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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

49ers showed their identity on offense against Rams, and it looked a lot like 2019

Nov 15, 2021 at 10:02 PM--

After an inconsistent start to the season, the 49ers finally found a groove on offense Monday night against the Los Angeles Rams, and it looked pleasantly familiar.

The 49ers ran the ball 44 times in their 31-10 win over the Rams for 156 yards and one touchdown. They converted eight of 14 third downs and were able to chew up over 39 minutes of possession time while committing zero turnovers throughout the game.

In a nutshell, what the 49ers were able to do Monday night seemed a lot like the level of play they showed when they were at the top of their game in 2019.

"Honestly it felt pretty similar to the Super Bowl year," quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo told reporters after the game. "It felt like we ran the ball 30 times every time that year. When we can do that and be successful on third down, it's a good recipe for us."

The running game set the tone for the 49ers in 2019 when they finished second in the NFL with 144.1 yards per game, and it did so against the Rams on Monday. That was the intention from the beginning, as head coach Kyle Shanahan set an ambitious goal throughout the week of reaching 40 carries against the Rams.

"We said 40, which I almost regretted," Shanahan said. "It's tough to do. But I'm glad I said it now. They came through with it. It was a huge team goal, and it worked out well enough that way where we could do it."

Shanahan set that goal by design, as reaching 40 carries would have very likely resulted in success for the 49ers against the Rams. Hitting that mark would mean the offense helped keep a potent Rams offense off the field while limiting the Rams' chances at takeaways and giving their own defense time to rest. Shanahan felt it was necessary to put his team in that mindset in the days leading up to the game.

"Really to get our minds that way," Shanahan said. "I do say that sometimes, but I always say 30. I said 40 today because 40 tells the whole team. The defense has to play that way, the O has to play that way, the special teams have to play that way, and you have to do good on third down. You've got to get turnovers. You can't turn it back so you steal some possessions that allows you to do it. It's just really cool that the whole team played the way that you could dictate it that way."

The 49ers reached that goal and everything else clicked along the way. Their effort against the Rams was their best overall showing of the season, and it might go a long way in re-establishing the identity that was on display in 2019.

"It's been our identity," offensive tackle Trent Williams said. "Our identity has always been we're a run-heavy offense. We use that to throw play-action off of it. That's kind of us. We like to stay balanced, but we really lean more towards to run. Whenever we can keep the chains moving, average 4-5 yards a carry in the run game, that's us. That's 49er football."

The 49ers' win over the Rams moved them to 4-5 on the season, just a half game out of a wild card spot in the NFC. With eight games left to play, five of which are against teams that currently have losing records (Jacksonville, Minnesota, Seattle, Houston, Atlanta), it isn't too late for the 49ers to make a run at a postseason berth despite how subpar of a start to the season they had -- if indeed the real identity of this team is what was on display Monday night.

"It gives me a lot of confidence," tight end George Kittle said. "This is the team we believe we have."

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