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.