49ers

49ers report card: Grades on offense, defense in 20-7 win over Rams

49ers report card: Grades on offense, defense in 20-7 win over Rams

LOS ANGELES -- The 49ers served notice that they are for real with their 20-7 victory over the Rams on Sunday.

The Rams have set the standard in the NFC West the past two seasons. But the 49ers rose to the occasion at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with a dominating defensive performance in front of an appreciative crowd consisting of many red-clad supporters.

Here are the grades from the 49ers’ fifth consecutive victory to open the season:

Rushing offense

Playing without their starting offensive tackles and their do-everything fullback, the 49ers knew it would be impossible to continue to average 200 yards on the ground. Sure enough, the 49ers had a tough time getting anything going with their run game.

While the 49ers averaged just 2.4 yards on 41 rushing attempts, their two touchdowns came on the ground. Tevin Coleman scored on a 2-yard run, and Jimmy Garoppolo added a touchdown on a 1-yard sneak.

The 49ers picked up eight first downs rushing in the game, so it was not completely a lost cause with their run game.

Grade: B-minus

Passing offense

Garoppolo certainly had a couple of throws he would want back, including an interception in the end zone in which he threw the ball up for grabs. Marcus Peters made the pick as the 49ers let a golden scoring opportunity slip away in the second quarter.

Garoppolo completed 24 of 33 passes for 243 yards and no touchdowns with one interception. He was sacked twice -- both by Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald -- and one of them resulted in a lost fumble.

Tight end George Kittle, who was questionable with a groin injury going into the game, was the game’s best offensive player with eight receptions (on eight targets) for 103 yards. Dante Pettis had a good game with three important receptions for 45 yards.

The 49ers had two dropped passes on plays. Marquise Goodwin could not handle a Garoppolo deep ball that was underthrown. And Coleman, who was wide open, failed to grab a pass in the end zone in the third quarter.

Grade: B-minus

Rushing Defense

This did not start well for the 49ers, who surrendered 56 yards and a touchdown on the Rams’ first drive. LA ran the ball on all seven plays to take an early 7-0 lead. After that, the 49ers allowed just 3.5 rushing yards per attempt to the Rams.

When the 49ers needed the run defense to come through, that’s exactly what happened near the end of the first half. Nose tackle D.J. Jones was in the mix to stop Rams running back Malcolm Brown on third- and fourth-down plays from the 1-yard line.

That sequence proved to be a big boost for the team. Riding that momentum into the second half, Arik Armstead recovered a fumble on the first play of the second half to set the stage for the 49ers’ go-ahead score.

Grade: A

Passing Defense

It might not be possible for the 49ers’ pass defense to play better than it did Sunday.

Rams quarterback Jared Goff entered the game averaging 329.8 passing yards per game, but the 49ers allowed him to complete 13 of 24 throws for just 78 yards. Dee Ford recorded 1.5 sacks. Ronald Blair and Solomon Thomas added a sack apiece, and Armstead recorded a half-sack. The Rams managed just 56 net passing yards.

[RELATED: Watch 49ers DC lose his mind in dominant win over Rams]

The 49ers’ defense shut out the Rams on third and fourth downs. The Rams were 0-for-9 on third downs, and 0-for-4 on fourth downs. The coverage was exceptional throughout, as the longest Rams pass play went for just 12 yards.

Free safety Jimmie Ward broke up back-to-back passes, including a fourth-down attempt to Cooper Kupp, to help close the door in the fourth quarter.

Grade: A-plus

Special Teams

Rams punter Johnny Hekker had a better day than Mitch Wishnowsky. Hekker’s net punting average of 46.2 yards topped Wishnowsky’s effort of 37.8 yards per attempt.

Richie James had a solid day with a 12.7 average on his three punt returns. The 49ers averted a near-disaster when a Rams penalty wiped out a potential turnover after D.J. Reed inadvertently touched a punted ball as he was blocking.

