The San Francisco 49ers started slow but finished fast on Monday night to defeat the St Louis Rams 31-17 and move to 4-2 on the season. The Rams built a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but from that point on it was all 49ers as they outscored St Louis 31-3 from the second quarter on.
The game turned on a sequence late in the second quarter with the Rams up 14-3. Facing a 3rd and 9, Austin Davis hit Jared Cook for a 21 yard gain which was wiped out by a very questionable offensive pass interference call. The 49ers then closed the half with an 80 yard touchdown from Colin Kaepernick to Brandon Lloyd to close the gap at the half to 14-10, and from there it was all 49ers.
With the victory the 49ers moved ahead of the Seattle Seahawks for second place and a game behind the Arizona Cardinals for the NFC West division lead.
Let's get to the answers for the 5 burning questions that I asked on Saturday.
1) Can Frank Gore keep it up? - No.
The Rams came into the game with one of the worst run defenses in the NFL and sold out to stop the 49ers run game. As a result, Gore finished the night with only 38 yards on 16 carries. He also had a terrific catch overturned when his hand hit the sideline before his knee came down inbounds.
The 49ers offensive coaching staff is doing a terrific job so far this season of limiting Gore's snaps. For the second week in a row the running back snaps were split almost evenly with Carlos Hyde, 36 for Gore and 33 for Hyde. This should pay dividends for the 49ers offense when December and January come around.
2) Can the 49ers offensive line hold up in pass protection? - Yes.
While the 49ers offensive line did give up pressure on 12 of 37 passing snaps, they gave up no sacks. Even more impressive, they gave up no hits on Kaepernick in the pocket throughout the game.
Kaepernick did his part to help his linemen out, getting the ball out quick and doing a very good job of moving within the pocket. If he can play at the same level throughout the rest of the season the 49ers will be tough to stop.
3) Will the 49ers secondary be able to contain Brian Quick? - Yes.
The Rams leading receiver coming into the game was limited to a single catch for only 10 yards. With the wide receivers shut down, Rams quarterback Austin Davis was forced to look elsewhere, and he found success early on throwing to his tight ends with two big throws to Jared Cook and a touchdown throw to Lance Kendricks.
The 49ers defense started sending pressure up the middle on Davis in the second half and that move turned the tide. The 49ers had their best pass rushing game of the season, pressuring Davis on 20 of his 47 drop backs.
4) Will the 49ers get Bruce Ellington involved in the offense? - No.
Ellington was on the field for a total of two offensive snaps.
5) How will the return of Tavon Austin impact the game? - Yes and No.
The Rams were intent on getting Austin into the flow of the game early, lining him up in the backfield at tailback and handing the ball to him on back to back running plays that netted a first down, and a toss counter play. Although those plays were successful, Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer never went back to it after the first quarter.
49ers 19 Rams 13
*Offensive Line Grades per ProFootballFocus
Staley, -2.0 overall, +1.3 pass, -2.6 run
Iupati, .0 overall, +.2 pass, -.3 run
Kilgore, +.4 overall, +.4 pass, -.1 run
Boone, -.5 overall, .0 pass, -.2 run
Martin, -2.0 overall, -2.7 pass, +.4 run
*Defensive Line Grades
McDonald, +2.6, +1.1 pass, +1.3 run
Williams, +3.4, -.2 pass, +3.5 run
Smith, +3.1, +.4 pass, +2.5 run
Skuta, +3.6, +3.9 pass, -.4 run
Borland, +3.7, +2.6 pass, +.2 run
Lynch, +.3, +.3 pass, -.2 run
* The 49ers best running plays came on the right side when running in the holes between the right guard/right tackle (4 hole), and right tackle/tight end (6 hole). Those run plays gained 37 yards on 7 carries.
* A lot of debate about Harbaugh's decision to go for it twice on 4th and short late. I like the decision. It was a situation where his defense was dominating and he was basically saying to the Rams, "even if we don't make it you can't beat us" while getting his offense extra work on short yardage situations.
A field goal in that situation also doesn't change the came much. They would still be up only 2 scores either way so the risk/reward definitely tilts towards going for it.
Date: October 14, 2014 at 4:00 PM
Comment: I was nastrodamas on your 5 burning questions. ..
Date: October 14, 2014 at 1:31 PM
Comment: Oh, and I completely agree with you regarding going for it on the 4th downs. Yes, neither worked, but it showed a ruthlessness and trust in the team that hasn't always been there from Harbaugh. Lets just say if those plays had worked, I can't imagine many 49ers fans would be questioning it, and in fact would be praising Harbaugh for something he has been accused of not doing enough - trying to put the opposition to the sword.
Date: October 14, 2014 at 1:26 PM
Comment: Thanks for another great analysis Jack. Getting after Austin Davis really helped key this win in the 2nd half, but you nailed the critical sequence being the Offensive PI against STL Cook closely followed by Jenkins biting on the double move by Lloyd (though it was a phenomenal route run by Lloyd - he'd have gotten a lot of DBs with how well he executed it). Being able to keep that momentum and score a TD to start the 2nd half put the 49ers squarely in control of the game.
