Todd Gurley

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Rams hold off 49ers for wild 41-39 win

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THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Rams hold off 49ers for wild 41-39 win

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Coach Sean McVay walked into the postgame news conference and immediately asked, "Anyone have a beer?"

He probably wasn't the only person who wanted a drink after watching a surprisingly thrilling Thursday night shootout between his Rams and the San Francisco 49ers that wasn't decided until Los Angeles prevented a potential game-tying 2-point try and then delivered a rare defensive stop after blowing the onside kick in a 41-39 victory.

"We talk about mentally tough, be your best regardless of the circumstance," McVay said. "I thought the players did that. They found a way in spite of some of the ups and the downs to come away with the win."

While the defense came up big late, it was the offense that carried the day for the Rams (2-1), who have gone from the lowest-scoring team in the NFL a year ago to a dynamic one through three games under McVay.

Jared Goff threw for 292 yards and three touchdowns, Todd Gurley ran for 113 yards and scored three TDs and Robert Woods (108) and Sammy Watkins (106) each topped the 100-yard mark receiving in Los Angeles' second 40-point performance of the season. The Rams have 107 points in all so far, the second-most in franchise history after three games to the 119 by "The Greatest Show on Turf" squad in 2000.

"Since I've been here we haven't been able to do that," Gurley said. "Hopefully we can keep putting points together, keep working together and keep learning from this. I think we left a lot more points off the board."

This win didn't come easy as the Rams nearly blew a 15-point lead, giving up two late touchdowns, fumbling a kickoff return and failing to recover an onside kick. But Los Angeles managed to stop a potential game-tying 2-point conversion on a deflection by Troy Hill and then used an offensive pass interference penalty against Trent Taylor and a fourth-down sack by Aaron Donald to stop the Niners after the onside kick.

The 49ers (0-3) scored five touchdowns after failing to get any the first two weeks but still came up short in part because a missed extra point by Robbie Gould forced them to try for 2 on their late touchdown.

"I just rushed it, I missed it, I made a mistake," Gould said. "Obviously, I wish I didn't do that, or we'd probably be playing in overtime right now.""

This time it was a tired defense that hurt San Francisco. After facing 79 plays in a 12-9 loss at Seattle on Sunday, the 49ers appeared to run out of gas on the short week as Goff frequently had wide-open receivers, especially on third down.

The Rams were 8 for 12 on third down, including all three of Goff's touchdown passes.

The Rams needed all that offense on a night where Brian Hoyer threw for 332 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score.

QUICK START: The Rams took just 12 seconds to get on the board as Nickell Robey-Coleman intercepted Hoyer on the first play from scrimmage and returned it to the 3-yard line. Gurley ran it in on the next play to give the Rams a 7-0 lead.

"I just told him to start over," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. "Got to go back to work. We didn't change anything, went right on with the script. But it was a tough way to start out."

DROUGHT BUSTER: The 49ers came into the game without a touchdown on the season but broke through in the first quarter with some help from the Rams. After Blake Countess jumped offside on a punt, the Niners took advantage of the second opportunity and drove to score on Hoyer's 9-yard run 126:43 into the season. That was the longest it took a team to score its first TD since 2006 when both Tampa Bay (143:03) and Oakland (127:10) took more time.

FOURTH DOWN CALLS: Both teams drove to the opposing 1 on their opening drives of the second half with help from a Willie Mays-style basket catch by Watkins and a perfect toe drag on the sideline by San Francisco's Pierre Garcon. But the Rams opted to kick a short field goal, while the 49ers went for it and converted on Carlos Hyde's 1-yard run that cut Los Angeles' lead to 27-20. Hyde added a second 1-yard run on fourth down in the fourth quarter.

INJURIES: Rams S Lamarcus Joyner left the game in the first half with a hamstring injury. ... Los Angeles C John Sullivan injured his groin in the second half and Watkins and Tavon Austin left with concussions. ... 49ers S Jaquiski Tartt (concussion), FB Kyle Juszczyk (neck), DL Tank Carradine (ankle) and LB Brock Coyle (concussion) all left with injuries in the second half.

UP NEXT: The Rams travel to Dallas on Oct. 1. The 49ers visit Arizona.

Goff and Gurley have attention of Pats, Patricia

Goff and Gurley have attention of Pats, Patricia

FOXBORO -- In three of the Rams’ past five games, they scored just 10 points. In the other two, they scored nine (and won) and 21 (and lost by 28).

They are converting 34.5 percent of their first downs, have 17 offensive touchdowns and, well, you get the point.

They are “playing the kids” and in this instance the primary kid is No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff. A 6-foot-4, 215-pound, 22-year-old who spent three seasons at Cal before departing for the NFL. Sunday will be Goff’s third start after losing 14-10 to Miami and 49-21 to the Saints.

The skinny on the skinny Goff?

