Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

49ers succeed in cooling down red-hot Rams DL Aaron Donald

Oct 18, 2020 at 11:22 PM--

Facing Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald is always a formidable test for the 49ers -- one they haven't always succeeded in passing.

But in the latest chapter of the 49ers vs. Aaron Donald, the 49ers proved to be up to the task.

The two-time defensive player of the year Donald has absolutely wrecked the 49ers at times in the past, with perhaps his most memorable performance coming in a 39-10 win in 2018 when he had nine tackles, four sacks, six tackles for loss, and one fumble recovery. Donald had a similar impact in his team's 30-10 win over Washington last week, another game in which he had four sacks.

Donald came into Sunday's game against the 49ers with a league-leading 7.5 sacks, while the Rams as a team were tied for the league lead with 20 sacks overall. But Donald and the Rams were blanked in that category in their 24-16 loss to the 49ers Sunday, much to the appreciation of 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

"I thought the O-Line as a whole did a phenomenal job," Garoppolo said after the game. "It started with the run game, then the pass game. The pockets were clean all night. There were a couple third downs where I held the ball a little extra long. The coverage was good and they didn't get near me. I didn't get hit very much. I felt great coming out of this game. When the O-Line plays like that, it sets the tone for our whole offense."

Donald was asked by reporters Sunday what the 49ers were able to do to shut down his team's pass rush. He chalked it up to overall execution in both the running and passing games.

"They were just running the ball, trying to hit the edges a lot on us," Donald said. "In passing situations they slid the protection. They had the lead. They didn't really have to pass the ball. They were able to run the ball a lot, do what they had to do. They didn't really have to switch too much off their game plan. We just didn't play (well)."

The effort against Donald and the Rams' pass rush was instrumental in the success of the 49ers, and for Garoppolo, who threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns in the win. It helped spark a drastic turnaround from the previous week when Garoppolo struggled in a loss to the Miami Dolphins in his first game back from a high ankle sprain.

"I thought our O-Line did a very good job," 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "You try to avoid (Donald) as much as possible, and I think we were able to do that for the most part today. Rarely does that happen, but I thought our guys were up for the challenge. They knew what was ahead of them and they came out and did as good as they could in that area."

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