I'm still shaking my head about Davis and McDonald batting a sure TD away from each other. That's a play neither guy will like to see during film review.
Date: October 14, 2014 at 1:00 PM
Comment: I like your analysis but I get annoyed with comments that say, in essence, that if only Kaepernick could play at this level he would be an elite QB. Kaep. had a QBR last night of 92.8. The best QBR ever for a full season was Manning in 2006 with a season long average QBR of 87.2. It is a little much to expect Kaep, to average better than the best of all time, don't you think?
Date: October 14, 2014 at 12:53 PM
Comment: No sacks!! O line pass protected fantastic! If Kap has time he can and will be deadly. No delay of game penalties!!! Kap seemed to be in total control offensively. Almost no play clock issues or snapping the ball just before zero!! Couldnt run the ball really but I like the 30 attempts. Rams sold out to stop the run and played it really well. V. Davis had a couple bad drops and seemed like he was just in the way a bunch of times out there and his suspect hands are showing up more and more this year. Harbaugh kept the challenge flag in his pocket which is a victory in itself!!!!!! Cox continues to play out of his mind so big ups to him!! Culliver continues to make me regret talking him up so much this past off season, seems like whenever where ever there is a big play its because of him!!! Brooks stood out! Skuta stood out! Ian Williams stood out! It wasnt a pretty game for him but I like the experience Ellington is getting back at PR. Hopefully Willis injury is a minor one. Iupati and Ward too! Scary first qtr but good game overall I had a feeling the Rams were front running...No shoulda coulda woulda's so 4-2 aint so bad.
Date: October 14, 2014 at 12:11 PM
Comment: Man, I still don't know how he dropped that ball to Boldin at the back of the endzone. The throw was so good that Boldin didn't even have to jump or extend his arms to grab the football.
Date: October 14, 2014 at 11:59 AM
Comment: @Dewayne, I agree. Frank Gore is being stopped because the offensive linemen themselves are getting stuffed. Granted Iupati was concussed and Anthony Davis didn't play. But it's been a common theme when playing quick DLines. Said before they need to try a power combo of Iupati and A. Davis side by side to supplement guys just teeing off.
Date: October 14, 2014 at 11:22 AM
Comment: Great work Jack! Also, I'm glad you were right about the Dallas game. I could not believe I was rooting for Dallas :) Hey, as a former QB, how do you think CK played last night? From my untrained eye, he looked more comfortable and had a better command in and out of the pocket. He also seems to be improving on his reads and touch-passes.
By: claude balls
Date: October 14, 2014 at 11:06 AM
Good write up and thanks for the PFF grades.
Given that St. Louis was selling out to stop the run, PFF's run blocking grades seem overly negative. When assigning o-line grades, does PFF not take into account how many resources the opposing defense commits to run defense? Or does it only look at results?
On defense, I thought Ian Williams had a great game. The play of the entire d-line allowed the 49ers to shut down the Rams' rushing attack without overcommitting resources.
What grade did PFF give to Ahmad Brooks?
Date: October 14, 2014 at 11:01 AM
Comment: "If [Kaepernick] can play at the same level throughout the rest of the season the 49ers will be tough to stop."
I agree, Jack. I believe that consistency is the most important area in which Kap needs to improve. I do not think he will ever be the type of QB some people want him to be, but if he consistently can play like last night, he will be a force with which to be reckoned.
The defensive line scores do not surprise me. I believe this defense is under appreciated. It has allowed the second fewest yards per game to date, and even more interestingly, the second fewest passing yards per game.
Date: October 14, 2014 at 10:38 AM
Comment: Great write up, Jack. One thing I have really liked seeing is how well the 49er back-ups have been playing when called upon.
Date: October 14, 2014 at 10:23 AM
Comment: Jack, as always great job. What a huge game by our 49ers on the road. Colin proved he had the ability to be an elite QB as long as he continues to improve we have a good chance to win.
VD just did not look right, they should have let him sit and heal.
I agreed with the first 4th down decision however did not like the play. Go Niners
By: Brotha Tuna
Date: October 14, 2014 at 9:45 AM
Comment: .....and this week's Nostradamus Awards go to Jack Hammer for calling the Cowboys' win in Seattle and to Razor for calling the double move play against Jenkins.
Date: October 14, 2014 at 9:33 AM
Comment: Question#1. The run blocking has been below average all year. Gore is running into his linemen who are getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage.
Gores drop off is do to his underperforming o.line.
Martin is a liability, Iupati isn't 100% and Boone forgot about his new contract.
Date: October 14, 2014 at 9:27 AM
Comment: Another strong write up Hammer, making the case that this is the place to get your 49er answers. I'm wondering if those OL grades are indicative of the Rams defensive scheme, and the 49ers offensive counter. I was fine with the 4th and goal call, however the second one I was not on board with. I would've taken the delay penalty and punted.....