What We Learned

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2021 NFL season, Week 10: What we learned from 49ers' win over Rams on Monday night

San Francisco 49ers
2021 · 4-5-0
Los Angeles Rams
2021 · 7-3-0

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  1. San Francisco decided to reverse its course of homefield failure with some old-fashion pad cracking. From the first snap to the last, the 49ers played with more aggression and a greater sense of urgency, seizing the opportunity to make a statement on a national stage just eight days after a Colt McCoy-led team dominated them on their own turf. San Francisco ended its home-game drought with emphasis, flying around the field, delivering the blows on an every-down basis, and making sure to win at the point of attack on both sides of the ball. The strongest response the Rams mounted was from veteran Andrew Whitworth, who didn't like that his team was being pushed around and ended up drawing a penalty. These 49ers looked nothing like the squad that lost at home to an injury-riddled Cardinals team last week. They need to be this team from here on out.
  2. Kyle Shanahan needed a reason to smile perhaps more than any other coach not named Dan Campbell. And when in doubt, Shanahan turned back to what he knows best -- the ground game -- to get the job done. Shanahan ran the ball on over 72% of the 49ers' first-half offensive snaps, dominating the time of possession game by nearly 20 minutes by the time the game was finished, and kept Jimmy Garoppolo in a manageable throwing situation, posting an incredibly low average time to throw of 2.3 seconds per pass. San Francisco accepted 3 yards per carry (it was actually 3.7, which still isn't great) and the benefits of punching its opponent in the mouth up front, and by the time the fourth quarter arrived, the effects were visible. The Rams' defense had spent far too much of the game on the field taking on aggressive run-blockers, so when a fourth-and-5 came, naturally, Shanahan went for it -- with a pass. The completion from Garoppolo to Deebo Samuel went for six and officially put the Rams to bed, wondering both what on earth just happened, and how they allowed the 49ers to eat up 25:09 of game clock on three possessions.
  3. Two weeks, and two games in which the Rams have been bullied. The high-powered offense that turned heads and sent many soaring into the embrace of infatuation has disappeared when presented by a defense with teeth, and the Rams haven't had so much as a growl to match their opponents' bite. San Francisco replicated Tennessee's game-swinging performance from a week earlier with two early interceptions, including a second that -- like Kevin Byard's in Week 9 -- was returned for a touchdown. San Francisco's physicality made an impact, no doubt, but so did Los Angeles' pass-catching unit, which repeatedly failed to complete its half of would-be completions. Tyler Higbee caught a touchdown pass, but dropped two passes on crucial third-down attempts, including one intercepted by Jimmie Ward. Another went off the hands of Van Jefferson, and Matthew Stafford didn't do himself any favors with his sporadic accuracy issues. In all, the Rams didn't stand a chance because they never suited up for the fight.
  4. Deebo Samuel needs to be on everyone's Pro Bowl short list. Samuel entered Monday night ranked second in receiving yards behind only the opponent's star receiver, Cooper Kupp. Samuel exploded under the bright lights of prime time, first finding the end zone in unconventional fashion as a ball carrier out of the backfield on an 8-yard touchdown run around the left end. Samuel also iced the game with his 40-yard reception on fourth down, capping an excellent performance, but what was most important was his ability to catch passes underneath in traffic and pick up additional yards. The 49ers likely don't win the time of possession battle so significantly if Samuel isn't there to make key grabs. The same could be said for George Kittle and Kyle Juszczyk, but it's clear who is the most important player to San Francisco's offense. It's Samuel, and the rest of the league needs to take note.
  5. The Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller debuts ended up as duds. The Rams learned about Beckham's issue with a lack of targets in Cleveland and applied that lesson, throwing him the ball on the first play of the game. That was essentially it for Beckham, who finished with two catches (three targets) for 18 yards. Stafford tried to find him deep on an ill-fated shot that landed in the arms of Ward and flipped possession early in favor of the 49ers. Otherwise, Beckham was essentially nothing more than a Trojan horse, playing a grand total of 15 offensive snaps. Miller, meanwhile, was driven directly into the Levi's Stadium Bermuda grass field by Kittle on one play, and his best highlight came as a result of a busted play in which most of San Francisco's line didn't actually execute due to miscommunication. He finished with one QB pressure and three tackles. None of them mattered much.


Next Gen stat of the game: Jimmy Garoppolo completed 12-of-14 passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns on quick attempts.


NFL Research: Matthew Stafford has now thrown a pick-six in back-to-back games, to Kevin Byard in Week 9 and Jimmie Ward in Week 10. It's the first time Stafford has been pick-sixed in consecutive games since his rookie season, in Weeks 12-13, 2009.



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