The San Francisco 49ers beat the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. On Monday, it was all about fretting about a looming Thursday game against the New York Giants.
And there was plenty to fret about.
Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk suffered a shoulder injury in Los Angeles, the 49ers are short on cornerbacks, and both Nick Bosa and Christian McCaffrey logged a lot of snaps on an artificial surface.
The 49ers rarely lose the time-of-possession battle. But they did on Sunday due to seven Rams drives that lasted seven or more plays. The 49ers defense was on the field for 80 snaps, its most grueling outing since the unit played 92 snaps in the infamous — Kyle Shanahan still has nightmares about it — 2021 opener in which the 49ers almost blew a 38-10 third-quarter lead over the Detroit Lions. The offense played 57 snaps Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Giants, who rallied from a 21-point deficit to beat the Arizona Cardinals, logged 68 snaps on offense and 65 on defense. They’ll remain in Arizona in advance of the Thursday game.
Here are the 49ers’ individual totals from Sunday …
Quarterback: Brock Purdy 57
Yes, Purdy overthrew deep-ball attempts to Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings and Deebo Samuel. But his 68 percent completion rate still was very high. That also included two wise throwaways when the 49ers were close to the goal line at the end of the first half and seconds were precious.
A facemask penalty on the Rams put the ball at the 1-yard line and Purdy plowed into the end zone behind Aaron Banks and Jake Brendel for what may have been the most critical touchdown of the game for San Francisco.
For the second straight week, he also trusted his receiver to come down with the ball on a back-shoulder throw. In Week 1, it resulted in a touchdown for Aiyuk. On Sunday, it was a 31-yard gain for Jennings in the fourth quarter, which set up Samuel’s touchdown run four plays later.
What a catch JJ 👐 pic.twitter.com/uJQ4iFtMUX
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) September 17, 2023
Running backs: McCaffrey 57, Samuel 3
Four 49ers were active for the game but didn’t play a snap: Backup quarterback Sam Darnold, rookies Brayden Willis and Dee Winters, and McCaffrey’s backup, Elijah Mitchell.
Samuel, who always seems to have big games against the Rams, essentially was the No. 2 runner on Sunday and his 38 rushing yards were his highest since McCaffrey was acquired at midseason last year.
Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel power the 49ers over the Rams — again
Still, Shanahan said Monday the team didn’t plan for McCaffrey to have such a heavy workload. He’s had 20 or more carries in both games so far and is the early NFL leader in rushing yards with 268. Sunday was the 14th time in his career McCaffrey has played 100 percent of his team’s offensive snaps and the first time since 2019.
“We definitely have to get Elijah in there more and do better with our rotation than we did (Sunday),” Shanahan said. “That wasn’t the plan going in. It just ended up that way. And I’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
There’s no way Christian McCaffrey can continue his current pace for a full season, right? (But if he *did*, he’d break the single-season rushing record … by 173 yards).
— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) September 18, 2023
Receivers: Samuel 48, Aiyuk 30, Jennings 27, Ronnie Bell 27, Ray-Ray McCloud III 4
Aiyuk was seen grabbing at his shoulder following his first reception on the 49ers’ opening drive and he essentially rotated with Bell from that point forth. Shanahan had no update on any of the injured 49ers on Monday and we may have to wait until Tuesday to get more details on the Aiyuk’s injury.
Jennings often has big games against the Rams. His 51 receiving yards were his most since he had 62 in Week 1 against the Bears last season. He also was effective as a blocker, both as an extra protector against Aaron Donald (who was held without a sack or tackle but who did have one quarterback hit) and as a run blocker. He and George Kittle helped clear out the left side on McCaffrey’s 51-yard run in the first quarter. Pro Football Focus gave Jennings an 88.6 run blocking grade, which led the 49ers.
Tight ends: Kittle 55, Charlie Woerner 9, Ross Dwelley 1
Kittle had another quiet outing — for him — as a receiver with three catches for 30 yards. He was extremely loud as a blocker, including on Samuel’s 11-yard touchdown run (the throw from Purdy went backward a half a yard) in the fourth quarter.
Kittle blocked Zach VanValkenburg to the ground, and the tumbling linebacker took out a teammate. When Samuel juked free of cornerback Derion Kendrick’s tackle attempt, it meant there were three Rams defenders on the ground when he cut back toward the end zone. It’s no surprise then that Kittle had the team’s second-best run-blocking grade — 86.
Underrated play: George Kittle pancaked Rams LB Zach VanValkenburg on this play, causing a chain reaction that took out another Rams defender. Result: Deebo Samuel cuts back and scoots in the end zone. pic.twitter.com/kwoeilxnAO
— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) September 18, 2023
Offensive line: Trent Williams 57, Banks 57, Brendel 57, Spencer Burford 57, Colton McKivitz 57
Donald initially lined up on the left side of the 49ers’ offensive line but soon moved to the opposite side where San Francisco had had so much trouble in Week 1. It didn’t help as the 49ers essentially dedicated their protection to stopping him.
McKivitz, who gave up three sacks and five quarterback pressures against the Pittsburgh Steelers, allowed one pressure — Donald’s quarterback hit — on Sunday. His next-door neighbor, Burford, allowed three pressures and Brendel allowed one.
