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.”

Watch Jaquiski Tartt strip ball from Seahawks, preserve 49ers' lead


Watch Jaquiski Tartt strip ball from Seahawks, preserve 49ers' lead

The Seattle Seahawks appeared primed to take a halftime lead over the 49ers on Monday night at Levi's Stadium. Until they weren't.

49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt stripped D.K. Metcalf of the football at San Francisco 2-yard line as the Seahawks rookie wide receiver was bound for the end zone with just over a minute remaining in the first half.

Officials initially did not rule a change in possession, but a replay overturned the call on the field. Tartt stepped out of bounds as he tried to strip Metcalf, but he stepped back inbounds to re-establish himself.

[RELATED: Jimmy G seemingly imitates Prescott's viral warmup video]

Al Riveron, the NFL's senior vice president of officiating, explained how Metcalf holding the ball allowed Tartt to get back inbounds. 

The 49ers ran out the first-half clock after Tartt's forced fumble, nursing a 10-7 lead headed into halftime as they tried to preserve their undefeated record against their NFC West rivals.

Watch 49ers' DeForest Buckner scoop game-changing TD off double fumble


Watch 49ers' DeForest Buckner scoop game-changing TD off double fumble

The 49ers' defense delivered at a crucial moment Monday night at Levi's Stadium.

With the 49ers trailing 21-10, K'Waun Williams and Arik Armstead sacked Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, forcing a fumble that was quickly scooped up by Seattle tackle Germain Ifedi. Fred Warner then forced another fumble, and DeForest Buckner scooped up the loose ball at the 12-yard line and walked untouched into the end zone.

Two fumbles, six points, and the 49ers were back in the game.

Richie James caught Jimmy Garoppolo's pass on the two-point conversion, cutting Seattle's lead to 21-18 with 14:04 remaining in the fourth quarter. San Francisco tied the score at 21 with a field goal on its next offensive possession.

[RELATED: Sanders, James out for rest of 49ers-Seahawks with injuries]

Armstead's fumble recovery lifted San Francisco's struggling offense. The 49ers had turned the ball over on downs, threw an interception, fumbled and punted on the drives preceding Armstead's touchdown.

Thanks to the defensive linemen's scoop and score, though, the 49ers were in a position to regain the lead.