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49ers push back Rams’ boot in enthralling, last-second win



© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams ran the same plays again and again and again. The 49ers defense failed to sack Jared Goff while Jimmy Garoppolo seemed thrilled to be sacked a half-dozen times. But once again, it was the San Francisco offense, a wild Garoppolo throw and Robbie Gould game-winning chip shot that was required to win a game that the 49ers seemed to always be losing.

Here are five takeaways from the 49ers’ bizarre, 34-31 win:

49ers capitalize on being favored vs. Rams for second time in a half-decade, with Garoppolo the unifying factor

The 49ers‘ (-7) point spread coming into the game was just the second time since 2015 the 49ers have been favored against the Rams. The other time they’ve been favored? December 31, 2017. It was Jimmy Garoppolo’s sixth game and fifth start with 49ers, a 34-13 San Francisco win.

Garoppolo was a bit of a mess on Saturday. He was 16-of-27 with 248 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, which isn’t all that far from what he did the last time the 49ers were favored against the Rams, at 20-of-33 for 292 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

While he seemed all too thrilled to take sack after sack, he came through, as he tends to in the clutch, hitting Emmanuel Sanders on this impossible missile to set up Robbie Gould’s game-winning field goal three plays later.

George Kittle remained the 49ers’ escape valve

Here’s how the 49ers opened the second half: Interception, Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt. By the time of that last punt, Jimmy Garoppolo had been sacked four times. Then, George Kittle caught a 36-yard pass and caught a touchdown on the same drive.

An onslaught of bootlegs and dumps

While that sounds more repulsive than it actually was, watching the Rams’ offense was nauseating. It was about three plays, rinsed and repeated: a quarterback bootleg, a play-action dump pass, and a play-action pass over the middle. The Rams did run the ball 16 times in the first half, five more than the 49ers, but the Rams also ran 44 first-half plays, and the trend of bootlegs and screens and slants only continued in the second half.

It was reminiscent of playing Madden against an opponent who abuses a limited number of plays. Just like in Madden, the 49ers, for the most part, couldn’t defend the Rams’ repetition. And when they did, Jared Goff threw the ball away intelligently.

The game plan led to a 323-yard, two-touchdown game from Goff, who was not sacked once.

Fred Warner has would-be Pro Bowl moment

When the 49ers’ defense was reeling in the first half, and the Rams were past midfield, it seemed like destiny was beckoning for a Los Angeles score just before the half. With 56 seconds, Fred Warner flipped that script, intercepting Jared Goff for a pick-six, giving San Francisco its first lead of the game.

The 49ers really, really, really need Jaquiski Tartt back

For as rough as the defensive line has looked without Dee Ford (and Ronald Blair III, D.J. Jones, Damontre Moore and even Jullian Taylor), the secondary may have fallen off an even steeper level with the loss of Jaquiski Tartt. Granted, the injuries on the defensive line have put an even greater stress on the secondary, but the secondary might also be able to handle the defensive line’s deficiencies if Tartt was in the lineup.

What’s clear is that Marcell Harris is no Jaquiski Tartt. He’s far more like Adrian Colbert; great hitting power and value in the run game and on screens and dump passes all in front of him, but he’s a far greater liability in coverage. He makes too many mistakes too often, and could have all but sealed a 49ers win with an interception.

Final notes:

  • Mike Person had started 30-straight games, a streak which came to an end on Saturday. His replacement was Daniel Brunskill, who was beaten badly by Aaron Donald at least once. While Garoppolo failed to throw the ball away, he was not helped by his offensive line.
  • C.J. Beathard was not in attendance, after his brother, Clayton, was fatally stabbed early Saturday morning in Tennessee
  • Top seed still in play: With the win, the 49ers retain the ability to be the No. 1 seed in the NFC if they beat the Seattle Seahawks next week. Without the win, they could still clinch a division title, but would have needed help from both the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers to take the top seed.