SANTA CLARA -- The defense got off the field after four plays on Jimmie Ward’s interception on a deep Matthew Stafford throw that was nowhere near his intended teammate.
Then, the 49ers’ offense seemingly never left the field.
The 49ers started strong on Monday night, and continued to impose their will against the Los Angeles Rams from start to finish for a 31-10 victory at Levi’s Stadium.
Everything was working for the 49ers -- a team that had a difficult time getting anything working for nearly two months.
Here's the 49ers’ report card from their best overall performance since their 2019 Super Bowl season:
The 49ers set the absurdly high goal of 40 rushing attempts for the game. They ended up running the ball 44 times for 156 yards. Rookie Elijah Mitchell led the way with 91 yards on a career-high 27 rushing attempts. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel gained 36 yards and a touchdown on five attempts.
Left tackle Trent Williams, who might be the best in the business, played like it. The 49ers did an outstanding job of gaining yards on first and second downs to give the offense some manageable third-down situations throughout the game.
The 49ers would not have been able to control the game on the ground if they did not also control the game with their passing game.
Jimmy Garoppolo was outstanding. He completed 15 of 19 pass attempts for 182 yards and two touchdowns. His passer rating was 141.7. Garoppolo was sacked just one time for minus-3 yards, which was more a product of the team’s success with the short-passing game to neutralize Aaron Donald and the Rams’ pass rush.
The 49ers took care of the football, which was a big key to this victory. They converted 8 of 14 third-down conversions (57.1 percent). Samuel was targeted five times and he caught all five of those throws for 97 yards, including a 40-yard, game-clinching touchdown on a fourth-and-6 play in the fourth quarter. George Kittle had five catches for 50 yards and a touchdown.
The 49ers’ run defense did not get tested too much Monday night because the rest of the team was so good. The 49ers got out to an early lead, which prompted the Rams to abandon their run game. Los Angeles attempted just 10 running plays, which gained 52 yards.
The 49ers’ tackling was a 180-degree flip from a week ago. Linebackers Fred Warner and Azeez Al-Shaair registered eight tackles apiece and they had four apiece at or behind the line of scrimmage.
Free safety Jimmie Ward got the 49ers off to a great start with interceptions to end the Rams’ first two drives. He returned his second interception of Matthew Stafford for a 27-yard touchdown.
The 49ers allowed just one touchdown to the high-powered Rams offense. Stafford completed 26 of 41 passes for 243 yards, and had several other passes that could have been picked off, too. Arden Key and Nick Bosa registered sacks.
Cooper Kupp shook loose for 11 catches totaling 122 yards, but the 49ers’ defense did a good job of keeping the ball in front of them and making the Rams string plays together to move down the field.
Special-teams coordinator Richard Hightower had his unit prepared for some trickery in the second quarter when the Rams attempted a fake field goal.
Defensive lineman D.J. Jones made the stop after holder Johnny Hekker completed a short pass to tight end Kendall Blanton on a fourth-and-8 play. Jones held it to a 2-yard gain.
Kicker Robbie Gould made a 50-yard field goal. Mitch Wishnowsky averaged 42.3 yards on three punts, and the Rams had no return yards.
The 49ers have experienced difficulty pushing all the right buttons this season. That was certainly not the case on Monday, as everything coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff put into place worked exceedingly well. The 49ers executed Shanahan’s offensive game plan to perfection.
Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans got a lot of things cleaned up on that side of the ball, too. The 49ers’ defense looked cohesive with the play at every level serving as a complement to the defense as a whole. The scheme worked, and the 49ers tackled very well.
The 49ers needed a win, yes. But they also needed a win like this -- just to show themselves they are capable of put a complete performance together against one of the league’s upper-echelon teams.
Coming off a dreadful game against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 9, the 49ers flipped the script with the kind of game that could serve as a springboard for the second half of the season.