Robbie Gould made field goals of 25 and 34 yards, but he came up well short on a 55-yard attempt at the end of the first half. Wishnowsky made the tackle on JoJo Natson, who fielded the ball in the end zone and tried to return it for a touchdown.

Grade: B-minus

Overall

The 49ers played with Justin Skule and Daniel Brunskill filling in for injured Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey at left tackle and right tackle. Tight ends Ross Dwelley and Levine Toilolo saw more action in place of fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who is out for a while with a knee injury.

The 49ers were able to overcome their injuries better than the Rams, who were missing running back Todd Gurley, edge rusher Clay Matthews and cornerback Aqib Talib.

The 49ers' defense was incredible after giving up a touchdown on the first drive of the game. They opened some eyes Sunday, and served notice that they belong in any conversation when the topic turns to the best teams in the NFL.

Grade: A

Deebo Samuel's insane catch in 49ers' win had Nate Burleson going nuts

Deebo Samuel's insane catch in 49ers' win had Nate Burleson going nuts

If 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel's incredible circus catch against the Cardinals on Sunday caused you to go crazy, you're not the only one.

Former NFL wide receiver and current NFL Network analyst Nate Burleson highlighted the catch in this week's edition of "Toe Drag Swag," and to say that 11-year veteran was impressed with the rookie was an understatement.

"Now this one is nasty," Burleson said. "Deebo Samuel. Don't forget about him. He goes up and gets this. It bounces off of the back pad, bounces off the helmet of [Patrick] Peterson and then he tracks the ball. Deebo Samuel is snatching footballs like the real Deebo in 'Friday' was snatching chains.

"But how 'bout that concentration, though? You're trying to catch it over the back of one of the best corners in the business. It bounces off his back, it bounces off his head and then you still have the awareness to get your feet down before you go out of bounds."

In case you need a refresher, here are a few slo-mo replays.

Burleson went on to shower the 2019 second-round pick with praise.

"Deebo Samuel, for a young player who is transitioning from position to position, has stepped up and is one the best targets that Jimmy Garoppolo has on this offense," Burleson said. "Look at this play again. Keeping his eyes on the ball the whole time, in between two defenders, and still gets his feet down for one of the best catches in the business."

[RELATED: Samuel makes history vs. Cardinals]

After catching 22 passes for 227 yards over the first seven games he played in this season, Samuel has broken out with 16 receptions for 246 yards combined the last two weeks. Garoppolo targeted the rookie wide receiver a total of 21 times against the Seahawks and Cardinals.

Samuel is starting to make a believer out of everyone, including Burleson.

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Why 49ers' Jeff Wilson enjoyed celebrating game-winning TD vs. Cardinals

Why 49ers' Jeff Wilson enjoyed celebrating game-winning TD vs. Cardinals

Jeff Wilson has done a lot with a little bit of playing time this season.

The 49ers running back has scored five touchdowns in seven games in 2019, finding the end zone on 10 percent of the offensive snaps in which he has lined up. His latest TD was the winning one in San Francisco's 36-26 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at Levi's Stadium.

It came on Wilson's lone offensive snap of the day, and he celebrated appropriately.

"It was just like all the pain I ever felt, all the mistakes I ever made, all the good times I ever had, just all that came out and went," Wilson told KNBR's "Papa & Lund" show Tuesday (H/T 49ers Webzone). "This game meant a lot to me. Obviously, just not playing the whole game, just to get one play, and then the play, you get in and score, and it's for a big moment for the game, it was just all so surreal to me."

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The 49ers got by with a little help from their depth in Week 11, as backup tight end Ross Dwelley hauled in a pair of touchdowns in place of George Kittle and rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel played on more offensive snaps than anyone else at a skill position. Kittle and running back Matt Breida returning likely would push Dwelley and Wilson, respectively, down the depth chart for San Francisco's Sunday night matchup with the 8-2 Green Bay Packers.

If Wilson manages to get another scoring opportunity, the 49ers know they can trust him to deliver in a big moment and be ready to celebrate.