Updated 9/22, 1:45 a.m. PT
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Have you caught your breath yet?
The Rams won a wild one on Thursday, defeating the 49ers 41-39. Though Los Angeles was able to move the ball well offensively all night — the club punted only twice — San Francisco battled back the entire game, and had an opportunity to win it late.
After recovering an onside kick with 2:10 left in the fourth quarter, an offensive pass interference penalty pushed the 49ers back to 3rd-and-20 from their own 40. Quarterback Brian Hoyer's third-down pass was almost intercepted by cornerback Trumaine Johnson, but fell incomplete. And on 4th-and-20, defensive tackle Aaron Donald delivered the needed blow, sacking Hoyer for an eight-yard loss.
"We just knew we needed to make a big stop," Donald said postgame. "We had given up a lot on defense and their offense was putting up points. So, it felt good to get those three and outs, and come off the field, and close the game out."
The defense got the stop when it had to, but the offense was the main story for much of the night. L.A. racked up 418 total yards and 26 first downs, benefiting from banner days for many of the unit's contributors.
Quarterback Jared Goff finished 22-of-28 passing for 292 yards with three touchdowns and a 145.8 passer rating. Running back Todd Gurley accounted for 149 yards of offense — 113 yards rushing, 36 yards receiving — and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Robert Woods had six receptions for 108 yards. And Sammy Watkins finished with six receptions for 106 yards and his first two touchdowns as a Ram.
"Really pleased with Jared tonight. I thought he made great decisions with the football," head coach Sean McVay said. "I thought Jared managed the game extremely well, distributed to his playmakers, gave guys a chance down the field — you look at Sammy and Robert coming away with over 100 apiece. And, really, those are the kinds of things we expect from him."
"I felt like we were just out there playing — like I didn't know numbers or whatever," Woods said of his and Watkins' performances. "We were just going out there and making plays, just doing our assignment and the ball was finding us. Jared put up some nice balls for us to catch and I think we're doing that."
While he's had his share of multi-touchdown games, Gurley had not recorded three in a single game until Thursday's contest. The running back had two rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown — all in the first half.
"We just got in a rhythm," Gurley said. "Everybody was getting going. We were able to have a little success running the ball and then we opened up the passing game. So it just felt good to be out there and execute as an offense."
The Rams do have plenty to correct, however, particularly on defense and special teams. The 49ers out-gained the visitors with 421 total yards, and had six plays of at least 20 yards. And the Rams had two special teams giveaways, plus a drive-extending penalty that led to Niners points.
"Anytime that you're able to come away with a win, those are great opportunities to really teach from," McVay said. "You can be hard on yourself as a coach and your players with some of the things that we've got to do a better job of if we're going to consistently win football games."
Nevertheless, L.A. had the lead 12 seconds into Thursday's game and never trailed. On San Francisco's first play from scrimmage, cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman — starting for the injured Kayvon Webster — intercepted Hoyer and returned the pick 25 yards to the Niners' three-yard line.
"Oh the first play? Yeah that was lit," Robey-Coleman said with a laugh. "The first play was great — broke on the ball, got a good read on the quarterback, the D-line got a good rush, and I came away with an interception. I feel like that set the tempo for the night."
Gurley did the rest on the next play, taking the ball three yards up the middle for his first touchdown.
"The defense gave me the easiest touchdown ever on the first play," Gurley said.
L.A. had forced a punt on San Francisco's second offensive drive, but an offsides penalty on 4th-and-3 put the Niners' offense back on the field. The unit took advantage of the miscue, as Hoyer ran in a nine-yard scramble for the 49ers first touchdown of the year.
As they would all night, the visitors responded well, driving down the field in eight plays to score a touchdown. Operating without a huddle, Goff connected with Woods on a 37-yard pass down the right sideline. Then on the next play, the quarterback hit tight end Derek Carrier for a 17-yard pass on a bootleg to the left.
Gurley finished the drive on 3rd-and-4 in the red zone with a seven-yard touchdown reception, putting the Rams back up 14-7.
