The 49ers made it clear their No. 1 option was to not let the Rams offense on the field, engineering a lengthy opening drive to take the lead.
The San Francisco 49ers might be underdogs against the high-powered Los Angeles Rams in Week 10 on Monday Night Football, but that doesn’t mean head coach Kyle Shanahan is without a strategy to pull off an upset.
The Niners caught an early break in the game with Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford failing to connect on a deep attempt with newly acquired wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., a pass sailing deep and right into the waiting arms of safety Jimmie Ward.
Only San Francisco’s third interception of the season and Ward’s first since 2016.
The only challenge for Shanahan and Co., though, was the fact Ward hauled it in at the 49ers’ own 7-yard line.
Perfect for the Niners offense to keep Los Angeles off the field.
49ers drive 93 yards and chew up clock for opening touchdown
Buried deep in their own territory? No problem.
San Francisco subsequently engineered an 18-play, 93-yard drive focusing heavily on the run game to take the early lead over the Rams.
Wide receiver Deebo Samuel actually ended up being the leading ball-carrier on the drive, boasting 33 yards rushing in an all-out effort by Shanahan to fully commit to the run game. Over their first 11 snaps, the 49ers ran the ball a full nine times.
It was working, even though it only averaged 3.8 yards per carry.
San Francisco’s drive chewed up 11:03 of clock.
49ers double their lead on Jimmie Ward’s second interception
If that drive wasn’t impressive enough, the 49ers answered right back with Ward again, who picked off a deflected pass from Stafford and returned it for a pick-six touchdown.
While some might have preferred another chew-up-the-clock possession by the Niners, no one will complain about Ward doubling San Francisco’s score, potentially putting Los Angeles into a similar situation as it experienced a week ago during its home loss to the Tennessee Titans where self-inflicted mistakes ultimately led to the Rams’ second loss of the year.
Now, the 49ers have four interceptions on the season and find themselves holding onto an early 14-0 lead.