The 49ers saw NFC West leaders Rams 17-0 ahead before a Robbie Gould field goal allowed them to escape a skunk in the first half of today’s high stakes regular season final.
See, if the 49ers lose they can still make the NFC playoffs, but that would require the New Orleans Saints to lose in Atlanta, where the Saints will lead into halftime.
Jimmy Garoppolo started despite a sprained thumb and although he hadn’t left Trent Williams (elbow) in uniform.
Garoppolo started 5 out of 7 for 29 yards with an interception and everything looked bleak. But a late goal run earned at least points, with Aiyuk serving as bookends for 19 and 26 yards before Gould’s 42-yard field goal ended at the end of half. Kyle Juszczyk replaced Gould in place of injured punter Mitch Wishnowsky (possible concussion while reporting a 31-yard punt return).
Garoppolo is 9 out of 12 for 90 yards. He’s taken every snapshot so far. It will be interesting to see if Trey Lance stays in the bullpen early in the second half. Lance won the home final against Houston last Sunday.
The most productive tandem in the NFL was unstoppable in the first half. Stafford completed 15-of-16 passes for 153 yards and his two touchdowns went to Tyler Higbee on the tight end. But Cooper Kupp of the Rams had 84 yards while catching all five targets, often against Dontae Johnson, who started nickel instead of K’Waun Williams.
When Higbee had his second touchdown catch to bring the Rams to 17, the difference in yards was staggering: the Rams were 136 yards, the 49ers were minus 3 yards.
The 49ers defense stood from the 2-yard line on fourth and 1 and piled into the line of scrimmage, Stafford feigned a surrender, and safety Jimmie Ward bit in the direction of the action. This allowed the tight end higbee to slide freely into the end zone for a touchdown catch and a 10-0 lead.
Ward, the longest-serving 49ers player, was one of the five defensive backs who were unable to train in the COVID reserve last week.
The 49ers’ bright spot was their run defense, which Sony Michel and Cam Akers limited to a total of 14 yards. Michell has 12 carries for 11 yards, including a 7 yard run after the 2 minute warning.
On the offensive, the 49ers have to rely on their passing game to level the deficit, and they will otherwise sprinkle in runs like the 13-meter Elijah Mitchell had in midfield. On her first run, Mitchell had runs of 1 and minus 1 yards, and Samuel’s typical sprint to the left limit was stopped for a 2-yard loss.
The 49ers continued a season-long buggy theme on special teams, from a blocking penalty on a kickoff return that pegged them to their 8 to a 31 yard punt return that scoring the third -Drive the Rams initiated.
RAMS: The 49ers defense resulted in a third-place conversion on the Rams’ first three attempts – beginning with receptions against Odell Beckham Jr. (13 yards) and Kupp (46 yards) – before Stafford of Arden Key and Arik Armstead sacked was, with Nick Bosa also close by to force a field goal. (Bosa and Armstead combined a third-down sack to end the Rams’ final streak before half-time.)
49ERS: In the 31-10 win in November, the 49ers’ inaugural possession lasted 11 minutes and spanned 93 yards in 18 games en route to touchdown. This? Not so good.
It started at the 8 yard line thanks to an illegal block on JaMycal Hasty’s lackluster return, and the 49ers moved up 20 yards before finally stabbing. The drive officially stalled when Garoppolo’s third down-back-shoulder pass to Hasty was interrupted by a Rams defender.
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The first snaps of the season of Colton McKivitiz come in his first career start at Left Tackle, where Williams (elbow) couldn’t keep up today.
Defensively, the 49ers used Johnson again at Nickel instead of K’Waun Williams, who was removed from the COVID reserve list on Saturday but is inactive today. Emmanuel Mosely returned from a month-long absence to start with Ambry Thomas, who replaces the benched but active cornerback Josh Norman.
Back in the line-up is linebacker Dre Greenlaw, who only played 50 snaps the entire season (two games) due to a groin injury on a pick-six in week 1. Greenlaw received an unnecessary roughness penalty with a helmet-to-helmet hit at the 49ers’ 22-yard line.
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