensive line held Donald to just one hit on the quarterback in this game. That’s it. There were no tackles or sacks for the multi-time All-Pro.

In fact, the 49ers ability to run the ball to their left side helped them match up better with Donald. Los Angeles countered the 49ers strength on runs to the left by moving Donald over to the right side of their defense. This put Aaron Banks on Donald, and Banks dominated the matchup.

San Francisco’s offensive line as a whole played well. As a result, the 49ers finished with 159 yards rushing and allowed Brock Purdy to be hit just three times including one sack.

Christian McCaffrey helped get the run game going early. He scored from 14-yards out to cap off the opening possession. On the third play of the next drive McCaffrey ripped off a 51-yard gain on a toss around the left leading to a field goal. McCaffrey finished with 116 yards on 20 carries.

Deebo Samuel added another 38 yards, including a long of 17, on five carries.

3 Will San Francisco’s pass rush get to Matthew Stafford? YES

For Matthew Stafford, the first half was like shooting fish in a barrel.

The quarterback was hit just once. The lack of pressure and soft coverage allowed Stafford to hit 14 of 18 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown. It also helped Los Angeles score points on each of its three possessions, two touchdowns and a field goal.

In the second half it was a different story. The 49ers defense began to generate pressure up front. They hit Stafford five times and recorded a sack. As a result, the 49ers recorded a pair of interceptions and held Los Angeles to just six points after the break

4 Does the 49ers defense have the slot figured out? Somewhat

San Francisco opened the game with Deommodore Lenoir playing in the slot with Ambry Thomas out on the boundary. Thomas went down with a knee injury during the Rams second possession of the game and Isaiah Oliver came. The veteran played the remainder of the game inside and came away with the first turnover of the game.

On the Rams second possession after the half Matthew Stafford tried to hit running back Kyren Williams with a checkdown over the middle. The ball bounced off Williams’ hands and Oliver was right there to record his first interception as a 49er. The turnover led to a field goal which gave San Francisco a lead they would not relinquish.

Rams’ rookie wide receiver Puka Nacua finished with 15 receptions on 20 targets for 147 yards, but most of that came while he was lined up outside. Same for Tutu Atwell who had seven catches for 77 yards.

5 Will the 49ers shut down the Rams run game? NO

San Francisco came into this game having allowed a high of just 64 yards rushing in their last four games with the Rams. The Rams were able to amass 89 yards on the ground, 53 coming in the first half.

The Rams offensive line was dominant in the first half. Time after time they were able to get a man on each 49ers defender to help open running lanes. Los Angeles was not as successful on the ground in the second half.

The key change for the 49ers defense after halftime was their performance on first and second downs.

During the Rams three first half possessions they faced third and more than four yards just one time. That happened to be the one drive they were forced to settle for a field goal. In the second half, the 49ers forced Los Angeles into third and more than four yards six times. This helped limit the number of opportunities to run the ball.

It also was the key to their defensive turnaround. Those third downs led to a pair of punts, a field goal, an interception, and a turnover on downs before the Rams finally picked one up on their final drive when down by ten.


49ers 34 Rams 17

This article has 28 Comments

  1. Nice W defeating the Rams. Have to like that a lot.
    A fast start forthe season, good job Kyle!
    Go 9ers.

  2. It was a good game. But they need to bring the mentle game and stop getting so many penalties. Brock Purdy has to learn to throw more accurately on deep throws. Even he took Accountability for those missed deep passes. He reminded me of Jimmy G. But it was an overall good game.

    1. Capt, my recollection is that last year he was able to complete passes like that. Had done that this game it would have been a rout. I think he might have lost some accuracy.

      1. George, I think he just had an off-day today.
        There were other throws/plays that weren’t very sharp either, but overall he wasn’t too shabby. If this is how he plays on a bad day, I’ll take it!

