Shanahan's challenge fueled 49ers' offense in win over Rams

Elijah Mitchell

SANTA CLARA — The 49ers' dominant ground game in their 31-10 win over the Los Angeles Rams was practically willed into existence by coach Kyle Shanahan. 

Prior to the game, Shanahan challenged his team to tally 40 rushing attempts in their Monday night matchup with their division rival. The offense did even better than that, putting 44 runs on the board for 156 yards. 

Rookie Elijah Mitchell carried most of the load with 27 carries for 91 yards while wide receiver Deebo Samuel registered five carries for 36 yards and a rushing touchdown. Jeff Wilson Jr. saw his first action since recovering from a meniscus injury and carried the ball 10 times for 28 yards. 

It was a lofty goal set by Shanahan, who admitted he almost backtracked after he said it. 

"Our goal, we said 40, which I almost regretted,” Shanahan said after the game. “It’s tough to do, but I said it now. They came through with it. It was huge team goal and it worked out well enough that we could do it.” 

The 49ers opened the game with two drives that each went over 90 yards. Along with a productive run game, Jimmy Garoppolo threw eight straight competitions for 89 yards and one passing touchdown. 

Shanahan said after the game it wasn’t just about scheme, it was about a mental attitude that he wanted to see from his team. He didn’t just want this team to simply win, he wanted them to physically dominate the line of scrimmage. 


“Really just to get our mindset that way,” Shanahan said. “I do say that sometimes, but I always say 30. I said 40 today because 40 entails the whole team. The defense has to play that way, the [offense] has to play that way and the special teams.” 

The offense was sparked by two turnovers committed by the Rams, both interceptions by Jimmie Ward in the first quarter. The offense responded by only letting the Matthew Stafford and the Rams offense on the field for eight plays in the first quarter. 

“It was just really cool that the whole team played the way that you could dictate that,” Shanahan said. “That was a team goal. It is very tough but when the defense is playing that way and we are doing well on third down it makes it a lot easier. You can try for that to be your plan but if we don’t convert those third downs, no one will ever see that.”

The 49ers controlling the game didn’t end in the first quarter. They dominated the time of possession the entire contest, holding on to the ball for just over 39 minutes, nearly double the amount of time the Rams offense was on the field.

RELATED: Where 49ers stand in NFC playoff race after win

The 49ers' effort Monday was a huge bounce back from their 11-carry, 39-yard performance in their Week 9 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

“When you say the goal of 40, I almost back tracked it a little bit because it’s somewhat unrealistic, but when we had that many on the first drive I was like, ‘All right, we have a chance, let’s keep doing this,' ” Shanahan said.

 Download and follow the 49ers Talk Podcast