The 49ers’ win over the Rams on Sunday was far less comfortable than their Week 1 throttling of the Steelers.
San Francisco pulled out a 30-23 victory on the road at SoFi Stadium to move to 2-0 on the season. It wasn’t their best effort, but the fact they can play a subpar game and still snag a division win on the road is a testament to the overall experience and strength of the 49ers’ roster.
A close game is more stressful for fans, but it’s also an opportunity to learn about what this 2023 49ers team might look like come November or December.
Here are our six takeaways from the Week 2 win:
The 49ers extended their regular season winning streak over the Rams to nine games with their Week 2 victory. Their last loss came in the final week of the 2018 season. That wasn’t the only winning streak to be extended though.
San Francisco has also tallied 12-straight regular season wins which marks the second-longest win streak in team history trailing only the 1989-90 squad which won 15 consecutive games.
Defensive adjustment saves the day
There was an unfamiliar sight in the first half for the 49ers’ defense. Their defensive line was getting zero pressure on Rams QB Matthew Stafford. Los Angeles’ offensive line was doing a really nice job against every combination of players San Francisco rolled out. The result was Stafford getting comfortable on short throws where the Rams found a ton of success. That forced 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks to make an adjustment.
In the second half the 49ers became much more blitz-happy. The result was an uptick from a 15 percent blitz rate in the first half to 43 percent in the second half per ESPN’s Nick Wagoner. The result was nine pressures compared to zero.
It’s probably not sustainable to have success with a blitz rate of 43 percent, but it did show new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks is capable of making successful in-game adjustments in his first real test with San Francisco.
The 49ers were down 17-10 with one second left in the first half. LA was due to receive the second half kickoff, so instead of just taking the three points, head coach Kyle Shanahan dialed up a QB sneak from inside the Rams 1 to get over the goal line and tie the game before the half. A 17-10 deficit is virtually the same as a 17-13 deficit with the Rams receiving the second half kickoff, so going for it in that spot was the right call.
Nickel battle over
Ambry Thomas started the game as the 49ers’ second outside cornerback with Deommodore Lenoir playing in the slot. Thomas struggled on his first series and then suffered a knee injury that opened the door for CB Isaiah Oliver, who split snaps with Thomas in Week 1. Oliver came up with a huge third-down stop, an interception that swung momentum, and a fourth-and-2 run stop that effectively sealed the win for the 49ers. On top of that, Lenoir posted a pass breakup and an interception while playing on the outside. Lenoir and Charvarius Ward outside with Oliver in the slot appears to be the 49ers’ best trio of CBs heading into Week 3.
Brandon Aiyuk banged up
One of the 49ers’ best offensive plays Sunday was a third-down strike from Brock Purdy to Aiyuk on the first series of the game. It was also a scary moment because Aiyuk stayed on the ground holding his left shoulder after being tackled. He left the game for evaluation in the medical tent, but eventually returned. It was clear he was hampered by the injury though and saw limited snaps the rest of the way. Shanahan after the game indicated Aiyuk should be okay, but this will be something to keep an eye on until the team has had a chance to run some tests and take a closer look at the receiver.
A fine, not great, Purdy game
Purdy on Sunday for the first time in his career as a starter didn’t throw two touchdowns in a game. He also didn’t notch a passer rating of 95.0 or better for the first time as a starting QB. There were also four badly missed throws that might’ve turned a seven-point 49ers win into more of a runaway. His missed deep shots to Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel and Jauan Jennings all might have gone for touchdowns. There was also a misfire on a third-down slant to Samuel late in the contest. The good news is despite a not great game, Purdy was efficient with 8.2 yards per attempt and he didn’t turn the ball over. If Sunday was an example of what a bad Purdy game looks like — the 49ers are in a good spot offensively.