You can call them Pretenders but the results are real. The San Francisco 49ers are undefeated, beating the defending NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams, 20-7, to improve to 5-0.
Since 49ers football is fun again, let’s take a look at 5 Fun Takeaways from Sunday’s win.
Goal Line Stand
The Niner defense is elite and it showed all day.
With 4:37 left in the second quarter and the score tied at 7-7, the Rams had 2nd and 5 at the San Francisco 5 yard line. Running back Darrell Henderson got it to the 1-yard line and the Rams tried to run it in on the next three plays. The 49ers defense stopped them with a tremendous goal line stand, with D.J. Jones and Arik Armstead taking care of business on fourth down.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was beyond pumped.
The only thing better than the 49ers defense is how FIRED UP it makes their DC Robert Saleh pic.twitter.com/HpAmmR3Jlc
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) October 13, 2019
“I look at it as a turnover,” said Saleh. “It completely swung momentum…and the grit and the fight that those guys have to stand up there, be able to get that push. It just goes to show the will of this football team…”
It was the first of three, yes three, fourth down stops for the 49ers’ defense, and the Rams were 0-9 on third down.
“Oh it was awesome,” said quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. “Like I said, it sparks everybody. Coaches, players, everybody. Everyone is hooting and hollering on the sidelines. It’s just so much fun out there and to have a group like that that’s so tightly knit on offense, defense, and special teams where everyone’s interacting with each other, it makes it a lot of fun.”
Panic Mode Off
The Rams started strong, forcing the 49ers to go 3 and out on the first drive of the game. Once on offense and starting at their own 44 yard line, they ran right through the 49ers’ defense to the tune of seven straight run plays for 56 yards and a touchdown.
“We were just talking about it in the locker room,” said Saleh after the game. “There’s no panic…‘What’d we get? What do we need to do? How can we fix this?’ And the guys went out there and still played and kept their relentless energy. There’s absolutely no panic. Didn’t need to change our calls, didn’t need to change the structure of the defense…”
The 49ers came into this game without both of their starting offensive tackles and without FB Kyle Juszczyk, who has been integral to the run game. Garoppolo had a pretty awful red zone interception. And he fumbled in the fourth quarter which gave the Rams a little life. Robbie Gould missed a field goal. But, good teams adjust and figure out how to win.
“Yeah, I think we’re in the process of it still,” Garoppolo said. “I think there’s…a long way to go and things to clean up and make things smoother and easier. Like I said, all of these games have been won differently. You know, different styles, rushing for 200-plus yards and all these different things. I think that’s what makes a good football team is when you could win in different ways.”
Tight end George Kittle was listed as questionable with a groin injury on Friday, but he was not missing this game.
“No chance, he said after the game. “…[T]his is a game I’ve had on my calendar for a year. I haven’t liked the way we’ve played against them the past two years. This is a W that we needed to get.”
Kittle had eight receptions on eight targets for 103 yards.
“George is an animal,” said Garoppolo. “He’s an interesting individual and I don’t know how he does what he does on a daily basis. You just have to tip your hat to him. The guy comes in, puts in the work, battles, he fights. It’s awesome to have a guy like that.”
Defensive back Jimmie Ward has had his share of ups and downs on the health front, but he has been integral to the 49er defense the last couple of weeks.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Ward had back-to-back PBUs on 3rd and 2 and 4th and 2, making him pretty much solely responsible for one of the three fourth down stops.
“Jimmie is a dog out there,” said Shanahan. “We love Jimmie. I would wear his jersey on the sideline if I could. I love his mentality, I love watching him play. He’s had some unfortunate things with just not being able to stay healthy, but when he is healthy, he’s one of the better players. You guys see what he does what he does. He’s extremely physical out there, he’s not scared of anything, he’s not scared to fail, he challenges guys in coverage. It’s been fun having him out there these two weeks.”
Team Work Makes the Dream Work
The 49ers pass rush held Rams’ quarterback Jared Goff to 13-0f-24 for a career low 78 yards. He was also sacked four times.
“It’s business as usual,” said cornerback Richard Sherman. “The previous performances should have been enough to get these guys the respect they deserve…Jaquiski Tartt, he’s playing at a high level right now. Jimmie Ward, those are people that you probably should keep track of and start to pay attention to. You don’t hold an offense like that to under 100 yards passing, and barely 100 yards total, without playing outstanding football on the back end…
“Emmanuel [Moseley] came in and had another phenomenal day. I don’t know if he gave up a catch at all. ‘KK’ [K’Wuan Williams] has been the best nickel in football and it’s not even close…We came in here without both of our starting tackles. We came in here without our starting corner, we lost our nickel in the middle of the game, without our fullback. We could make every excuse in the world, but we don’t. We just go out there and execute and play at a high level.”
It’s onto Washington for these Niners who are 5-0 for the first time since 1990.
“We’re 5-0 which is a great thing, but we’re not playing our best ball,” said Shanahan. “We could do a lot of things better than that and it seemed like our defense played an extremely high level, obviously minus the first drive. We can continue to get better on offense, we can continue to get better on special teams. I also think our defense is just getting started too.”