49ers report card: What ‘A’ defensive display in L.A. – The Mercury News

49ers report card: What ‘A’ defensive display in L.A. – The Mercury News

Here is how the 49ers (5-0) graded in Sunday’s 20-7 win at the Los Angeles Rams (3-3):


LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 13: George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers and Kwon Alexander #56 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrate their 20-7 win over the Los Angeles Rams on the phone on their way into the locker room at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 13, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images) 

George Kittle (103 yards) didn’t let Friday’s groin injury stop him from exacting revenge on the Rams for their 2017-18 reign. All but one of his seven receptions came in the first half. Jimmy Garoppolo (24-of-33, 243 yards) had one especially bad pass (end-zone interception) and one lost fumble (a habit he must kick) but otherwise is playing fine only five games into his comeback. He’s the eighth QB in the Super Bowl era with 13 wins in 15 starts. Dante Pettis, Deebo Samuel and Marquise Goodwin are a weekly dose of good-bad-good. Justin Skule and Daniel Brunskill each gave up a sack but aren’t liabilities as fill-in tackles, and that feeds into the “I Got Your Back,” team-oriented mentality.


LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 13: The San Francisco 49ers celebrate a touchdown at the start of the third quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 13, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images) 

Kyle Shanahan loved the fact they had 41 runs, albeit for just 99 yards, to control the clock. Kyle Juszczyk’s absence was felt, as expected, but Ross Dwelley did an “incredible” job in his place, Kittle said. Tevin Coleman saved his best of 18 runs (45 yards) for the goal line on a 2-yard score; he could have scored again later if not for dropping a wide-open pass. Matt Breida had 13 carries for 36 yards. The interior blocking, thought of as a potential flaw in preseason, is well above par.


San Francisco 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead during the second half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/John Locher) 

Jared Goff had no chance, and only 78 passing yards. It was net 56 yards (an opponent’s fewest since 2010, by the St. Louis Rams) when taking into account the yards lost on four sacks. Dee Ford, Solomon Thomas, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Ronald Blair and Nick Bosa are having career years, with 11 games to go. Jimmie Ward came through with back-to-back pass breakups to halt a Rams fourth-quarter drive. Shanahan went so far as to say he admires Ward so much he’d wear his jersey on the sideline if possible, and we’re a far cry from Mike Nolan’s suit-wearing days, huh?


Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods (17) score a a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo) 

It turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the 49ers allowed the Rams to score the first rushing touchdown on them this season and do so in a run-only, seven-play drive. That woke up the 49ers’ defense and fueled them on future stops, highlighted by a goal-line stand in which D.J. Jones, DeForest Buckner, Sheldon Day, Kwon Alexander and, heck, seemingly everyone excelled at the trench warfare.


San Francisco 49ers cornerback Jimmie Ward, left, and free safety D.J. Reed celebrate after a defensive stop against the Los Angeles Rams during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/John Locher ) 

What’s more disturbing, that Robbie Gould already has matched his career-high with six missed field goals or that Sunday’s 55-yard attempt came up well short? One more game and then long snapper Kyle Nelson returns from suspension to calm the storm, right? Kudos to Mitch Wishnowsky for his tackling ability on a return. This unit has a lot of unheralded heroes who will emerge in due time. It’s also riding luck, as field-goal misses haven’t proved costly, and a Rams penalty nullified a 49ers botched punt return.


SANTA CLARA, CA – SEPTEMBER 22: San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh cheers towards the end of their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fourth quarter at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

Short-week, simplified game plan, quick adjustments, replacements at offensive tackle/fullback/cornerback, and, presto, Kyle Shanahan and his staff remain undefeated in dominant fashion. Robert Saleh provides magnificent theater with his sideline celebrations, and that’s because he finally has the players and the right schemes (man coverage Sunday) to produce results. Next up: one-win Washington, much to the Shanahan family’s delight.

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