        1. Dee, you’re probably right about it being just an off-day. He’s set such a high standard for himself.

  3. 49ers Grades
    Pass blocking A
    Run blocking C
    Most of the 49ers yards on the ground came on 4 plays CMC’s 51 yard gain where the great blocks came from WRs and TE. The other 3 plays were swing passes that counted as runs,
    TE B-
    Kittle made three good catches and a couple of good blocks. Kittle doesnt seem hit his stride until the second half in the big games
    RB A-
    WRs A
    Deebo was great Aiyuk played well despite being injured. Jennings had 2 big catches and as usual he had a number of great blocks
    STs A
    The only thing that kept them from an A+ was Moody’s out of bounds KO. In the first two weeks Moody and Wishnowski just may be the best pair in the league
    DL D in the first half B+ in the second for an overall grade ofC+
    LBs A
    Trent Williams needs to beat the crap out of Greenlaw the next time he gets a stupid personal foul.
    DBs B
    Coaching A-
    KS earned an A+ Wilkes earned a D in the 1st half and an A in the 2nd. He has to stop playing that soft zone and when he blitzes he needs to Blitz between the DEs. Their bltzes were very effective when he blitzed between the DEs and not very effective at all when they brought their blitzes from outside the DEs.

    1. I just realized that I left out QB
      QB B
      If BP had completed any of those 3 long balls I would have given him an A

    2. Not sure I’d give Wilkes an A for the 2nd half. Some of the blitzes worked and some left wide open areas for big gains for the Rams. In the end, the Oliver Int was a gift from Kyren Williams more than anything Wilkes did with the defense. I’d give him a B for making adjustments but there were mistakes from the Rams that really helped the 49ers.

      I’m concerned about Aiyuks availability for Thursday. That shoulder could keep him out for some time if its separated. Aiyuks limitation really hurt the offense I think.

      I saw a little of the Falcons game. Not sure a trade would ever happen but Kyle Pitts would lead the league in receptions and TDs for a TE if he was on the 49ers. He looks open on every route and he never gets the ball.
      Atlanta misuses one of the most dynamic offensive weapons in the league. Almost criminal how they are wasting that young man’s best years.

  4. Need to see more love for Moody. Drilled that 57 yarder with ease and probably would have been good from an extra 8 to 10 yards. What a weapon!

    1. Gav,
      Before I declare him the next great NFL kicker I want to see a couple of game winners or even playoff winners but until then he seems pretty damn good.

  5. Christian McCaffrey helped get the run game going early. He scored from 14-yards out to cap off the opening possession. On the third play of the next drive McCaffrey ripped off a 51-yard gain on a toss around the left leading to a field goal. McCaffrey finished with 116 yards on 20 carries.

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  7. I am not that positive about the second half and aside of the second interception, Stafford outplayed Purdy in my view. And this is not a big criticism to Purdy, he has all right to also overthrowing several receivers. He played very well yesterday , was steady in the pocket when pressure came and performed super good on short passes. Stafford played tremendously well – he always found open receivers and executed.
    49ers were lucky in the second half that some receivers dropped easy balls – the first TO was perfectly thrown by Stafford. A couple of penalties helped that Stafford was not able to make throws.
    49ers were not able to close out the game with their own offense. Kyle started calling run games only and then they were not able to move down the field.

    LA attacked the corner backs, nickle and slot most of the time and was quite successful with that. I hope the 49ers learn their lessons and start having alternative defensive schemes available.

  8. Purdy had his worst game as a pro IMO, but he was still pretty good. Needs to put more loft on those deep throws.

    O-line played much better than I expected. They earned some credit in this game.

    49ers pass rush wasn’t good. Partly because of quick throws and partly because they aren’t winning 1v1s. I also didn’t notice many stunts from the d-line.

    I absolutely hated the soft zone. Wilkes started blitzing in the 2nd half and that worked but that strategy is going to get the 49ers beat against the Eagles & Cowboys. Steve Wilks is a bad defensive coach. Poor strategy first half and dangerous strategy the 2nd half that got lucky. Halftime comments from Shanny were directed squarely at the defense saying they played poorly. Curious if Shanny is having 2nd thoughts about hiring Wilkes.

    Don’t pat Isaiah Oliver on the back too much. Great open field tackle was his best play but he missed multiple other tackles. The Int was a gift. It wasn’t due to great coverage.

    CMC is the real deal. Major difference maker. Need to rotate Mitchell in more to keep CMC fresher for the playoffs if they make it.

    Is there something wrong with Mooney Ward? He looked very slow.

      1. I think it’s more than that. Nacua was running away from him on those drag routes. Something looks off like he’s injured.

