49ers takeaways: What we learned in crucial 20-7 Week 6 win over Rams

49ers takeaways: What we learned in crucial 20-7 Week 6 win over Rams


LOS ANGELES -- The NorCal-SoCal rivalry is back in the NFC West.

The 49ers earned their way back into the picture with a gritty performance Sunday at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The 49ers improved to 5-0 with a 20-7 victory over the two-time defending division champion Rams. As a result, the Rams now are in a precarious situation as they fall to 3-3, including 0-2 within the NFC West.

The 49ers and LA Rams both are good teams -- at the same time. And it’s been a while since that has been the case.

Prior to Sunday, the 49ers and Rams had not entered a head-to-head matchup in which both teams had winning records since 2001. The last time the LA Rams and the 49ers met with winning records was 1989.

Here are three takeaways from the 49ers’ victory:  

Pass defense is lights out

Rams quarterback Jared Goff entered the game averaging 329.8 passing yards per game. The 49ers did something about that Sunday.

The 49ers’ pass rush got after Goff, and he couldn't get anything going down the field.

Goff completed 13 of 24 passes for just 78 yards -- a career low. Dee Ford, Ronald Blair and Solomon Thomas came up with sacks that totaled minus-22 yards. The 49ers’ secondary put the clamps on the Rams' wideouts, as Goff’s longest completion went for a mere 12 yards.

Cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, making just his second NFL start in place of injured Ahkello Witherspoon, had another strong game after playing well Monday night against the Cleveland Browns.

Garoppolo makes big blunder

The 49ers must look for Jimmy Garoppolo to make more plays with the injuries short-circuiting the team’s running game. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk and offensive tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey are sidelined for extended periods, so the team might not be able to rely as much on the running game.

Garoppolo made a head-scratcher of a play in the second quarter to blow a golden scoring opportunity.

The 49ers had a third-and-goal at the 1-yard line. Garoppolo, under pressure, tossed the ball into the end zone in the direction of Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle. Rams cornerback Marcus Peters, who was in coverage against Samuel, made the easy interception.

In a game where it was going to be difficult for the 49ers to move the ball, Garoppolo should not have taken any chances. It also might have been wise for the 49ers to run the ball in that situation.

The interception came shortly after Kittle’s 45-yard reception. Earlier on that drive, the 49ers missed another great chance when Marquise Goodwin dropped a deep pass from Garoppolo. The pass was underthrown, but Goodwin still should have been able to turn that play into a huge gain.

In the third quarter, Garoppolo and running back Tevin Coleman let a sure touchdown get away. Garoppolo had Coleman wide open on a third-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Garoppolo threw high and wide, but Coleman should have caught the pass.

He did not, and the 49ers settled for a short Robbie Gould field goal for a 17-7 lead with 4:58 remaining in the third quarter.

Garoppolo finished the game having completed 24 of 33 passes for 243 yards. He did not complete a touchdown pass and threw the aforementioned interception.

Defense rises for goal-line stand

The Rams were not fooling around on their first possession. They ran the ball seven consecutive times to open the game, and the 49ers could not stop them. They had to answer, as Los Angeles took a 7-0 lead on a 56-yard touchdown drive.

But, from there, the 49ers’ defense turned it up a few notches.

With the game tied at 7 late in the first half, Rams coach Sean McVay called two run plays from the 1-yard line, including on fourth down. Nose tackle D.J. Jones spearheaded an effort in the middle of the line to clog it up. Malcolm Brown, starting in place of injured Todd Gurley, twice was stopped short of the goal line, including on fourth down.

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh reacted on the sideline as the 49ers’ defense managed to keep the team in the game. There is no reason for him not to be thrilled with the way his unit is playing. Saleh could quickly get on the radar for NFL head-coaching jobs if the defense continues its upward trend.

The 49ers took the lead early in the second half when defensive end Arik Armstead recovered a bad pitch from Goff. The 49ers cashed in on Garoppolo’s sneak for a 1-yard touchdown.

In the fourth quarter, the 49ers stopped the Rams short on another fourth-and-1 running play.

How Emmanuel Sanders trade helped 49ers, likely hurt Patriots' offense


How Emmanuel Sanders trade helped 49ers, likely hurt Patriots' offense

Two of the NFL’s best teams in 2019, the New England Patriots and 49ers, both faced a similar problem as the trade deadline approached.

The seemingly well-oiled machines had identified an identical issue: A lack of consistent play from the wide receivers.

While both teams attempted to rectify their passing-game issues at the deadline -- the 49ers dealt a pair of draft picks to the Denver Broncos for Emmanuel Sanders while the Patriots used a second-round pick to acquire Mohamed Sanu from Atlanta -- the results weren’t exactly analogous for the two contenders.

Sanders just completed a dominant performance in New Orleans, catching seven passes for 157 yards and a touchdown -- he threw for one, too. Meanwhile, Sanu caught just one pass for 13 yards in Week 14 as New England suffered a home loss at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Since Oct. 22, the day both players found their new homes, Sanders is averaging 10.44 receiving yards per target. Sanu? The former Falcon is averaging just 4.66 yards per target.

The 49ers reportedly balked at the price Atlanta wanted for Sanu, but the Patriots might have been better off bringing Sanders in, according to The Athletic’s Mike Sando.

"Sanu has been a solid receiver for a long time, but not as much of a downfield threat. Over the past four seasons, Sanders holds a 67-44 edge over Sanu in passes gaining more than 15 yards, despite Sanu playing four additional games. Sanu could have been a natural fit in San Francisco given that Shanahan was previously his offensive coordinator in Atlanta. He might even be flourishing there, given San Francisco’s superior surrounding talent, including George Kittle. The fit has been questionable in New England.”

The 49ers also have an obvious advantage in fielding George Kittle, who continues to cement his status as one of the NFL’s top tight-ends week in and week out.

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But imagine what Josh McDaniels, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady could have whipped up with Emmanuel Sanders stretching the field.

This might go down as a rare mistake in player personnel from the Patriots’ front office, and it also might just be the move that propels the 49ers into playing February football.

Chris Simms breaks down George Kittle's catch in 49ers' win vs. Saints

Chris Simms breaks down George Kittle's catch in 49ers' win vs. Saints

George Kittle made the most significant play of the NFL’s Week 14 slate, catching a short fourth-down pass from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and willing his way into field-goal range.

The herculean effort from Kittle set kicker Robbie Gould up for a game-winning 30-yard field goal to give San Francisco a crucial 48-46 victory in New Orleans that propelled the 49ers back to the top of the NFC standings.

Unsurprisingly, coach Kyle Shanahan diagrammed this play for Kittle to be the No. 1 option, and that’s exactly what happened.

“The rookie [C.J.] Gardner-Johnson is matched up 1-on-1 with Kittle,” NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms said. “The beauty of this play is, a lot of times the 49ers will run an in-breaking route off of this, but here he had the option to break out and he breaks out.

“Gardner-Johnson, who’s kind of laying inside for it, now is at a disadvantage and he’s trailing behind and that becomes the completion to George Kittle.”

[RELATED: Injuries continue to pile up for 49ers after extended trip]

Kittle’s wise decision to break outside put San Francisco back into the driver’s seat for the NFC playoffs, but the 49ers will need to keep the momentum going as the final weeks of the season roll on in order to secure the home-field advantage NFL teams so desperately crave come postseason time.