Rams withstand 49ers' 2nd-half comeback in thriller

Oh, Thursday night! The Los Angeles Rams (2-1) held off the San Francisco 49ers (0-3), 41-39, in a wild intra-divisional shootout in Week 3. Here's what we learned:

  1. After failing to score a touchdown through two games, the 49ers offense woke up just in time for a furious second-half comeback attempt. Shaking off a first-play interception, Brian Hoyer grew more efficient as the game went on, leading four second-half touchdown drives and connecting with his underrated playmakers on tosses short and long. Hoyer hooked up with Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garcon on lengthy gains and found Trent Taylor for intermediate plays. But a failed extra point and two-point conversion kept San Francisco from tying this one up and sending the Levi's faithful into hysterics. Early mistakes from Hoyer and a multitude of penalties kept San Francisco from earning its first win of the Kyle Shanahan era, but the 49ers' late rally on Thursday night should provide those in the rebuild some solace.
  1. The Rams, and their star running back, have been reborn. Only three games into the Sean McVay era, Gurley recorded the best two-game scoring stretch of his career and finally went over 100 rushing yards for the first time since 2015. On Thursday night, Gurley was confident on the goal line early, scoring three touchdowns inside the 10-yard line in the first half, one of which came on a pass. Gurley already has as many touchdowns (six) this season as he had all of last year; he could have had two more too, if it weren't for a pair of sturdy stands from the Niners' front seven.

The back's resurgent season is either a catalyst to or a byproduct of the Rams' offensive revolution under McVay. I say that because it's not quite clear yet what the true identity of this juggernaut is, only that, under McVay, the culture has changed for the better. Just ask Gurley.

"Oh man, it's unbelievable," Gurley said on the Thursday Night Football set after the game. "Just going from the first two years not being able to score like that ... Knowing last year I wasn't able to run the ball as efficient, I gotta open my wings up and do something else."

Don't believe this team is historically producing? McVay's Rams have tallied 106 points, their franchise's most through three games since 2000 (119), when The Greatest Show on Turf roamed eastern Missouri.

  1. Of course, it's not just Gurley. Jared Goff is getting all of his playmakers involved. With Gurley providing a steady threat on the ground, Goff utilized the play-action on multiple occasions, mostly counter plays, to open up routes for new additions Sammy Watkins (6 receptions, 106 yards, 2 TDs) and Robert Woods (6 receptions, 108 yards). The two receivers, who had ceded targets to rookies Cooper Kupp and Gerald Everett in L.A.'s first two games, finally saw their fair share of targets, making the most of it against an injury-riddled 49ers secondary. Even Tavon Austin got involved, nearly scoring on an effective sweep.

"Jared has taken steps in the right direction," McVay said after the game. "We'll continue to expect the same from him."

Every now and again, Goff will throw off his back leg, backpedal too far into the pocket and/or throw a duck, but those instances are coming fewer and farther between. The sophomore slinger has enough weapons to pilot a dynamic offense, and he's utilizing them so far to their fullest.

  1. The Niners have a discipline problem. San Francisco racked up 10 penalties, the last of which was the most crucial. On a third-down conversion following an onside kick recovery, Taylor was tagged with a questionable offensive pass interference penalty, pushing the Niners back into their own territory and out of contention.
  1. Rough night for both teams on the injury front. Already down starting safety Eric Reid, the Niners lost safety Jaquiski Tartt to a concussion. They also saw fullback Kyle Juszczyk (neck) and linebacker Brock Coyle (concussion) exit the game.

The Rams, meanwhile, will have to sweat out news regarding two of their top wideouts. Watkins and Austin both left late with concussions. Rams defensive back Lamarcus Joyner also went down with a hamstring injury in the first half.

  1. Bills fans: look away, or at least skip down to the next point. Woods, Watkins and Goodwin, three Buffalo receivers jettisoned by new coach Sean McDermott, combined for 276 yards on 14 receptions. Bills wideouts have tallied 149 receiving yards through two games.
  1. The future is now. This prime-time clash between rookie coaches with offensive backgrounds and the combined age of 68 produced undoubtedly the most exciting back-and-forth tussle of the season so far. In fact, it was the highest scoring game in Thursday Night Football history (80 points). As they are every year, reports of the National Football League's death are greatly exaggerated. As long as there are creative play-callers and late-night offensive explosions, there will be football, and viewers, and nationwide happiness.
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