SANTA CLARA – After feasting on the Los Angeles Rams twice last year, the 49ers found out Thursday night that these Sean McVay Rams are not the same ol’ Rams.
McVay, the 31-year-old head coach who served as quarterbacks under then-offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan for several seasons with Washington, got the better of the first head-to-head matchups against his former mentor. It could be their first of many meetings as NFC West rivals.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff looked like the No. 1 overall draft pick of 2016 -- which he was -- and despite spirited late-fourth-quarter rally, the 49ers made enough critical errors to prevent Shanahan from any chance of his first victory as an NFL head coach.
The Rams took advantage of an early Brian Hoyer mistake and held on for dear life to a 41-39 victory over the 49ers in front of a sparse gathering at Levi’s Stadium.
In the past 22 games entering the game, the 49ers were 3-0 against the Rams and 0-19 against all other opponents. That trend came to a halt, but not before the 49ers' wild comeback attempt made for one of the more interesting Thursday night games in recent memory.
The 49ers made it interesting late. After Hoyer threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to rookie slot receiver Trent Taylor to cut the Rams lead to eight points, 41-33, with 5:12 remaining in the fourth quarter, the 49ers got a quick takeaway on the ensuring kickoff.
Victor Bolden forced a fumble on Rams return man Pharoh Cooper, and Aldrick Robinson made the recovery. Carlos Hyde scored with 2:17 remaining, but Hoyer’s two-point conversion pass intended for Trent Taylor for the tie was broken up and intercepted.
Trailing 41-39, Robbie Gould’s onside kick was recovered by Raheem Mostert. But the 49ers could get no closer. Their last best chance was erased when Taylor's apparent reception at the Rams' 39-yard line was called back on his own penalty for offensive pass interference.
Coming off a poor performance on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, the night could not have started any worse for Hoyer, the 49ers’ starting quarterback.
Hoyer’s first attempt, intended for Marquise Goodwin was off the mark, provided Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman with an easy interception. Robey-Coleman’s 25-yard return set up Todd Gurley’s 3-yard touchdown run.
And just like that, the 49ers trailed 7-0 just 12 seconds into the game.
Hoyer and the 49ers’ offense managed to string together enough plays on the next drive and were aided by a Rams offside penalty on a punt to form a 14-play, 81-yard drive.
Hoyer accounted for the first touchdown in 126 minutes, 47 seconds for the 49ers this season with a 9-yard touchdown run. It was the second running touchdown of Hoyer’s career, and the first since his rookie season of 2009 with the New England Patriots.
Gurley scored three touchdowns in the first half as the Rams built a 24-13 lead. Robbie Gould kicked field goals of 36 and 48 yards for the 49ers. But he also missed an extra point at the beginning of the fourth quarter that proved costly, forcing the 49ers to go for a two-point conversion late in the game for the tie.
Gurley finished with 113 yards and two touchdowns on 28 rushing attempts. He added a 7-yard touchdown reception.
Goff had a strong showing, completing 22 of 28 passes for 292 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating was 145.8.
The 49ers got back into the game in the middle of the third quarter with a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Shanahan rolled the dice on fourth down from the L.A. 1-yard line. Hyde scored to make the score 27-20 with 20 minutes to play.
But the 49ers’ defense was not up to the task, allowing the Rams to convert 8 of 12 (67 percent) on third downs.
Hoyer ended up piecing together a decent game, completing 23 of 37 passes for 332 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Pierre Garçon caught seven passes for 142 yards.
Fullback Kyle Juszczyk was ruled out of action for the remainder of the game late in the third quarter due to a neck injury. Juszczyk appeared to be injured during a short-yardage situation that ended up with Hyde scoring on a 1-yard run. He was later diagnosed with a concussion.
The 49ers also lost two other players due to concussions. Safety Jaquiski Tartt and linebacker Brock Coyle both sustained head injuries in the third quarter and were ultimately diagnosed with concussions, the 49ers announced.
Defensive lineman Tank Carradine went down early in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury and did not return.
The 49ers will return to action on Oct. 1 against the Arizona Cardinals.
THIS ‘N’ THAT
--Running back Carlos Hyde left the game in the first quarter with a hip injury, and was announced as questionable to return. However, he missed just one series before returning to action. Hyde finished with 84 yards and two touchdowns on 25 rushing attempts.
--While Hyde was out, 49ers No. 3 running back Raheem Mostert lost a fumble.
--The 49ers got a takeaway in the second quarter when long-snapper Kyle Nelson ran down the field to recover Tavon Austin’s muffed punt.
--Safety Jimmie Ward can expect a fine of $24,309 for his hit on Robert Woods as a defenseless receiver late in the first half after a 13-yard gain. The unnecessary roughness penalty on Ward moved the ball to the 2-yard line. On the next play, Gurley scored a touchdown to give Los Angeles a 24-13 lead at halftime.
--Shanahan won his first challenge as he threw the red flag to object to a play on which Pierre Garçon was ruled to have caught Hoyer’s pass out of bounds. Instead, Garçon’s remarkable two-foot toe-drag was ruled complete for a 19-yard gain. The play accounted for 34 yards, as Aaron Donald’s late hit on Hoyer was tacked onto the end of the play.
--He later won another challenge in the fourth quarter on a similar play to Marquise Goodwin at the sideline late in the fourth quarter. The play gained 12 yards.
--Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster, who sat out the game with a high ankle sprain, wore a 49ers custom jersey on the sideline with a nameplate that read, “5AVA6E” (SAVAGE). Foster wears No. 56.