Christian McCaffrey powers 49ers offense past Rams 31-14; 5 burning questions answered

San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey, right, runs the ball as Los Angeles Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner attempts a tackle during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

The San Francisco 49ers (4-4) completed the regular season sweep of the Los Angeles Rams (3-4) for the fourth season in a row with a 31-14 victory Sunday afternoon at SoFi Stadium.

Despite the final score, this one wasn’t easy for the 49ers.

The first half played out much like the previous two weeks. In losses to Atlanta and Kansas City, San Francisco’s defense struggled to get off the field, while mistakes kept the offense from playing to its potential.

After forcing a quick three and out on their first possession, the 49ers’ defense could not get a stop, giving up back-to-back touchdown drives. It took the Rams choosing to run the clock out to close out the first half for the defense to get off the field without allowing any points.

According to Nick Bosa, the defensive turnaround resulted from playing better on early downs.

“We just had to stop those screens,” said Bosa. “In the second half, they were in a lot of third and longs instead of second and five, third and four, third and two where you’re not going to be able to rush.”

“When we play better on first and second down, that opens everything up.”

With the defense doing its job, it was on the Niners’ offense to do theirs.

The talk all week coming into this game was Kyle Shanahan’s inability to generate points in the second half.

After being forced to punt on their opening drive, the 49ers offense put together three straight touchdown drives to put the game out of reach.

Christian McCaffrey fueled the offense with touchdowns, throwing, receiving, and rushing. McCaffrey became only the fourth player since 1970 to pull off the feat.

The first San Francisco score of the second half was McCaffrey’s touchdown reception.

Terrific protection from the offensive line allowed Jimmy Garoppolo to scan the entire field before finding the running back along the right sideline for a leaping touchdown grab.

McCaffrey got things started on the ensuing 49ers possession with a nice gain on a screen pass to the right. A few plays later, he burst through the line of scrimmage for a gain of 24, getting pushed out of bounds just short of the goal line. He scored on the next play.

The final 49ers touchdown drive was all about the tight ends. Garoppolo connected with Ross Dwelley deep down the left sideline for a gain of 56.

A few plays later, the veteran quarterback bootlegged out to his left and found George Kittle in the back of the endzone for a seven-yard touchdown to wrap up the scoring.

With the win, San Francisco keeps pace with Seattle in the race for the NFC West crown. They will have next week off to rest and are expected to get several starters back for the second-half stretch run.

Here are the answers to the questions I asked on Saturday.

1.) Will the 49ers offense clean up its mistakes? YES

Things weren’t smooth for the 49ers’ offense in the first half.

On the opening play of the second offensive possession, Trent Williams was called for a false start. They were able to overcome this when Christian McCaffrey connected with Brandon Aiyuk on a double pass from 34 yards out to tie the game at seven.

The next possession started with an illegal block by Aaron Banks however a personal foul by Taylor Rapp on the next play wiped away the mistake.

San Francisco moved the ball down to the Rams’ eight before Leonard Floyd stopped the drive with his second sack of Garoppolo on the drive. Kyle Shanahan would be forced to settle for a 29-yard Robbie Gould field goal to make the score 14-10 at the break.

The second half was a different story.

San Francisco’s offense did not commit a penalty and caught a couple of breaks along the way.

Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey had the ball hit him in the hands, but he could not hang on for an interception on the first 49ers’ possession.

On the following drive, McCaffrey was blasted after picking up five and lost the football. Fortunately for San Francisco, the ball popped right into the hands of Ray-Ray McCloud who had been knocked to the turf himself.

2.) Can the 49ers overcome the loss of Deebo Samuel? YES

Kyle Shanahan had to overcome the loss of not only Deebo Samuel, but he also was without Kyle Juszczyk and Jauan Jennings.

Without three of his top weapons, Shanahan got creative. Tight ends Ross Dwelley, and Tyler Kroft took turns at fullback, as did Jeff Wilson Jr.

Things really got rolling for Shanahan on the second possession of the second half.

