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Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Rams rally from halftime deficit to edge 49ers 21-20 in regular season finale

Jan 7, 2024 at 4:28 PM--

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1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
LA 7 0 6 8 21
SF 7 13 0 0 20

In a battle between two teams resting a number of starters as they head into the playoffs, the Los Angeles Rams rode their backups to a 21-20 come-from-behind win over the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara on Sunday.

49ers quarterback Brock Purdy and Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford were among the players to sit out on Sunday, which led to a showdown between two former high-first round draft picks in 49ers backup Sam Darnold and Rams backup Carson Wentz. Darnold and the 49ers got off to a hot start on route to a 20-7 halftime lead, but Wentz rallied the Rams in the second half and put the Rams ahead for good on a touchdown run and two-point conversion throw late in the fourth quarter.

Darnold finished with 189 yards and one touchdown on 16-of-26 passing while rushing for 19 yards and one touchdown on seven carries. Wentz completed 17-of-24 passes for 163 yards, two touchdowns and one interception while chipping in 17 carries for 56 yards and one touchdown on the ground. Both teams played a handful of starters early in the game before shifting to mostly backup players down the stretch.

First Half

The 49ers looked sharp on offense to start the game as they took the opening kickoff and put together a 12-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a touchdown run by Elijah Mitchell from one yard out. Darnold was 5-of-5 for 49 yards on the drive, which took over seven minutes off the clock before Mitchell plowed in for a touchdown on 3rd-and-Goal.

The Rams answered with a strong drive of their own, this one spanning 75 yards in 11 plays in just over five and a half minutes. After converting on a 4th-and-2 from the 49ers' 34-yard line three plays earlier, the Rams faced a 3rd-and-5 from the 19-yard line when Wentz lofted a touchdown pass into the hands of rookie wide receiver Puka Nacua. The touchdown and point after tied the game at seven.

The scoring continued on the next drive as the 49ers marched 75 yards in 16 plays and took a 14-7 lead on a one-yard touchdown run from Darnold. The 49ers got a conversion run on a 4th-and-1 earlier in the drive from running back Jordan Mason, then were given an extra opportunity thanks to a defensive holding call on a Darnold incompletion during a 3rd down play from the Rams' 5-yard line. Darnold ran in from two plays later to cap what was nearly a 10-minute drive for the 49ers.

A moment to remember for safety Tayler Hawkins came on the next offensive play as a deflected pass led to him grabbing an interception in his first ever NFL regular season game. The 26-year-old Hawkins was elevated from the practice squad to make his NFL debut on Sunday and he responded with a highlight diving grab to give the 49ers the ball at the Rams' 36-yard line. The interception led to a 38-yard field goal attempt from kicker Jake Moody, which was missed after hitting the right upright.

The Rams punted after six plays on the next possession, giving the ball back to the 49ers with 1:38 remaining in the half. A 48-yard completion to veteran Chris Conley (his first catch of the season) moved the ball to the 11-yard line, then Darnold connected with wide receiver Ronnie Bell from five yards out to give the 49ers a touchdown with 11 seconds remaining in the half. Moody missed the point after, leaving the score at 20-7 heading into the half.

Darnold finished the half with 168 yards on 14-of-19 passing with two total touchdowns, while the 49ers dominated the stat sheet with an total yardage edge of 274 to 108, a first down advantage of 18 to 6 and an edge of 21:29 to 8:31 in time of possession. Wentz completed 7-of-12 passes in the half for 71 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Second Half

With mostly backup players in the game for each team on both sides of the ball, the Rams opened the second half with a 17-play, 75-yard drive that took over ten minutes off the clock and ended in an 8-yard touchdown pass from Wentz to wide receiver Tyler Johnson. The Rams converted a 3rd-and-17 from the 49ers' 33-yard line to set up a 1st-and-Goal, then Wentz and Johnson connected on a 3rd-and-Goal from the 8-yard line to cut into the 49ers' lead. Kicker Brett Maher missed the point after attempt to leave the score at 20-13.

A 49ers punt followed the Rams' touchdown, then the Rams put together a 12-play drive that moved to the 49ers' 35-yard line. But on a 4th-and-4 play, what looked at first like a nifty first down pickup by running back Royce Freeman was overturned on replay when Wentz was ruled to be down before flipping the ball to Freeman, giving the 49ers the ball at their own 42-yard line with ten minutes remaining in the game.

The Rams held the 49ers to a three-and-out from there, then got a break on offense when Hawkins was flagged on the first play of the possession for a 48-yard pass interference penalty that moved the ball to the 49ers' 23-yard line. After converting a 4th-and-2 four plays later, the Rams took the lead when Wentz ran in from 12 yards out for a touchdown, then followed it up with a two-point conversion pass to wide receiver Tutu Atwell for a 21-20 lead.

The 49ers were held to a three-and-out after the touchdown, then the Rams took over at their own 34-yard line with 3:48 left to play. After running six plays, the Rams punted back to the 49ers from their own 43-yard line, and the 49ers took over at their own 22-yard line with just under a minute remaining. Darnold completed a pass to Conley that moved the 49ers out to their own 40-yard line, but after spiking the ball to stop the clock, Darnold fumbled back to the Rams while trying to escape pressure, allowing the Rams to run out the clock and end the game.

