SANTA CLARA — Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford repeatedly threw short, quick passes with the San Francisco 49ers’ pass rushers constantly swarming his vicinity on Monday night at Levi’s Stadium.
But somehow the clunky approach kept the Rams in the game and they received a golden opportunity after 49ers kicker Robbie Gould missed a field-goal attempt to keep it a one-score game midway through the fourth quarter. Stafford’s string of short completions got the Rams into 49ers territory until his pass for Cooper Kupp wasn’t quick enough to get by safety Talanoa Hufanga, who returned the interception 52 yards for a touchdown.
The slow-moving Rams had no chance of catching the former USC Trojan, and the 49ers completed the 24-9 victory against their NFC West rivals. Stafford was sacked seven times as the Rams dropped to 2-2, the same record as the 49ers.
The 49ers had a handful of explosive plays while the Rams slogged with long drives that stalled in the red zone. But the 49ers failed to put the game away after a potential George Kittle touchdown was reversed because he had one foot out of bounds. San Francisco settled for a field goal on fourth-and-1 from the 1-yard line to give the Rams an opportunity with a 17-9 deficit and 14:53 left in regulation.
Stafford and the Rams’ offense, however, had another three-and-out drive. The Rams only had 172 total yards midway through the fourth quarter and Stafford had taken five sacks, two from star edge rusher Nick Bosa.
Deebo Samuel made Rams rookie cornerback Derion Kendrick pay for jumping a route late in the second quarter, giving the 49ers’ electric wide receiver plenty of space to break multiple tackles on his way to a 57-yard touchdown and a 14-6 advantage. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey and safety Taylor Rapp had missed tackles on Samuel’s scoring play, which included 50 yards after the catch.
Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner didn’t miss the tackle when a fan ran across the field with a pink smoke bomb in the second quarter. Wagner’s tackle of the streaker gave social media a viral clip.
Stafford took four sacks in the opening half, as the Rams entered the locker room with a 14-6 deficit. They managed two field goals from Matt Gay.
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The 49ers’ winning recipe of heavy run plays with stout pass rushers gave the Rams fits in the first half. Stafford and the Rams’ offense had two three-and-out drives after mustering a field goal on the opening drive. Bosa spent plenty of time in the Rams’ backfield while matching against the Rams’ banged-up offensive line.
Center Coleman Shelton was ruled out from the game after sustaining an ankle injury in the second quarter. Shelton, the starting right guard, was filling in for center Brian Allen, who has missed the past three games with a knee injury. Jeremiah Kolone stepped in as the third-string center for Stafford. The Rams also had backups playing at the guard spots with Bobby Evans at left and Alaric Jackson at right guard. Left guard David Edwards is in the concussion protocol and guards Logan Bruss and Tremayne Anchrum suffered season-ending injuries earlier this season.
After a timeout, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan called a running play up the middle that was flawlessly executed by the offensive line to give running back Jeff Wilson plenty of space to gallop for a 32-yard rushing touchdown and give his team a 7-3 advantage with 2:46 in the first quarter.
The Rams had a fast start against the 49ers’ stout defense before stalling at the 19-yard line because of a false start and a sack from former Rams edge rusher Samson Ebukam. The Rams settled for a 39-yard field goal from Matt Gay to take a 3-0 advantage after the 14-play drive in the first quarter.
More to come on this story.
— NFL (@NFL) October 4, 2022
Deebo just ran by the entire defense! @19problemz
— NFL (@NFL) October 4, 2022