Rams drop the ball in many ways in 24-16 loss to 49ers – Press Enterprise

The Rams styled themselves in the early season as a team that found different ways to win, that didn’t flinch even if it trailed badly, that could bounce back from any adversity.

But Sunday night, it was the San Francisco 49ers who clearly weren’t finished when others thought they were through.

The 49ers shook off a poor first month of their NFC championship defense to surprise the Rams in a 24-16 victory for the home team at empty Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

The Rams fell to 4-2 after their first division game of the year, while the 49ers improved to 3-3.

Afterward, the Rams lashed themselves harder verbally than they hit anyone in pads during the game.

“You give them credit, they did a great job tonight,” coach Sean McVay said after the Rams’ third straight loss to the 49ers. “But I also think we had our hand in not playing up to our capabilities.”

“That’s not the way we play. That’s not the way we’re coached to play. That’s on us as players, coaches, we’ve got to do better as a team,” Aaron Donald said. “We pretty much beat ourselves.”

The Rams couldn’t figure much out as the teams’ quarterbacks reversed their recent roles.

Can’t-miss Jared Goff suffered through an 19 for 38, 198-yard, two-touchdown, one-interception performance as even the reliable Cooper Kupp dropped important passes.

Beaten-up Jimmy Garoppolo avoided pressure from the Rams’ high-ranked pass rush and finished 23 for 33 for 268 yards, three touchdown and no interceptions.

Donald and the Rams pass rushers were held without a sack a week after he had four of their eight in a win at Washington.

In their 4-1 start, the Rams had taken comfort even in their setbacks, veteran tackle Andrew Whitworth saying they were “going to be in” every game and “going to find a way to try and win it.”

But unlike their loss at Buffalo, in which they trailed by 25 but rallied to briefly take the lead, they never looked as if they could come all the way back after going down by 14 early.

And unlike their tense win over the  Giants, they couldn’t break out of their offensive struggle with a big play until it was too late.

Goff said, though, that it felt to him as if the Rams would find a way.

“We had our shots down in the red zone a couple of times,” he said, “and we just didn’t finish it off.”

For the first month, it was the Rams’ offense getting off to fast starts, pounding the running game, taking safe passes and turning them into big plays.

Sunday, it was the other guys’ offense scoring on its opening drive and controlling the first half with short passes that served the dual purpose of neutralizing the NFL sacks leader, Donald, and protecting Garoppolo’s sprained right ankle.

Garoppolo was 9 for 10 at the point when Goff was 1 for 6, and the 49ers scored the first 14 points.

Niners wide receiver Deebo Samuel carried around right end to the end zone flag to cap the game’s first drive.

But he might have set the tone for both teams on the second play from scrimmage when he caught the Rams thinking he’d been tackled with a short pass from Garoppolo, popping up and continuing what became a 35-yard gain. Sebastian Joseph-Day and Troy Hill seemed to have Samuel down. But he came down on top of bodies, not on the grass.

“I thought he was down, but somebody was under him,” Joseph-Day said. “Obviously, that gives them a lot of momentum.”

Two San Francisco possessions later, it was Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle taking a 15-yard Garoppolo pass, getting past Rams cornerback Darious Williams and completing a 44-yard catch and run for a touchdown early in the second quarter.

A Rams problem showed up again even as they got a touchdown back, Goff hitting a leaping Robert Woods in the end zone for a 10-yard score. Rookie kicker Samuel Sloman’s missed extra point left the Rams down by eight. It was Sloman’s third PAT miss of the season, to go with two missed field goals.

Sloman would later kick a 42-yard field goal, after a first down in the red zone was wiped out by Whitworth’s second false-start penalty of the night.

But first, the 49ers would push their lead to 21-6, Garoppolo finding wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk open across the goal line for a 2-yard touchdown shortly before halftime. A Rams penalty on third down came into play there, too. A neutral-zone infraction by linebacker Leonard Floyd made it first and goal.

Mistakes on defense had killed the Rams in their previous game in Santa Clara in 2019, keeping the 49ers alive for a game-ending field goal that ended L.A.’s playoff hopes in the season’s second-to-last week.

This time, the defense and offense shared the mistakes, including some uncharacteristic missed connections between Goff and Kupp, the biggest a drop by the wide receiver on the right edge of the end zone in the third quarter.

The Rams went for it on fourth down from the 2, but Goff’s lob toward Josh Reynolds in the left corner was intercepted by former Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett.

They would get a late touchdown on a 40-yard heave from Goff to Reynolds to make it a one-score game with 3:24 to play. But the defense couldn’t keep San Francisco from first downs. The clock ran out on the Rams and their bright early season.

“We’ll take ownership in that,” Whitworth said. “Honestly, this kind of loss is one of the best. This one is easier to come back and play your best because it’s one where we can simply say, ‘Look in the mirror.’ You know what, we did this to ourselves.

“I think those things give you a bunch of inspiration and a bunch of determination to go fix yourselves.”