SANTA CLARA – A stunning start has the 49ers leading 21-7 at halftime against the Los Angeles Rams.
Jimmie Ward not only recorded his first interception since 2016 on the opening drive, the 49ers free safety followed with a pick-six on the Rams’ next series for a 14-0 lead.
How stunning is the offense? Extremely efficient and productive.
The 49ers converted Ward’s first interception into an 18-play touchdown drive, capped by Jimmy Garoppolo’s 8-yard third-down strike to George Kittle.
Ward’s 27-yard interception return for the 49ers’ second touchdown made it a 14-0 lead.
Even after the Rams countered with a touchdown (Matthew Stafford 10-yard strike to Tyler Higbee), the 49ers responded with their third of the night. It came on an 8-yard run by Deebo Samuel to the left pylon, with help from a block by Brandon Aiyuk, who earlier had 21-yard catch-and-run.
49ers 7, Rams 0:
Kittle’s touchdown catch came in contested fashion and it iced an 18-play, 93-yard drive that ate 11 minutes off the clock. It came on third-and-6, the 49ers’ fourth such conversion on the drive.
49ers 14, Rams 0:
Ward’s pick-six – he also had one on his first career pick, in 2015 at Chicago – was startling. It came once Matthew Stafford floated a pass just over Nick Bosa and into tight end Tyler Higbee’s hands, where it was juggled. Ward slipped past Cooper Kupp, snagged the ball and headed for the goal line to give the 49ers an improbable 14-0 lead.
It was the second straight game Stafford has thrown a pick-six, having done so last weekend in a loss to Tennessee. He hadn’t had such back-to-back pick-sixes since his 2009 rookie season.
PICK-SIX FOR THE NINERS
They’re up 14-0 on the Rams in the first quarter.
— ESPN (@espn) November 16, 2021
49ers 14, Rams 7:
Higbee, who juggled a Stafford pass on Ward’s pick-six, made amends with a 10-yard touchdown catch on third down against Fred Warner’s tight coverage at the goal line. That shaved the 49ers’ lead in half, to 14-7 with 13:13 until halftime. The 75-yard touchdown drive featured only seven plays in 2 ½ mintues.
49ers 21, Rams 7:
After converting third-down situations with a Rams’ offside penalty (third-and-2) and a 20-yard Samuel catch-and-run (third-and-7), the 49ers breached the red zone on a 21-yard, tackle-breaking reception by Aiyuk, followed immediately by Samuel’s 8-yard scoring run. Samuel had only six carries for 22 yards prior to this game, and his touchdown pushed Monday’s total to four carries for 36 yards.
Ward, the 49ers’ longest-tenured player and an eighth-year veteran, had only two interceptions through 85 games. Then came Monday night and he equaled that total through two series.
On his first interception in this one, Ward was in the right place at the right time – and Odell Beckham Jr. sure wasn’t in his Rams’ debut – to intercept a 51-yard bomb by Stafford, at the 49ers’ 7-yard line. Once Ward got to the 49ers’ sideline and took a seat on the bench, a turnover chain was placed around his neck – apparently a new tradition.
Ward missed the 49ers’ last game – a 31-17 loss to Arizona – because of a quadriceps injury that had him questionable to play this game.
–Rookie Jaylon Moore, starting at right tackle in place of the injured Mike McGlinchey, was not in at the start of the second series because of a knee injury. That sent veteran Tom Compton back to that spot where he struggled in place of McGlinchey last game.
— Defensive tackle D.J. Jones made a tremendous open-field tackle 12 seconds before halftime on a fake field-goal attempt by the Rams.
–Rams running back Darrell Henderson Jr. was being evaluated for a potential first-quarter concussion. He returned and had an 11-yard run to the 49ers’ 19-yard line 2 ½ mintues before halftime.
— As terrible as the 49ers’ third-down efficiency has been the past month, they converted on all four tries on their opening series.
— The Rams’ defenders jumped offside twice in as many series.
— Rookie quarterback Trey Lance watched from the sideline without his helmet through the opening two series
— The 49ers swept the home-and-away series each of the past two seasons, and they’ll end the regular season Jan. 9 at the Rams’ SoFi Stadium, site of Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13.
— Garoppolo had won all four of his previous starts for the Niners against Los Angeles, topped only by Steve Young, who was 13-0 against the Rams the 49ers’ starter.
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Author: Cam Inman