INGLEWOOD, Calif. – 49ers kicker Robbie Gould's successful 42-yard field goal as time expired dealt the Los Angeles Rams (7-4, 1-2) a 23-20 loss to San Francisco (5-6, 2-2) Sunday afternoon at SoFi Stadium.
It was a heartbreaking finish for L.A. despite a rally sparked by the heroic efforts of defensive lineman Aaron Donald, who finished with five total tackles, one sack, four quarterback hits, one forced fumble and one pass breakup in the loss.
Rookie running back Cam Akers led the Rams in rushing with 9 carries for 84 yards, plus his first rushing touchdown of his NFL career, while wide receiver Robert Woods paced Los Angeles' receivers with seven catches for 80 yards.
Kicker Matt Gay made both of his field goal attempts and both of his extra point attempts. Quarterback Jared Goff completed 19 of 31 pass attempts for 198 yards with two interceptions and one lost fumble.
The Rams defense got a 3-and-out on the opening drive, but the ensuing possession by their offense ended at midfield after running back Malcolm Brown's fumble was recovered by the 49ers. For Brown, it was just the third fumble of his career and only the second one ever he's lost – entering Sunday's game, he had just two fumbles across 318 career touches since 2015.
However, the Rams got the ball back quickly after rookie safety Jordan Fuller secured an interception off a pass by 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens tipped by Donald. They converted that takeaway into a 48-yard field goal by kicker Matt Gay for a 3-0 lead with 6:52 left in the first quarter.
San Francisco answered with an 8-yard touchdown run by Raheem Mostert on the ensuing drive to take a 7-3 lead, keyed by completions of 26 and 33 yards from Mullens to wide receiver Deebo Samuel.
On the fourth play of the following series, Goff's pass intended for Woods was picked off by 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman, who returned the interception 19 yards to the Rams 45.
However, on the first play after that pick, Rams defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day stripped the ball from 49ers running back Jeff Wilson Jr., with Rams defensive lineman Morgan Fox recovering at the L.A. 48. The Rams went 3-and-out after the fumble recovery, though, and were forced to punt.
All told, both teams combined for four turnovers by the end of the first half.
The Rams' third – a Goff fumble at the 49ers 36 with 30 seconds left in the second quarter – gave the 49ers a chance to extend their lead to seven, but the 50-yard field goal attempt by Gould which would've made that possible missed wide right. The Rams then took a knee to run out the remaining two seconds for a 7-3 halftime deficit.
After receiving the second half kickoff, the Rams turned the ball over a fourth time after Goff's pass intended for wide receiver Cooper Kupp was intercepted by 49ers defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw and returned 27 yards for a touchdown, increasing their deficit to 14-3.
The 49ers later extended their lead to 17-3 on a 46-yard field goal by Gould with 4:30 left in the third quarter. Nearly two minutes later, the Rams answered with a 41-yard field goal by Gay to reduce their deficit back to 11, a drive aided by Kupp's 33-yard reception – his first catch of the game. Then cornerback Troy Hill scooped up a Mostert fumble forced by Donald and returned it 20 yards for the touchdown to pull the Rams within 3.
A defensive stop on the ensuing possession gave the Rams the chance to tie or take the lead. They did the latter on a 1-yard touchdown run by Akers to go ahead 20-17 with 14:18 left in the fourth quarter. The score was set up by a 61-yard run by Akers.
Gould's 44-yard field goal on the ensuing drive tied the game at 20 with 3:11 left. Goff's incomplete pass on 3rd and 5 intended for Kupp forced the Rams to punt from their own 44 on the next series, giving the ball back to the 49ers with 2:10 left.
San Francisco drove all the way to the Los Angeles 38, facing a 4th and 1 with 35 seconds left, then fullback Kyle Juszczyk took the handoff up the middle for a 2-yard gain for the conversion. Officials reviewed the spot of the ball and confirmed the original call.
From there, San Francisco was able to chew up enough clock to set up Gould's game-winning 42-yard field goal with four seconds left.