Using 12 personnel, one running back and two tight ends, the 49ers offense repeatedly showed the same formation and motion. This helped them predict how the Rams would react, and they drove 88-yards for the go-ahead touchdown.

Jimmy Garoppolo was nearly flawless on the day. Other than a couple of passes that Jalen Ramsey could get his hands on and a deep shot to Ray-Ray McCloud, which was a tad underthrown, the veteran quarterback was on target.

Garoppolo completed 22 of 25 attempts for 235 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Seven different players caught passes from Garoppolo. Brandon Aiyuk led the team with 81 receiving yards, while McCaffrey’s eight receptions were also a team high.

3.) Can San Francisco’s offense move the ball on the ground? YES

San Francisco ran the ball 22 times for 88 yards in the first meeting between these two teams.

This time around, the 49ers ran the ball 23 times for 111 yards.

Christian McCaffrey picked up 94 yards rushing on 18 carries and Jeff Wilson Jr. chipped in 14 yards on four attempts.

Games like today are why the 49ers chose to use four draft picks to get McCaffrey. He showed the patience, balance, and explosiveness San Francisco has been missing in its running game since losing Raheem Mostert.

McCaffrey is just getting started. He’s only been with the team for nine days.

Following the game, he talked about “leaving a little meat on the bone.” He was referring to what he felt were missed opportunities.

When McCaffrey gets can get settled in, watch out.

4.) Will San Francisco’s pass rush return to form? YES

The 49ers pass rush was nearly nonexistent during the first half. That was mostly the result of how the Rams were attacking them.

Los Angeles used a variety of screens and short passes to control the chains.

As a result, they had third and more than three only twice.

In the second half, the 49ers’ defense did a much better job of slowing the Rams down on the first down. This led to Los Angeles facing third and five several times, allowing the defense to finally get pressure on Matthew Stafford.

Fred Warner and Nick Bosa each recorded a sack and a pair of quarterback hits each, while Charles Omenihu finished with one quarterback hit.

5.) Can the 49ers’ defense force Matthew Stafford into mistakes? NO

San Francisco could not force Stafford into any turnovers for the first time since he joined the Rams.

Stafford was on the money throughout the first half. Using primarily screens and short passes, the veteran quarterback led a pair of long touchdown drives in the first half.

Once the 49ers’ defense stiffened up on early downs, Stafford struggled with the 49ers’ pass rush and couldn’t get the Rams offense moving.

Cooper Kupp is a very good receiver, but the Rams’ offense is pedestrian without Odell Beckham Jr. on the other side.

The 49ers knew this and took full advantage of it today.

Prediction:

49ers 23 Rams 20

This article has 38 Comments

    1. ML Warner’s best game of the year helped. I love CMC: a real throw-back football gentleman. Attractive man and an athlete in every way. I am so glad he is back in the Bay area.
      Jimmy G could have had two interceptions so we did luck out. LA looks like they do not return to the SB. SB winner looks to be an AFL team like KC. Do not trade Wilson! We need his tough yardage up the middle runs. He has some explosion. Good guy also. One of the last, needless calls in the game: CMC up the middle for one yard in the final minute. Why put him in danger? Trey was lost for the year that way.

  1. Great win and happy to see the offense come alive! We need the offense to play like this the rest of the way. I think this Def is built when we are ahead.

  2. “This is why McCaffrey was worth all the picks the #49ers gave up to acquire him.”
    No Jack, CMC was a steal!

  3. Super exciting win to take them into the buy week.
    The push for the play offs start in two weeks…
    Stay strong gang.

  4. Jack,
    since we’re having a tough time stopping runs up the gut without Armstead and/or Kinlaw, I’d like to see a
    five-man line playing wide-nine; especially, since we’re without Al-Shaair and Greenlaw. Not that I’ve ever seen it,
    but maybe it makes sense.

    If Deebo needed some inspiration, he got it today.
    That was fun.

  5. With two of our starting LBs out, gotta love how Warner put the defense on his back!
    By far, his best game of the season.