“You have a big guy, he’s a tall quarterback, he’s long,” said Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. “He has an extremely strong arm and a very accurate arm in a lot of the different throws that they ask him to make. He’s a very good quarterback from the standpoint of arm strength and the ability to get the ball downfield.”

He’s also getting some latitude to make calls at the line, said Patricia.

“From the passing game you see a lot of those throws (requiring reads), you see a lot of decisions, you see what they’re trying to do from a philosophy standpoint with him. I think game-plan-wise (offensive coordinator Rob) Boras is doing a great job of trying to control it with him so he doesn’t have to put too much on him. But then if you take a look at the run game, there’s quite a bit in the run game where he obviously is, whether it’s a ‘check with me’ type of play or he’s looking at the defense and he can change the play at the line of scrimmage, it’s very subtle, it’s very quick but he is doing a lot of that at the line, which obviously with the run game that they have and the back [Todd] Gurley of course, he’s doing a good job of putting them in some of those situations or trying to get them in the right situation. You can see his development from that standpoint starting to increase.”

Gurley, the 10th overall pick in 2015, is a horse (6-foot-1, 231 pounds) whose outstanding rookie season (1,106 yards, 4.8 YPC, 10 touchdowns) has given way to a disappointing 2016. Through 11 games, Gurley’s carried 200 times for 641 yards (3.2 average) and four touchdowns.

Obviously, the fact the Rams tethered the early portion of their season to quarterback Case Keenum meant there weren’t a lot of defenses sweating out death from above. As a result, they’ve been able to load up against Gurley.

He keeps coming, though, said Patricia.

“He’s really, he’s a workhorse guy,” Patricia described. “He’s a bigger guy, he likes to get the ball downhill into the defense, he runs with really good pad level, protects the ball, he has good vision, and he can set up a lot of blocks. I would say the thing that is really impressive is his burst to get vertical. When his pads are facing downhill and he can just get downhill quickly and really you see it in a couple routes that he has in the passing game where he’s catching the ball on the move. It’s like, ‘He’s coming’. It’s a big, strong, powerful back that’s coming downhill with low pads. Those are tough guys to tackle.”

With the way the Patriots scheme and switch personnel up front, they have a challenge with Gurley. When the Patriots go to sub-defense and take out Malcom Brown or Alan Branch and go skinny and fast on the defensive line, the Rams could be looking to counter.

I asked Patricia how that chess match will go.

“I think when we know it’s truly a downhill run situation or we’re anticipating it to be a downhill, we never truly know obviously, and [if] we can get big guys in the game and try to make sure we stop the run, that’s what we’re going to do,” he explained. “Certainly with a back like [Todd] Gurley who is very large, we’ve played big backs before, when you get the 300-pounders in front of them the wall looks a little bit different in the defense.

“When we do go into some of those situations where we have maybe guys that aren’t 300-pounders in there, hopefully some scheme allows us to either use something to their ability, their strengths, quickness or whatever it might be to help us with the blocking,” he continued. “I think in the run game, first and foremost, you have got to deal with the offensive linemen. That’s really the first problem. You know, ‘What is our matchup here based on the run that they’re going to give us? Is it a big double team? Is it a stretch team? Is it a zone team? Are they just going to pour off the ball and try to knock us out of there?’ So those are all things that come into consideration as far as putting a guy who may not be a 300-pounder in the middle.

“We practice a lot of tackling,” added Patricia. “We spend a lot of time on it. Even if it is a big guy, we’re going to go tackle him and do our best to go get him down and get in there. Obviously the down and distance can dictate how much from a yardage standpoint that we’re allowed to kind of give a little bit with. With some of those looks that we have, that area is a little bit different, [so] we’re just trying to make sure from a blocking standpoint that we can handle the blocking first.” 

The Rams’ primary receivers -- Kenny Britt and slot guy Tavon Austin -- have Patricia’s attention as well. Especially since Goff did seem to get in a groove last week.

“I mean Kenny Britt is unbelievable as far as a receiver to be able to go up and catch the ball and create vertical separation, get behind the coverage, and with a guy like [Jared] Goff who can throw it down there, that’s a big threat as far as the deep balls are concerned [and] the big plays are concerned,” he said. “Tavon Austin [is a] very fast receiver, very quick guy that plays in the slot, so again, his ability to get those shorter, intermediate-type, possession-type balls out quickly with good velocity. I mean honestly, he threw an unbelievable deep ball downfield. It was tight-spiraled, it was about 56 yards in the air and it was just a really pretty throw. The guy has got a great, strong arm and he does a great job with the tight end too. I’ll tell you [Lance] Kendricks kind of silently is a really good possession receiver for them, a guy that he obviously trusts and he can get the ball to.”

For the remainder of the week, we will explain how Bill Belichick routinely takes Jeff Fisher teams over his knee and sends them home tear-stained and red-assed. But that’s us. Within the Patriots meeting rooms, Patricia will try to get his defense on high alert for an occasion where potential and performance link up.