Back in action for the first time in two weeks, San Francisco (5-6) looked to get back on track against NFC West-leading Los Angeles (7-4) in Week 12. As they continue to get healthier down the stretch, the 49ers continued to lose key players ahead of big matchups.
A sloppy game from both teams proved to be a statement win for the 49ers Sunday. A huge game from WR Samuel (11 receptions, 134 yards) paired with four turnovers from the 49ers defense – including a defensive touchdown – was enough to take down the Rams.
You would think that a bye week would serve the 49ers well — allowing them to get healthier and avoid any other losses. It wasn’t quite that easy. Many new additions to the NFL’s new Covid list forced the 49ers to be without many key players all week at practice.
In just their fourth home game at brand-new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, the Rams won the coin toss, and deferred to the second half. The 49ers received the opening kickoff from their own 25-yard line.
After a quick three-and-out for the 49ers, Jared Goff and the Rams began their drive from their 13-yard line. A few first downs were collected for the Rams before RB Malcolm Brown fumbled a catch over the middle near midfield, turning the ball over. CB Ken Webster forced the fumble, which was recovered by DL Kevin Givens at the 49ers 49-yard line.
Over the past two seasons, the 49ers have dominated the Rams on defense. 49ers linebacker Fred Warner discussed Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh’s success against the Rams:
“Absolutely, I give him all the credit. Just the fact that he sets us up so well against these guys, even though they are such an explosive offense and so successful against other teams. It’s precision against precision, they are going to do what they do really well at a fast pace, and we’re going to do what we do really well. We don’t do a whole lot (schematically) but we’re going to do what we do. We’re going to do it fast and violent, and it was more of the same today. I think that was why we were successful on defense, and creating those turnovers was huge.”
Raheem Mostert carried twice for a first down into Rams territory. A pass from Nick Mullens and was tipped by Rams DL Aaron Donald, falling into the hands of safety Jordan Fuller. Just like that, the 49ers turned the ball right back over to the Rams.
Two plays into their next drive, the Rams completed a deep pass downfield into 49ers territory. On 4th-and-2 from the 49ers 30-yard line, the Rams kicked a field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
Welcome back, Deebo Samuel. On the second play of the 49ers’ next drive, Samuel took a jet sweep 37 yards into Rams territory. A run with Mostert was followed by another big pass to Samuel for 26 yards to the Rams 8-yard line.
Mostert finished off an explosive drive for the 49ers with a carry into the end zone for a touchdown. The 49ers led 7-3 with 4:10 remaining in the first quarter.
Welcome back, Richard Sherman. The newly activated 49ers were having themselves a game Sunday. Sherman picked off Goff near midfield, the second turnover the 49ers defense had forced in the first quarter.
Sherman discussed his return to the field and the fire that came with it:
“It felt good. This is the game I love, I’ve been playing it for ten years and you miss it. Sometimes an absence, an injury, can bring back a bit of a fire and a bit of the passion and love you have for the game. It’s humbling, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to go back out there and ball out with my teammates. Regardless of the circumstance, regardless of the situation is, it was an opportunity for me to go out there and play with the guys, and it was a pleasure.”
On the very first snap of the 49ers drive following the interception, RB Jeff Wilson fumbled, giving the Rams their second turnover. Sloppy play on both sides in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Rams found their way to midfield after four straight rushing attempts. A sack of Goff by DL Kerry Hyder presented a 3rd-and-18 in which they were unable to convert. Another punt for the Rams.
Later in the quarter, a pass to Samuel and a run with Mostert netted the 49ers a quick 20 yards on two plays. A couple of offensive penalties and a loss of six yards on a screen pass to Samuel resulted in a 3rd-and-28, and soon a punt for the 49ers. Neither offense could get it going as the two-minute warning approached.
The Rams were in position to take a lead before halftime with 1:43 remaining.
A few passing plays paired with a 49ers roughing-the-passer penalty gave the Rams a first down into 49ers territory. Lo and behold, another turnover. S Jimmie Ward forced a fumble on Goff, who scrambled out of the pocket.
Recovered by Hyder, the 49ers took over at their own 46-yard line with 30 seconds and one timeout remaining.
After a couple of incompletions, Mullens completed a pass downfield to Kendrick Bourne for 18 yards. With 11 seconds left, a short pass to Jerick McKinnon to the Rams 32-yard line sent out the field goal unit. Robbie Gould’s 50-yard field goal attempt was no good.
First half performances
- Mullens: 11-for-16 passing, 110 yards, 1 INT
- Mostert: 8 carries, 42 yards, 1 TD
- Samuel: 5 receptions, 65 yards
- Hyder: 2 tackles, 1 sack, 2 QB hits, 1 fumble recovery
The Rams received the second half kickoff, and began their first drive from the 25-yard line.
Not one, not two, not three, but four turnovers forced by the 49ers defense. This was a big one, a 27-yard pick-six from rookie DL Javon Kinlaw. The defensive touchdown gave the 49ers a 14-3 lead.