    Jimmy played an exceptional game as well.
    Sometimes luck plays a big role in the game and today the muffed drop by a wide open Higby and a potential Int., drop by Ramsey really helped secure the 49ers lead and eventual win.
    Also, let’s face it, we own SoFi on the field and in the seats.

    1. Don’t forget the McCaffrey fumble that bounced away from surrounding Rams defenders right into McCloud’s hands!

      1. GN,
        You’re right! Ray Ray couldn’t have asked for a better fumble bounce.
        The football gods were kind to the 49ers against the Rams (actually for the last 8 straight reg season games, lol).

  6. I have a lot of thoughts on the game but I want to get this off my chest first. Aaron Donald’s participation in any NFL game this year is wrong. Donald tried to kill a Bengals player by ripping his helmet off and swinging it at his head. For a similar offense, the NFL suspended Myles Garrett indefinitely. The only difference is Garrett’s actions came in a game and Donald’s actions happened at a practice. The NFL said they had no jurisdiction over the Aaron Donald assault because it happened in a preseason practice so the punishment was up to the Rams. So in response, the Rams named Aaron Donald a Team Captain. Aaron Donald has a history of attacking and choking other NFL players between plays and even after games. The NFLPA is an absolute joke. Their members are attacked and they do nothing. The Rams are a trash organization and the NFLPA exists to maximize their own profit at the expense of the safety of their members. Aaron Donald stepping foot on a football field this year is an affront to every NFL fan.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1DzNBhRTw0

  7. Great second half performance from both sides of scrimmage….McCaffrey was the difference maker..that being said, had the Rams outbid the 9ers for his services, the game would have been disastrous.

  8. Ok. A few thoughts…

    This game is just the tip of the iceberg on what CMC can bring to this offense. He made some spectacular plays but my favorite play was a 4 or 5 yard run. Play was a sweep to the left. Dwelley was a little late on his pull. CMC waited for Dwelly, then cut behind him, and weaved through 2 other blocks to pick up around 5 yards. To me, that is the value CMC brings. Patience and vision to a certain degree can’t be taught. If Trey Sermon were running that play he would not have waited on Dwelley and it would have been a 1 yard play. JWJr is ok at setting up blocks but he’s not on the same level as CMC.

    Why in the actual F, was CMC in the game up by 17 points with less than 5 minutes on the clock? Jordan Mason should have been getting those carries. This is what drives me crazy about Shanahan. Same for Bosa at the end of the game. Just plain stupid stubbornness on Shanahan’s part.

    Unpopular opinion but Deebo is a better overall football player than Aiyuk but Aiyuk is a better pure receiver than Deebo. Aiyuk has crazy route running skills and YAC potential downfield. Need to explore that more. Put Gray on the field for some Go Routes and every level of this offense opens up. Deebo with the Hitch to the house, Aiyuk with the Dig to the house, and Gray with the 9 route over the top. This 49ers offense has everything at the skill positions. Need a QB who can hit those routes and an O-line that can give him time.

    Lastly, my favorite moment in that game was when the Rams were forced to take a knee for the loss. The 49ers beat the will to win right out of that trash team. I love it!

    1. Yeah, McVay taking a knee was tantamount to throwing in the towel.
      But, then again, the 49ers did have the rams against the ropes for the better part of the 2nd half of the game.

    2. “Why in the actual F, was CMC in the game up by 17 points with less than 5 minutes on the clock? . . .Same for Bosa at the end of the game. Just plain stupid stubbornness on Shanahan’s part.”

      Yes, thought that myself. Brought up thoughts of Shanahan using Lance as a runner. Does anyone know if Reid designs runs for Mahomes, for example? I kind of doubt it. On some level Shanahan is quite stupid imo. If CMC broke an ankle during those 5 minutes, Shanahan’s sheepish response after the game would be something like, “Well, it was really unfortunate but injuries are part of the game. Next man up.”