  9. It wasn’t pretty..it wasn’t complete domination…it’s a Win, and that’s what matters….the players and coaching staff will get to work to clean up the miscues and inconsistencies..

  10. I was about to get up and get another beer right before the end of the first half because I expected Kyle would run the ball up the middle and hope to waste the rest of the time to end the half, but he surprised me. I think that drive was key to winning and I like the new look.

    1. Agree. And I think Kyle noticed short yardage defensive alignment for the Rams that made the QB sneak very attractive at the goal line. I was kind of surprised the Rams didn’t overload the A gaps. I loved the aggressiveness by Shanny.

      Rams had 28 first downs to only 21 first downs for the 49ers. That’s a huge discrepancy. Rams were 7-14 on 3rd downs and the 49ers were only 2-9 on 3rd downs. Rams possessed the ball 7 more minutes than the 49ers. The defense left alot to be desired in this game. Shanny must have felt like it was going to be a shoot out so he had to be alot more aggressive than normal.

  11. I am not looking forward to the next Ram game. I don’t see Wilkes drawing up a successful game plan to stop Nucua and Kupp.

    1. I think the 49ers will beat the Rams by double digits the next game in Santa Clara. As much as I don’t think they were prepared going in for the short to intermediate passing game from LA, I don’t think the Rams had any answers for the 49ers offense through the entire game. I expect the defense to have at least a 50% improvement next time around, and a dominant 49ers victory.

      A lot of criticism is based on expecting a perfect team. There are no such perfect teams anymore, but the 49ers are the closest thing to it. I think Shanny has come into his own, aided by a QB he actually has confidence in.

      Stafford was also playing well beyond his capabilities in the first half. Once the pressure started coming in second half on a higher percentage of dropbacks, he started making his usual mistakes.

      That said, their offensive line is playing incredible through the first two weeks. However, I don’t expect the 49ers defense to be playing back on their heels and getting pushed around with little motivation like they looked yesterday. It just doesn’t happen much with this defense, but once a year a team does come in with a little extra motivation and pushes them around.

      I thought the way we overcame a terrible defensive effort and won (even got out ahead by double digits) was a testament to this team’s greatness. It was also nice seeing Purdy play from behind (albeit for a short time) and miss a few throws and still didn’t erode his supreme confidence out on the field.

      I’m more impressed by this win, frankly, than when they’ve dominated the Rams in recent times, save for maybe that season ending come from behind victory to qualify for the playoffs a couple years back.

  12. Good win after a slow start.
    But, the question is, will this work against teams like Dallas, Minn, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and even the Seahawks?
    If Purdy had only missed one long pass, it would have been inconsequential. But, he missed three, and needed his receivers to make body adjustments to catch some off target throws.
    Not bashing on Purdy, just bringing up yesterday’s facts. Fortunately, Purdy has proven that he is better than this.
    But, I am concerned with him missing 3 long passes to open receivers. Hopefully, this was a hiccup.

    1. Well think of it this way- with the exception of the Cowboys all the rest have shown their own major weaknesses. Hurts isn’t having the greatest start to the season. Don’t know what’s going on with Burrow’s injury as it’s been a huge mystery all off season as well. Prescott is Prescott and that’s all I’ll say about him. Minnesota isn’t even a top tier team, and the Seahawks are Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde.

      Looking at all of the above only the Cowboys have shown to have a better first two weeks, but I’m not sure they’ve faced much competition considering they didn’t face Rodgers and the Giants seem to be pretenders.

      I like our chances, even on the road in some of these games.

      1. Dallas looked great partially because they played 2 bad teams. I’d wait and see how they do against the Eagles before I’d anoint them.

  13. After all the bashing of the O-Line, their ability to not only control Donald, but opening lanes for CMC ‘s 152 yards played a major part in the 9ers 30 – 23 win against the Rams.
    Once again, Foerster proves he’s worth what he’s paid.

    NOTE: Coming into Sunday, Rams all-everything defensive tackle Aaron Donald had 55 tackles and 12.5 sacks in his career against the 49ers in 17 meetings throughout his career. Now that his 18th meeting is in the books, Donald still has 55 tackles and 12.5 sacks in his career against the 49ers.
    Sunday’s game marked the first time Donald had zero tackles in a game against the 49ers. The box score had Donald for one quarterback hit, with zeroes elsewhere.

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