The left-side guys — Williams and Banks — allowed no pressures. And as was the case in Pittsburgh, nearly all of the big runs and screen plays in Los Angeles went to the left side.
Defensive line: Bosa 63, Arik Armstead 54, Javon Hargrave 51, Clelin Ferrell 44, Drake Jackson 40, Javon Kinlaw 29, Kevin Givens 27, Kerry Hyder Jr. 13
Bosa, who played 35 snaps in Week 1, already had logged 25 snaps at halftime and was still on the field for the Rams’ final drive. His 63 snaps are tied for the third most of his career behind a Week 17 game in Seattle in 2019 (64 snaps) and the 2021 NFC Championship Game against the Rams (65). After the game, Bosa didn’t think his heavy workload would have a big impact on a short week. In fact, he thought his busy outing helped get him into proper form.
“I’m not too concerned about it. I feel good,” Bosa said. “I think I needed a couple of games to get my body in football shape because you can’t simulate it. I think now, I’m through two (games) and I had some pretty good output for this one. I think I’m only going to be up from here.”
Bosa lined up 39 times on the left side and 24 times on the right. He and Hargrave led the way with five quarterback pressures apiece and both were converging on Matthew Stafford on Deommodore Lenoir’s game-sealing interception in the fourth quarter.
- Bosa 5
- Hargrave 5
- Kinlaw 4
- Jackson 3
- Ferrell 2
- Givens 2
- Armstead 1
- Hyder 1
Linebacker: Fred Warner 80, Dre Greenlaw 79, Oren Burks 2
Greenlaw led all tacklers with 12. Warner was right behind with 11. Warner also was effective as a blitzer. Coordinator Steve Wilks sent him twice in the second half. The first blitz — “The B gap opened up like the Red Sea,” Warner said after the game — resulted in a sack. He also got a clean run at Stafford on the second, which forced the quarterback into a quick-throw incompletion.
Heat seeking missile 🚀 @fred_warner
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) September 17, 2023
The Rams had just one running play for no gain in the first half, one in which Greenlaw helped stop Puka Nacua on a second-quarter run in the red zone. Greenlaw, however, was flagged for unnecessary roughness. The linebacker frequently has crossed the line when it comes to personal fouls, though it’s hard to see what he did wrong on Sunday.
“You can see a very small part (of the sequence) on tape — their helmets are close to each other, but obviously you can’t hear it on tape,” Shanahan said. “They called it, so he’s got to clean it up on that aspect, but it wasn’t really easy to see.”
That Burks played just two snaps means the 49ers were in nickel defense on 78 of their 80 defensive plays.
Cornerback: Charvarius Ward 80, Lenoir 77, Isaiah Oliver 67, Ambry Thomas 14
It seems as if the 49ers no longer need to toggle between nickel cornerbacks. Not only did Oliver play fast and have an impactful second half, the Rams seemed to pick on Thomas on his scant pass-coverage plays before he left the game with a knee issue.
For the second straight week, Thomas started at outside cornerback because Lenoir began the game as the nickel cornerback. The Rams targeted Thomas four times, completing all four passes for 31 yards before he had to leave the game.
Meanwhile, they completed five passes on six targets for 26 yards against Oliver. He also seemed to get better as a tackler as the game went on. His third-quarter stop in front of the first-down marker led to the Rams’ first punt of the game. He also tripped up Kyren Williams in the backfield on a fourth-down run late in the game.
‘He was a stud today’: Isaiah Oliver announces his presence in 49ers’ win
Safety: Talanoa Hufanga 80, Tashaun Gipson Sr. 80
Neither safety was prominent as far as statistics. In fact, they often weren’t on the screen. The 49ers had to respect the speed of Rams receiver Tutu Atwell — he ran a 4.39-second 40 coming out of Louisville two years ago — and the safeties often were lined up deep.
Stafford, however, threw only two deep passes in the game, one of them coming at the end when the outcome was clear. Instead he exploited the short and medium portions of the field and avoided the areas the 49ers’ safeties were patrolling.
Special teams: Woerner 23, Dwelley 23, George Odum 22, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles 22, Jordan Mason 17, Ji’Ayir Brown 17, Burks 15, Bell 15, Tre Swilling 14, Jake Moody 12, Oliver 10, Taybor Pepper 10, Mitch Wishnowsky 10, Lenoir 8, Hufanga 7, McCloud 7, Banks 6, McKivitz 6, Burford 6, Moore 6, Jon Feliciano 6, Matt Pryor 6, Ferrell 5, Hyder 5, Givens 5, Jackson 5, Warner 5, Kinlaw 5, Ward 4, Gipson 2, Jennings 2, Thomas 2
Those long returns that were a concern in the Steelers game when Wishnowski handled kickoffs? They vanished. Four of Moody’s kickoffs turned into touchbacks and the Steelers returned a fifth only 20 yards. Of course, the rookie also had a kickoff that landed 8 yards out of bounds, giving the Rams possession at their 40-yard line.
Still, it was a strong outing for Moody, who hit a 57-yard field goal in the third quarter. He even slipped and fell while booting in a 26-yarder late in the game. The kick was good and Moody hasn’t missed a field-goal or extra-point attempt so far this season.
(Photo of Nick Bosa: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
“The Football 100,” the definitive ranking of the NFL’s best 100 players of all time, goes on sale this fall. Preorder it here.