But on Sunday night at Levi’s Stadium, the San Francisco 49ers served a cold reminder about the difficulty of the NFC West as they defeated the Rams 24-16 in the Rams’ first divisional game of the season.
The Rams fall to 4-2 but remain in second place in the division behind the Seattle Seahawks (5-0). The 49ers improve to 3-3.
The Rams’ offense started slowly, then was plagued by uncharacteristic mistakes. The defense was unable to make 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who was returning from an ankle injury, uncomfortable.
“Some decisions that clearly I’ve got to do a better job with, but I think as a whole, there were just too many things that we’re not accustomed to doing,” Rams coach Sean McVay said after the game. “You give credit to the 49ers, they did a nice job, but we made a lot of uncharacteristic decisions. We had a lot of our players that we count on that didn’t come through in some situations that they typically do.”
The Rams, who have played four of their six games on the road, return to SoFi Stadium for a Monday Night Football matchup against the 5-1 Chicago Bears in Week 7.
Describe the game in two words: Uncharacteristic performance. This stat captures the Rams’ night: Typically sure-handed wide receiver Cooper Kupp dropped a pass in the end zone in the third quarter, which was the first Rams drop in the end zone since Week 5 of 2017.
QB performance: Goff has masterfully orchestrated fast starts through most of the season, but that was not the case Sunday night. Goff completed 5 of 12 passes for 42 yards and a touchdown in the first half, as the Rams failed to score on their opening drive for only the second time this season (the other instance a Week 3 loss to the Buffalo Bills). It appeared Goff found a spark when he threw a dart to wide receiver Robert Woods in the back of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown, the Rams trailing 14-6, with 5:11 remaining in the first half. But the second half did not yield better results, as Goff was intercepted in the end zone by Jason Verrett to dampen any come-from-behind effort. Goff finished 19-of-38 for 198 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception.
“Clearly it wasn’t my best,” Goff said. “It was just some uncharacteristic stuff for me, missing guys open there early. It’s something that I’ve never done in my life and don’t expect to ever repeat.”
Biggest hole in the game plan: Time of possession. The 49ers planned to play keep away, and it worked, particularly in the first half as they held onto the ball for 21:22 and gained 291 total yards of offense. The Rams had only 102 total yards in the first half. The 49ers ended the game with a dominant 37:55 time of possession to the Rams’ 22:05.
Troubling trend: The defense was unable to pressure Garoppolo. The Rams had 17 sacks in their previous three games, but Garoppolo was under duress only once in 21 dropbacks in the first half and he was not sacked the entire game. A week after Aaron Donald had four sacks in a win over Washington, the 49ers neutralized the star defensive tackle, who hit Garoppolo only once.
Eye-popping Next Gen Stat: Goff’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Woods had a completion probability of 27%, according to Next Gen Stats, which was the lowest completion probability on a receiving touchdown for the Rams this season.
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