49ers buck the narrative, wallop Rams on Monday Night Football

Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers congratulates George Kittle #85 (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers congratulates George Kittle #85 (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The 49ers weren’t expected to pull off the upset over the Rams on Monday Night Football, but that’s what they did and a whole lot more.

For everyone who thought the San Francisco 49ers would get blown out by the visiting Los Angeles Rams at Levi’s Stadium on Monday Night Football, think again.

The Niners pulled off a dominant 31-10 win versus their NFC West rivals in Week 10, but it was pretty clear head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad had both a game plan and a bit of good fortune early on.

Particularly when safety Jimmie Ward recorded the first of his two interceptions on Los Angeles’ opening drive when quarterback Matthew Stafford tried hitting new Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

Only to see Beckham slow up for Ward to make the grab:

That led to San Francisco’s 93-yard opening-score drive that culminated with a touchdown pass from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to tight end George Kittle.

But Ward wasn’t done.

On Los Angeles’ second offensive possession, Stafford saw one of his passes go off the hands of tight end Tyler Higbee and into Ward’s hands again, and the veteran safety returned it the other way 27 yards for a touchdown.

The 49ers had only two interceptions coming into this Week 10 matchup, and Ward hadn’t intercepted a pass since way back in 2016.

Good time for Ward to end that streak.

49ers recommit to the run game using a diverse approach

The long 93-yard drive that led to the Niners’ opening touchdown indicated a clear strategy by Shanahan: chew up clock and don’t let Stafford and the Rams offense on the field any longer than necessary.

This had to involve the run game, of course, and Shanahan called for a variety of rushers to carry the load on the ground:

  • Elijah Mitchell: 27 attempts, 91 yards
  • Jeff Wilson Jr.: 10 attempts, 28 yards
  • Deebo Samuel: five attempts, 36 yards, one touchdown

In total, San Francisco rushed for 156 yards and averaged 3.5 yards per carry, meaning Garoppolo wouldn’t have to do a ton against a potent Los Angeles pass rush featuring defensive tackle Aaron Donald and newly acquired EDGE Von Miller.

Read More: 49ers chew up clock, take early lead vs. Rams

Garoppolo went 15-of-19 for 182 yards, two touchdowns against zero interceptions with a 141.7 passer rating. And one of those touchdowns found their way into the waiting hands of wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who tacked on to his impressive season with 97 yards through the air in addition to his rushing totals and rushing score.

And his fourth-quarter score on fourth down effectively put the game on ice.

Even more importantly, the 49ers were able to get into far more 3rd-and-short situations during the game, leading to a key 8-of-14 mark on third-down attempts.

49ers defense does its job vs. Rams

After being wholly embarrassed by backup quarterback Colt McCoy and the Arizona Cardinals a week ago, the Niners defense managed to hold its own and take advantage of some key Rams mistakes.

There were the two interceptions by Ward, yes. But two of Stafford’s key pass-catchers, Higbee and wide receiver Cooper Kupp, suffered dropped passes on key third downs, while rookie safety Talanoa Hufanga also came up with a big hit to break up a would-be third-down pickup, too.

Stafford was only able to toss for 243 yards and a 67.4 rating during the game. And while he did hit Higbee for Los Angeles’ opening touchdown, it was safe to say the MVP-candidate quarterback had an awfully quiet night.

More importantly, San Francisco’s defense wasn’t a liability and was a big reason why the 49ers improved to a much-needed 4-5 record and revert back into the playoff discussion once again.

Next. 4 young 49ers who needed more snaps vs. Rams. dark