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.”
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.”