Defensive lineman Tyrunn Walker forced a fumble on the next drive, which Robey-Coleman recovered. Kicker Greg Zuerlein would hit a 48-yard field goal to start the second quarter, extending the lead to 17-7.
San Francisco kicker Robbie Gould made a pair of field goals in that period, but L.A. tacked on another touchdown to extend its lead to 24-13 heading into halftime. On this drive, Goff connected with Watkins for a 22-yard pass, and wideout Cooper Kupp on 3rd-and-3 for 17 yards. Gurley completed the drive with a two-yard touchdown, bouncing to the outside on the left as the middle was clogged.
The first drive of the third quarter brought the Rams more points and arguably the club's best offensive play of the night, as Goff completed a 47-yard pass to Watkins on the left sideline. Watkins did an excellent job of tracking the ball in the air, and Goff placed the pass where only his receiver could get it.
But after Gurley was stuffed at the goal line on consecutive runs, McVay opted to kick a field goal, extending the lead by two touchdowns.
Buoyed by a roughing the passer foul called on Los Angeles, San Francisco was able to score with a one-yard touchdown by running back Carlos Hyde to cut the Rams' lead to seven.
Again the visitors came right back. This time, Goff capped a 10-play drive with a one-yard touchdown pass to Watkins. Goff said the play was a run-pass option, and the unit ran it consecutively.
"We got the look on it on the previous play," Goff said. "And I didn't throw it. I wanted to, but I didn't, and we got stuffed. Sammy came back to the huddle and said, 'It's there.'
"Didn't know we were going to call it again, but we did," Goff added. "Sammy was right — it was there."
With Los Angeles up 34-20 heading into the fourth quarter, Hoyer brought the 49ers back to life with a 50-yard completion to Marquise Goodwin to put the club at the L.A. 25. A few plays later, Hoyer hit tight end Garrett Celek with a touchdown pass in the back of the end zone. Gould, however, missed the extra point to keep the score at 34-26.
Gurley began the ensuing drive with a 29-yard run to the left, and extended it with a 27-yard reception on 3rd-and-10 from the San Francisco 46. The running back was the safety valve on the latter play, which Goff called comforting from a QB standpoint.
"He's a great player," Goff said. "Just him getting out, open as the check down is huge. It's almost comforting when I get through my progression and I see him wide open, and I go, 'OK, here's 15.' It's very comforting knowing that he can make a play after the catch."
A few plays later, Watkins scored his second touchdown of the night. The wideout found a soft spot in the zone between the hash marks, turned upfield, and fought his way through three defenders to complete a 13-yard scoring strike.
"Sammy felt what I felt on the goal line trying to get in there on his second touchdown," Gurley joked.
That touchdown made the score 41-26 with 8:43 left, which seemed like it had removed all doubt. But the 49ers kept grinding as Hoyer kept completing deep passes. A 59-yard Pierre Garçon reception got San Francisco to the Rams' five-yard line. Two plays later, Hoyer hit wideout Trent Taylor for a three-yard touchdown.
Wide receiver Pharoh Cooper fumbled the ensuing kickoff, setting up San Francisco on Los Angeles' 30-yard line. Carlos Hyde ran it up the middle on 4th-and-goal from the L.A. one for a touchdown, bringing the score to 41-39 with 2:13 left.
The home team went for a two-point conversion, but cornerback Troy Hill batted Hoyer's pass up, and defensive tackle Michael Brockers came down with it to keep the Rams ahead.
That's when the 49ers went for their onside kick and got it, before Donald could give the Rams the ball back for the last time.
Gurley put the game on ice with 53 seconds left on 3rd-and-10, when he took a carry 20 yards. The run gave Gurley 100 yards rushing for the first time since his rookie season in 2015.
With the victory, the Rams improve to 2-1 on the season. They'll have a couple days off before coming back to prepare to face the Cowboys in Dallas for Week 4.
Check out in-game photos of the Rams' matchup against the 49ers in San Francisco.