      1. Agree. Maybe he’s trying to get him acclimated into the offense since he’s just learning the plays mid-season. Either way I think given the injury history with all of the aforementioned players Shanny can get a bit dumb at times. And he does double down on stupidity on occasion.

  9. CMC had a fabulous game, but to say he is the reason for the victory, is an overstatement. It fails to recognize a few facts. The snaps that CMC got would have gone to other good players, so the results might not have been as good but still would have been something. Also, it fails to recognize that the Niners beat the Rams the previous 7 games without CMC. It also fails to recognize that Jimmy had one of his best games ever and the team as a whole made very few mistakes. Like all wins, this was a team win. We have a very good team and let’s hope they play up to their potential the rest of the season.

  10. I think CMC gives and will continue to give JG confidence knowing that he does not have to force a throw and that CMC can catch it short and get the 1st down.
    He is the ultimate safety net for a QB like JG.
    I think we are gonna see less bone headed mistakes from JG when CMC is on the field.

  11. Crazy stat I heard… Mcvay and his RAMs have ONLY lost 2 games when ahead after the 1st half. Both to the Niners!
    Love it!

  12. Jack,
    A few questions.
    #1 CMC fumbled twice (only one officially) yesterday. Does he have a history as a fumbler?
    #2 Will Al-Shaair return after the Bye week?
    #3 Whats the word on Kinlaw, Armstead, Greenlaw, Deebo, Jennings, Juice and Mitchell’s return?
    #4 Have you noticed Jason Poe during practices? What positions do they have him working at?

    1. With regards to #1, I asked the same question on Razor/Scooter’s blog. Scooter and Mood_Indigo responded that it is rare for CMC to fumble and he does not have a history.

    2. OC,

      1) McCaffrey has fumbled nine times in 66 games.
      2) It may be a stretch for Al-Shaair to return after the bye.
      3) Greenlaw, Samuel, Jennings, Juszczyk, and Mitchell are all expected to return after the bye. Things are a less settled with Armstead and Kinlaw.
      4) Poe is getting reps with the interior offensive linemen.

  13. CMC had too many touches yesterday, hopefully when Mitchell returns KS will keep his touches to 20 or less. If he doesn’t I don’t see him lasting out the year.

    1. After what happened with Cooper Kupp yesterday, I’m wondering if McVay isn’t somewhat reckless with his prized assets. I wouldn’t be surprised if KS is somewhat as well. After all the touches CMC had yesterday, KS should have pulled him near the end of the game.

      I don’t get why these genius coaches can’t see what is so obvious to us fans. How do you keep a guy like Cooper in a lost game with one minute left (that the Rams conceded by running the ball multiple times for short gains) and then toss him one pass on which he gets hurt. I just don’t understand it.

      1. Cubus,
        I watched the game with a couple of old buddies. We were screaming at the screen during the last 49er drive when KS had CMC running the ball. Of all of the things KS has been criticized for this year I think keeping CMC in the game until the end is the worst. Thanks for the answer to my above question.

      2. It was a questionable decision regard both Kupp and CMC. I’d like to hear the answers to the decision from both head coaches. Personally it’s just questionable to me without knowing the thought process of 2 very good NFL coaches. Maybe they know more than we do.

        1. Shanahan does need to have better judgment on keeping players healthy.
          Basketball coaches do a much job when it comes to pulling out their star players when the outcome of the game has already been determined.

          1. I doubt that has anything to do with injuries in basketball. I suspect it’s about keeping players fresh and ready for the next game. There is not a lot of rest between games in basketball and it’s a long season so you always want to limit minutes for your starters when you can.

            1. You’re right. In fact Greg Popavich was the first coach that started to give star players games off during the season.
              I certainly wouldn’t want that scenario in football.

              But Shanahan needs to be more sensitive to star players playing late in games when the score is out of reach.

              1. Just the sheer injury history of this team alone should give him pause and increase his sensitivity.

        2. Yeah well McVay has already admitted he’s “kicking himself” for making that decision.

          Shanny is too thick-headed to admit mistakes.

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