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