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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.