The win gives the Rams a 10-7 record on the season as they head into the playoffs as a wild card team. The 49ers finish the season at 12-5 and will have a bye week ahead as the No. 1 seed in the NFC bracket.

Game Notes: Today's game marked the 150th meeting between the 49ers and Rams. The 49ers now lead the series 78-69-3... The 49ers have won nine of the past eleven games against the Rams. The lone win in that stretch for the Rams before Sunday was their 20-17 victory in the 2022 NFC Championship game... The 49ers were four point favorites heading into Sunday's game... Nacua set a single-season rookie record for receiving yards in the game, passing a mark previously held by Bill Groman of the Houston Oilers (1,473 yards, 1960). Nacua also broke the rookie mark for receptions in a season, previously held by Dolphins receiver Jaylen Waddle (104 receptions, 2021). Rams head coach Sean McVay pulled Nacua from the game after he broke Waddle's record... Moody's missed PAT in the second quarter snapped a streak of 60 consecutive made PATs to open his NFL career... In addition to Purdy and Stafford, notable players who were on the sidelines Sunday included running back Christian McCaffrey (calf injury) and tight end George Kittle for the 49ers and defensive tackle Aaron Donald, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, and running back Kyren Williams for the Rams.

LA Team Stats SF
149 Passing Yards 175
109 Rushing Yards 125
258 Total Yards 300
6.79 Avg Yards per Pass 7.27
3.03 Avg Yards per Run 4.31
0 Fumbles Lost 1
1 Int Thrown 0
2 Sacks Allowed 3
00:31:00 Time of Pos 00:29:00
2 Penalties 5

Rams Player Stats
Passing Cmp/Att Yds TDs INTs
Carson Wentz 17/24 163 2 1
Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
Carson Wentz 17 56 3.3 1
Ronnie Rivers 13 52 4 0
Zach Evans 1 3 3 0
Royce Freeman 4 2 0.5 0
Tutu Atwell 1 -4 -4 0
Receiving Rec Tgt Yds TDs
Brycen Hopkins 2 3 47 0
Puka Nacua 4 6 41 1
Davis Allen 4 4 25 0
Ben Skowronek 2 2 22 0
Royce Freeman 1 1 13 0
Tyler Johnson 2 3 8 1
Tutu Atwell 2 4 7 0
Punting No Avg I20 Lg
Ethan Evans 2 39.5 1 51
Punt Returns Att Avg TDs Lg
Austin Trammell 2 13 0 13
Defense T-A Sck INTs FF
Russ Yeast 7-3 0 0 0
Troy Reeder 6-5 0 0 0
Christian Rozeboom 6-5 0 0 0
Ahkello Witherspoon 5-2 0 0 0
Michael Hoecht 5-1 1 0 0
Jonah Williams 4-3 0 0 0
John Johnson 4-2 0 0 0
Bobby Brown 4-2 0 0 0
Earnest Brown 3-1 0 0 0
Quentin Lake 3-1 0 0 0
Keir Thomas 2-1 0 0 0
Cobie Durant 2-1 0 0 0
Desjuan Johnson 2-1 1 0 1
Larrell Murchison 1-0 0 0 0
Jordan Fuller 1-0 0 0 0
Jacob Hummel 1-0 0 0 0
Jason Taylor 1-0 0 0 0
Nick Hampton 1-0 0 0 0
Byron Young 1-0 1 0 0

49ers Player Stats
Passing Cmp/Att Yds TDs INTs
Sam Darnold 16/26 189 1 0
Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
Elijah Mitchell 14 52 3.7 1
Jordan Mason 6 36 6 0
Sam Darnold 7 19 2.7 1
Deebo Samuel 1 11 11 0
Ray-Ray McCloud 1 7 7 0
Receiving Rec Tgt Yds TDs
Chris Conley 3 6 69 0
Brandon Aiyuk 3 4 25 0
Ray-Ray McCloud 3 4 22 0
Deebo Samuel 2 2 21 0
Charlie Woerner 1 1 20 0
Elijah Mitchell 2 2 15 0
Jordan Mason 1 1 12 0
Ronnie Bell 1 5 5 1
Fumbles Fum Lost
Sam Darnold 2 1
Kicking FG Att Lg XP
Jake Moody 0 1 0 2
Punting No Avg I20 Lg
Mitch Wishnowsky 3 39.3 1 61
Punt Returns Att Avg TDs Lg
Ray-Ray McCloud 2 8.5 0 10
Defense T-A Sck INTs FF
Isaiah Oliver 9-0 0 0 0
Oren Burks 7-3 1 0 0
Logan Ryan 7-2 0 0 0
Sebastian Joseph-Day 5-1 0 0 0
Darrell Luter 4-2 0 0 0
Tayler Hawkins 4-1 0 1 0
Charvarius Ward 4-0 0 0 0
Robert Beal 3-2 1 0 0
Kevin Givens 3-1 0 0 0
Javon Kinlaw 2-1 0 0 0
Chase Young 2-1 0 0 0
Samuel Womack 2-0 0 0 0
Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles 10-4 0 0 0
Nick Bosa 1-1 0 0 0
Randy Gregory 1-0 0 0 0
Deommodore Lenoir 1-0 0 0 0

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