SANTA CLARA — Just when you least expected it. . .
The 49ers put together their most complete performance since their Super Bowl season on Monday night at a time when the team was showing little signs of life.
Jimmy Garoppolo, Deebo Samuel and the run game controlled their side of the ball, and the defense made the Los Angeles Rams’ high-powered offense look rather pedestrian in a 31-10 victory at Levi’s Stadium.
The 49ers had not won a home game since Oct. 18, 2020. That game also was against the Rams.
Coach Kyle Shanahan continued his mastery over Rams coach Sean McVay, his former assistant. The 49ers have won five consecutive games against Los Angeles (7-3).
Here are three takeaways from the 49ers’ victory, which improved their record to 4-5 on the season:
Garoppolo executes game plan
Shanahan wanted to run the ball against the Rams. Thanks to Garoppolo, he was able to put his plan into place.
Garoppolo and Samuel teamed up on the play that clinched the victory early in the fourth quarter.
On a fourth-and-6 situation from the Rams’ 40-yard line, Garoppolo made a beautiful throw across the middle as Samuel was breaking open.
Samuel made the catch in stride and took it the rest of the way for a 40-yard touchdown to give the 49ers a 31-7 lead.
Garoppolo completed 15 of 19 passes for 182 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Samuel had five catches for 97 yards and a touchdown.
Garoppolo connected on his first 12 pass attempts of the game. Those passes accounted for 124 yards and one touchdown.
He threw his first incomplete pass on a third-and-14 play when he intentionally threw the ball low to George Kittle when the Rams had a tight end screen well-defended.
The 49ers converted their first five third-down conversions, which enabled them to keep drives alive and further pound Los Angeles with their running game.
Rookie running back Elijah Mitchell gained 91 yards on 27 attempts. Even Samuel got into the act with 36 yards and a touchdown on five rushing attempts.
Jimmie Ward, the playmaker
Free safety Jimmie Ward has been one of the 49ers’ most consistent players over the past three seasons.
But the one thing missing from Ward’s resume has been takeaways and game-changing plays.
Entering the game Monday night, Ward had gone 1,800 days since registering an interception. His last pick came in Week 14 of the 2016 season against the New York Jets.
But that changed in a hurry on Monday. Ward snapped his interception-less streak just two minutes into the game.
Ward made the catch on Matthew Stafford’s deep pass intended (theoretically) for newly acquired wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Obviously, the two were not on the same page, and Ward camped under the deep pass and made the catch.
After the 49ers cashed in Ward’s takeaway for a touchdown, Ward struck again.
Ward gathered in his fourth career interception and his second of the night on a Stafford pass that deflected off Rams tight end Tyler Higbee. Ward returned the interception 27 yards for a touchdown to give the 49ers a 14-0 lead.
The 49ers’ defense came up with a big game just one week after a rash of missed tackles played a big role in the team’s 31-17 loss to the Cardinals.
Offense firing on all cylinders
Turnovers and third-down conversions have been an issue for the 49ers’ offense during their most-difficult stretches of the season.
The 49ers solved those issues for at least one night.
Outside of a kneel-down to run out the final seconds of the second quarter, the 49ers’ offense had possession for only two drives in the first half.
But they made the most of those chances with two of their best drives of the season.
The 49ers were 5-for-5 on third-down conversions in the first half.
After Ward's first interception, the 49ers put together an impressive 18-play, 93-yard drive that chewed up 11 minutes, 3 seconds and ended with Garoppolo’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Kittle.
The next time the 49ers took possession, they marched 91 yards on 11 plays. Deebo Samuel scored on a 10-yard touchdown run to cap a drive that lasted 7:52.
The 49ers held a time-of-possession advantage of 19:07 to 10:53 in the first 30 minutes of the game.
In the third third quarter, the 49ers had another time-consuming drive that ended with Robbie Gould’s 50-yard field goal. The 49ers held the ball for 10 plays, chewing up 6:14 on the clock.
Shanahan found a rhythm with his play-calling, in large part because the 49ers did not commit any turnovers and did a good job on third downs.