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49ers fumble away finale to Rams: Rapid reactions

Marc Adams
Jan 8, 2024 at 7:03 AM--

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For the most part, the Week 18 matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams meant very little. The biggest goal of the game was to escape without injuries. That happened for the most part. More on that below.

But the 49ers lost the game 21-20, allowing the Rams to come back in the second half and win the game. Here are my rapid reactions. These are my live notes from the game as it unfolded.

  • Great start by Sam Darnold and the 49ers offense to march down the field for a touchdown on their first two drives. And they used a lot of game clock, which might be the most important part of it.

  • The 49ers defense, on the other hand, had a dud of a first drive, giving up a touchdown. They still haven't figured out how to guard Puka Nacua, although they did make him have to play into the 3rd quarter to break the two rookie receiving records.

  • So much for getting out of this game with no injuries. Let's hope Clelin Ferrell's knee injury isn't serious. He went down in the first quarter. He said he's fine, but we'll find out for sure later on Monday.

  • When Jordan Mason runs, I can hear the ground moan.
  • Darnold threw a laser to Brandon Aiyuk on one play and then fumbled the snap on the next play. That wouldn't be his only fumble.
  • Elijah Mitchell looked great when he was in the game.
  • Jake Moody had a bad game. He missed a field goal attempt and a PAT in the first half. The missed PAT breaks a streak of 60 straight that he had made. Moody has had a good rookie season, but this isn't the time of year to start missing kicks. This has to make 49ers fans nervous, going into the postseason with a kicker who may be lacking some confidence.
  • Tayler Hawkins: first game, first interception.

  • Javon Hargrave had the deflection on Hawkins' interception.
  • Brayden Willis finally got some playing time. And he looked good as a blocker.
  • Ronnie Bell let a ball slip through his hands, but he made up for it by making a tough catch for a touchdown.
  • Nick Bosa played the entire first half. That's longer than I would have played him. But to be fair, it was only two drives plus the very short one that ended in an interception.
  • Chris Conley's first catch of the season was a big one, a 48-yard gain right before halftime to set up a touchdown.
  • The 49ers run defense is still having some issues.
  • Robert Beal, Jr. had his first NFL sack. I hope he turns into a good pass rusher because I'm not sure Drake Jackson will.
  • Darrell Luter, Jr. followed Beal's sack by getting beat deep. So on back-to-back plays, one rookie had a big play and another rookie made a big mistake.
  • Logan Ryan had a good game. That was good to see.
  • Bell continues to have rookie moments even though his rookie season is almost over.

  • I have no idea why the 49ers can't stop Carson Wentz. He's a terrible QB that can't beat anyone. But somehow he looks like Lamar Jackson against San Francisco.
  • Isaiah Oliver was the victim of a nasty stiff arm but still made the tackle.
  • The 49ers offense was unstoppable in the first half. They were shut out in the second half.
  • Hawkins looked like a rookie on the drive in which the Rams took the lead. Big pass interference penalty, and then he got beat for the touchdown. But overall, he played well in his first NFL game.
  • The 49ers defense struggled, at times, in this game.
  • Ray-Ray McCloud returned just in time to drop a pass that could have helped his team win the game.
  • Why did Kyle Shanahan stop running the ball? The 49ers offense only ran the ball six times in the second half, and two of those were Darnold scrambles.
  • Two huge drops by 49ers wide receivers on the last two drives. Just horrible.
  • Darnold fumbled away the game. Color me shocked. In his defense, however, if those two passes weren't dropped, this game may have turned out differently.
  • My biggest concerns for the 49ers heading into the postseason are run defense and injuries to some key players. It looks like the 49ers will be able to get healthier by the time they play next, although Arik Armstead is still a question mark. And part of the issue with the run defense is that they miss Armstead. So if he can come back and play at his normal level, the run defense should get better, as well.

The 49ers are off next week. After the Wild Card round, the matchups are adjusted, so the 49ers may host the Rams again in two weeks. And that's a tough first postseason game for the 49ers. Or they may host the Packers. Or the Buccaneers. Or the Eagles. We'll have to wait until next weekend to find out.

Regardless, let's hope the San Francisco defense is well-rested. They haven't looked great recently. But as I've said before, a rested and healthy 49ers defense is scary to opposing offenses. It's time to turn it up a notch.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

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