Following the turnover, defensive dominance continued. A three-and-out for the Rams gave the 49ers the ball back, who didn’t seem to want it, because they went three-and-out as well. It seemed as if this game would be decided on defense.
On 3rd-and-1, the Rams ran the ball right up the middle into a crowd of 49ers defenders. Another punt.
A few rushing plays gave the 49ers a first down, but it was a big play from Samuel that gave them a second first down to mid-field after a catch and run of 26 yards.
A pass interference called on the Rams gave the 49ers a third first down at the Rams 35-yard line. A couple more rushing attempts led to a drive that stalled out. Gould’s second field goal attempt was good, giving the 49ers a 17-3 lead with 4:30 remaining in the third quarter.
The Rams offense came out firing after the field goal. Three straight completions, including a big gain from Cooper Kupp for 36 yards gave the Rams a first down in 49ers territory.
On 3rd-and-10, a Goff pass to the end zone was incomplete. A successful field goal attempt from the Rams cut the 49ers lead to 17-6.
Disaster struck for the 49ers. On the first snap of the drive, Mostert fumbled and the Rams scooped it up and ran it back for a 20-yard touchdown. Just like that, the 49ers lead was cut to 17-13. A combined six turnovers between the two teams.
Mullens took a sack on the first play of the 49ers drive following the Rams defensive touchdown. Two plays later, a 3rd-and-19 resulted in a quick punt. As bad as both offenses were Sunday, the 49ers were fading even more than the Rams with one quarter remaining.
The wheels were off. On the first play of the next Rams drive, RB Cam Akers busted through the defense for a gain of 61 yards down to the 49ers 7-yard line. Big plays were killing the 49ers’ defense in the second half.
Akers finished off the big drive with a touchdown, giving the Rams a 20-17 lead following the extra point. With the fourth quarter underway, the 49ers offense needed to step up.
The 49ers got a big play of their own. Mullens completed a pass deep over the middle to Richie James for 29 yards into Rams territory. A drive that had promise ended up going nowhere. Another 49ers punt gave the Rams the ball back with 11:47 remaining in the game.
Mullens discussed the emotional roller coaster that was the second half of the game:
“It was crazy, i felt like anything that could happen in the game, happened. It just shows the grit, the determination of this team. Was it perfect? heck no. It wasn’t perfect at all, but the defense played incredible and offense i guess you could say we delivered when we had to. Obviously it was great to get the guys back with [Raheem Mostert], and [Deebo Samuel], and [Jeff Wilson] and we found a way to pull it out, and that’s all that matters. That’s a “W” in the win-column.”
On 3rd-and-4, Goff was sacked by Hyder, his second of the game. A Rams punt gave the 49ers the ball back with 8:45 remaining in the game.
Two passes to Samuel and a pass to Reed, was followed by a fourth-straight completion to Bourne as the 49ers were approaching mid-field. Two plays later, a big completion to FB Kyle Juszczyk for 19 yards gave the 49ers a trip to the red zone.
On 3rd-and-7, an incomplete pass from Mullens brought up fourth down. A big field goal attempt from Gould was good, tying the game 20-20 with 3:11 remaining.
A few completions from Goff had the Rams approaching midfield. On 3rd-and-5, a huge incompletion forced a Rams punt. The 49ers were getting the ball back with 2:18 remaining in the game. It was now or never for Mullens and the offense.
On the second play of the drive, Mullens hit McKinnon for a short gain. A 3rd-and-3 completion to Samuel for a huge gain of 24 yards into Rams territory.
A second consecutive pass to Samuel down to the Rams 41-yard line with 45 seconds remaining. Two plays later, on 3rd-and-1, a rushing attempt by the 49ers was snuffed out by the Rams defense. A 4th-and-1 was converted by Juszczyk on the ground, giving the 49ers a fresh set of downs with 27 seconds remaining at the Rams 38-yard line.
On 2nd-and-10, Mullens completed another pass to Samuel down to the Rams 33-yard line. A rush from Mostert gave the 49ers an additional five yards. On 4th-and-1, Gould nailed home the game-winning field goal with four seconds remaining.
If they are to climb back into the playoff picture, Sunday’s win was the first big step.
After everything this 49ers team has been through these past couple of weeks, Kyle Shanahan discussed how proud he is of his team and the resiliency they’ve shown:
“What our team has went through in these last two weeks, our week off with how covid hit us, and then [Saturday] with the stuff they found out, i can’t be more proud of our team. What they’ve gone through all year, but especially these last two weeks, and especially these last 24 hours. I did have a lot of concern because of some of the stuff all of us and our families have been dealing with. I can’t tell you how proud am of those guys and how they went out there and fought. Not all of it was perfect, but their heart and energy and everything was and i couldn’t ask for any more from those guys.”
Following the 49ers win, the team will travel to … well, nobody knows where, actually. Their Week 13 matchup was supposed to be at home against the Bills, but the location is in question as current Santa Clara County health restrictions prevent the 49ers from hosting the game.
A very frustrating development for the team, who will now be forced to practice and play at a stadium that is either out of Santa Clara county, or out of California altogether.