49ers letting Rams take advantage of penalties, no pass rush in 1st half

Where has the Niners pass rush been in Week 2?
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) evades San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Arik Armstead (91)
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) evades San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Arik Armstead (91) / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages

To paraphrase NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco, the 49ers defense is either playing worse than it did in Week 1 against the Steelers, or the Rams offense is simply better.

In Week 1, the San Francisco 49ers wholly smothered the Pittsburgh Steelers offense, particularly in the first half up to that last Steelers touchdown-generating drive at a point when the Niners were already up big.

In Week 2 against the Los Angeles Rams, the first half has not exactly gone that same way.

With a first-half tie of 17-17, head coach Kyle Shanahan has to wonder what happened to his pass rush, which managed to sack Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford precisely zero times over the first two quarters.

Aside from one penetration from defensive tackle Javon Hargrave on a Stafford handoff, San Francisco has struggled to get even close to the veteran quarterback, who has been highly effective with misdirections while picking apart the interior of the 49ers defense within 10 to 15 yards from the line of scrimmage.

So far, LA has 196 yards of total offense, and the Niners have had issues covering two of Stafford's favorite targets in the game, wide receivers Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell, who have combined to assist Los Angeles get beyond not having All-Pro wide receiver Cooper Kupp (hamstring) in the lineup.

Nacua and Atwell have 66 and 55 yards apiece, respectively.

In total, the Rams had 196 first-half yards and went three-of-four on third-down conversions, too. And two penalties against the red and gold for 12 yards weren't exactly helpful either, particularly that both gave the Rams automatic first downs.

49ers secondary getting picked apart with no pass rush present

Hargrave and edge Nick Bosa figured to be key components for San Francisco's defense in this game, particularly when matching up against a questionable LA offensive line.

Yet neither player made much of a first-half impact, and Bosa hadn't even found himself on the stat sheet yet.

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As a result, Stafford frequently targeted depth cornerback Ambry Thomas until the latter left with a knee injury, and Thomas is questionable to return. After that, when fellow corner Deommodore Lenoir moved inside to the slot, Stafford didn't hesitate to go after him either.

And the 49ers didn't have many answers whatsoever, which has cost them both the lead and the early time-of-possession battle heading into halftime.

Los Angeles will receive the second-half kickoff, too.

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