© Kyle Terada | 2020 Oct 18
That looked much more like the team we were so familiar with last season. For a full half, and long enough to secure the win early, at least. Aside from a dominant pass rush, the 49ers excelled at the things that made them such a force to be reckoned with: establishing the run game, getting the ball easily and often into the hands of their yards after catch weapons, and getting “sticky,” as they call it, in coverage.
All of these factors manifested in a much-needed 24-14 victory over the Los Angeles Rams, and move the 49ers to 3-3.
The recipe for returning to their winning ways was simple in theory: run the ball well, get an early lead, and hold onto it by getting the ball into those YAC guys with simple passes and solid coverage.
All of those things took place. The only thing missing was a dominant pass rush, but Jared Goff wiggled his way out of some potential sack situations.
Much of the credit on offense lies with the offensive line and Kyle Shanahan. That line, which has been a clear liability through the first five games of the season, was stellar throughout the first half, allowing the lead to balloon to a comfortable 21-6. Shanahan effectively took the ball out of Garoppolo’s hands early, until there was a touchdown lead and he started to look comfortable.
Garoppolo finished 22-of-32 with 257 yards and three touchdowns… with an air yards per attempt average of 4.7 yards. Effectively, throwing it short, consistently. He had at least a couple of those patented, head-scratching throws, but none of them resulted in turnovers.
Things deteriorated offensively and defensively in the third and fourth quarter and on defense as a result of injuries. Raheem Mostert left the game in the third quarter with a left ankle injury and did not return. Jaquiski Tartt also left and did not return due to a groin injury.
That fundamentally changed the 49ers offense, with the much slower, after-contact runner in Jerick McKinnon left, for the moment, as the lead back. That was until Shanahan finally relented, and with no Jeff Wilson Jr. available, tipped the cap of JaMycal Hasty.
Hasty, the undrafted rookie out of Baylor University, showed he’s exactly the dynamic, speedy rusher we thought he was. His first carry went for nine yards, his second for four and a first down. He had a 10-yard rush to effectively ice the game and finished with nine rushes for 37 yards. He looks a much better 1-for-1 replacement option for Mostert.
But even without Mostert, the 49ers offense still picked up key completions where they needed them, with many of them coming to George Kittle, who went for 109 yards on seven receptions.
The defense, especially in coverage, was staunch, until Emmanuel Moseley was beaten embarrassingly on a late, 40-yard touchdown pass to Josh Reynolds. Moseley was lost, but the score, closing the deficit for the Rams to 24-16, came too late.
Outside of that play Moseley and Jason Verrett were very reliable in coverage, and both had some pass breakups to their name. Marcell Harris was a clear downgrade from Tartt, and played recklessly, attacking the ball with poor tackling form and displaying poor eye positioning early.
But none of that cost the 49ers because they took hold of the game so early and dictated the pace. And… Jared Goff stunk up the joint, going 19-of-38 for 198 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Every factor San Francisco needed to go its way did, at least long enough that the result wasn’t ever in doubt after the conclusion of the first half. It was a must-win game which re-ignites the belief that they could still be a playoff team.