How 49ers' defense locked in after allowing early TD to Rams

How 49ers' defense locked in after allowing early TD to Rams

LOS ANGELES — The Rams' opening offensive drive made them seem unstoppable.

But the 49ers' defense regrouped, refocused and didn’t let LA reach the end zone again in their 20-7 win Sunday.

The Rams rushed the ball seven straight times for 56 yards to open the game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, as the 49ers allowed a touchdown on the ground for the first time this season. Maybe it was a little case of nerves in a big game. Maybe they were too excited. Maybe they really were a “fake undefeated team.”

That clearly was not the case, though. After the first drive, the 49ers allowed just 109 yards of total offense and stopped the Rams on nine third-down and four fourth-down plays.

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan admitted he was surprised by the Rams' offensive strategy to start the game.

“I haven’t been a part of any first drives where you see a team run it seven times in a row just right down your throat, for that to be it,” Shanahan said. “The way the guys recovered after that, it was a hell of a deal. They kept battling.”

Through Shanahan's headset, he could hear defensive coordinator Robert Saleh's message.

“I think it was just to not panic,” Shanahan said. “We got to start tackling better. They got some cut-backs and a few gaps. We missed a few stunts, and they gapped us out a little bit. When that happens, you are going to get a lot of yards before contact.

“We just had to settle down a little bit, keep our guys in the right gaps, and when we did that, there wasn’t as much space. And when there wasn’t as much space, we started tackling a lot better."

Saleh won't give away all of his defense's secrets, but it's clear he quickly found little in-game adjustments to get his group back on track.

“We just had to get a grasp on what kind of runs we were getting,” Saleh said. “And then what we could do without disrupting the structure of the defense. So, the adjustments we made in between series right there, we’ll keep it in house obviously, though the guys did a great job executing it, the coaches did a great job coaching it, and we were able to put all that stuff to bed.”

[RELATED: 49ers' defense hounds Goff to career-low in passing yards]

Here’s what several players said about the adjustments after the initial and only Rams touchdown: 

DE Nick Bosa 

“They had one play on us early, and once we made the adjustment, it was game over. We were fine. Once our offense went down and scored, we were all good. We just had to stay in the game.”  

DL DeForest Buckner 

“A lot of guys. It was really guys talking. Kwon [Alexander] came up and told us to just get on our jobs. We made slight adjustments, and it was all good from there. Settle the nerves. We didn’t panic. We knew there was a lot of ball left, and the guys really stepped up to the challenge.” 

LB Kwon Alexander 

"Let’s get back to the basics. That wasn’t us the first drive. I knew that wasn’t us the first drive. We just got back to doing what we do best, playing team ball, and playing sound and scheme sound.”

DB Emmanuel Moseley

“We just locked in. After the first series, we came to the sideline and told each other, ‘Let’s do better.’ We know we can do better, and we did the exact game plan that we went out there to do, and it worked.”

Ravens' John Harbaugh reacts to 49ers' Tim Ryan's Lamar Jackson remarks


Ravens' John Harbaugh reacts to 49ers' Tim Ryan's Lamar Jackson remarks

49ers broadcaster Tim Ryan was suspended for one game after comments made about Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson following Sunday’s loss.

“He’s really good at that fake, Lamar Jackson, but when you consider his dark skin color with the dark football with a dark uniform, you could not see the thing,” Ryan said on the show (H/T The San Francisco Chronicle).

The comments created a social media firestorm, but Ravens head coach John Harbaugh isn’t interested in furthering the controversy.

“I don’t really know too much about it or understand the context of it. It’s not relevant to what we’re trying to accomplish right now,” Harbaugh said, via Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com.

[RELATED: 49ers' Harris to start at strong safety for injured Tartt]

Former 49ers defensive end Dennis Brown will replace Ryan on Sunday’s broadcast in New Orleans.

49ers injury report: Marcell Harris to start in place of Jaquiski Tartt

49ers injury report: Marcell Harris to start in place of Jaquiski Tartt

BRADENTON, Fla. – Marcell Harris on Sunday will be back where he ended his rookie season with the 49ers.

Harris will take over as the 49ers’ starter at strong safety with Jaquiski Tartt out for at least one game after sustaining cracked ribs in the team’s 20-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 13.

Tartt and backup defensive tackle Jullian Taylor (elbow) have been ruled out for the 49ers’ game Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.

Two of the 49ers’ seldom-used wide receivers, Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis, are listed as questionable, along with left tackle Joe Staley. Goodwin has knee and foot issues, according to the team, while Pettis has already missed one game with a knee injury.

Staley has missed three games after surgery to repair a fractured and dislocated finger. He is expected to play Sunday.

All other 49ers players, including Dee Ford and Richard Sherman, will be available for Sunday’s game.

Harris started the final five games of his rookie season after being a sixth-round draft pick from Florida in 2018. He did not earn a spot on the team’s 53-man roster at the beginning of this season. Harris was promoted from the practice squad in October and has appeared in nine games this season.

“I’m real happy for Marcell,” coach Kyle Shanahan said on "49ers Game Plan," which airs Saturday at 7 p.m. on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3). “He’s gone come a long way, in that he was a very good college player, tore his Achilles his senior year, which really hurt him. That’s why we were able to get him in the draft. It affected him his whole rookie year.

"He’s been able to string together about eight months where he has been healthy, and when you’re made of the right stuff, you have the talent and you can stay healthy, you usually just need the time.”

Harris took over for Tartt on Sunday and made one of the top plays in the game when he took the ball away from Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson on a running play to create a turnover.

[RELATED: Sanders has been valuable resource for 49ers' young WRs]

49ers injury report

S Jaquiski Tartt (ribs)
DT Jullian Taylor (elbow)

WR Marquise Goodwin (knee, foot)
WR Dante Pettis (knee)
T Joe Staley (finger)