For the second year in a row the San Francisco 49ers (2-2) dominated the Los Angeles Rams (2-2) on Monday night football.
The 49ers performance in the 24-9 win was by far their best of the season and puts them at the top of the NFC West standings.
It may only be week four, but this is a big game for the 49ers. With a victory they will move into first place in the NFC West. However, a loss will put them two and a half games back.
Here are the answers to the five questions I asked prior to the game.
1.) Will Jimmy Garoppolo bounce back? YES
Jimmy Garoppolo’s performance was far from perfect, but it was exactly what the 49ers needed.
One week after converting only a single third down attempt, Garoppolo came out and converted two on the opening possession. Both came when Garoppolo connected with Jauan Jennings. The first was a ten-yard completion to convert third and nine. The veteran followed that up with a twelve-yard toss to Jennings to convert on third and five and set up the first 49ers score of the night.
As happened in Denver, Garoppolo missed on a couple of deep throws. He had Charlie Woerner open down the left sideline, but his pass was off the mark and the tight end was unable to make the grab while twisting to get to the ball.
Two plays later, Garoppolo missed high to an open Jennings on an inside post route to end the 49ers third possession of the game.
All told, Garoppolo finished the night completing 16 of 27 attempts for 239 yards and one touchdown.
Most importantly, Garoppolo did not have a turnover. Exactly what this 49ers team needs from its quarterback.
2.) Can the 49ers get their run game back on track? YES
It wasn’t a dominating performance, however the 49ers running game made big plays when needed.
Jeff Wilson Jr. made the first big play on the ground when he exploded through the left side of the Rams defense for a touchdown from 32 yards out to give San Francisco a four-point lead.
The 49ers ran the ball 22 times for 88 yards. Wilson led the way, picking up 74 of those yards on 18 carries.
Kyle Juszczyk chipped in with a nice gain of nine on a counter run in the third quarter, while Garoppolo and Deebo Samuel added five yards on three attempts.
3.) Can San Francisco’s offense hold on to the ball? YES
The 49ers improved to 13-3 since the start of last season in games in which the turnover margin is tied or favors them.
Jimmy Garoppolo missed a few throws but didn’t make the big mistake.
The rest of the offense held on to the ball as well. For the first time this season the 49ers offense did not put the ball on the ground.
For the 49ers, the lone close call came on special teams. For the second consecutive week, Ray-Ray McCloud fumbled on a kick return. Fortunately for San Francisco they were able to make the recovery and the offense would drive down for a field goal to give them an eight-point lead early in the third quarter.
4.) Can the 49ers defense force Matthew Stafford into mistakes? YES
As I wrote prior to the game, Matthew Stafford usually gives opposing defenses an opportunity or two for a takeaway.
It took until the fourth quarter tonight.
Following a missed field goal by Robbie Gould to keep it an eight-point game, Stafford moved the Rams offense to the 49ers 44. That’s when Talanoa Hufanga struck.
Hufanga read a screen out to the right side to perfection, fired his shot and took the Stafford pass 52-yards in the other direction for a touchdown to blow the game wide open.
5.) Will the 49ers defense say hot? YES
This 49ers defense is the best I’ve seen since 1994. They are explosive at every level, take the ball away, and have held opponents to only 37 points through the first four games.
On Monday night they held Los Angeles to only 3.5 yards per play and became the first team in 2022 to keep Matthew Stafford from completing at least 70 percent of his pass attempts.
After forcing nine three and outs on Sunday night in Denver, the San Francisco defense was on the field a lot more tonight.
The Rams had four drives of ten or more plays, but each time the 49ers defense stood up when needed.
San Francisco held Sean McVey’s offense to a trio of field goals on the first three drives, and Samson Ebukam forced a Matthew Stafford fumble on the fourth to seal the victory.
The 49ers pass rush made its presence felt once again. Led by a pair of sacks from Ebukam and Nick Bosa, San Francisco tallied seven total and hit Stafford 11 times. They also did an excellent job against the run, holding Los Angeles to only 3.2 yards per attempt.
49ers 23 Rams 20
Almost had the 49ers score in this one.