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McDonald’s: 49ers find their winning platform against the Rams, but that doesn’t mean it’s sustainable

SANTA CLARA – If the 49ers’ 31-10 win over the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night looked familiar, that’s because it sounded familiar.

Go back to 2019, the year they went to the Super Bowl. Or even last season when they beat the Rams twice.

So it probably wasn’t all that shocking that for all the 49ers’ issues, the mere sight of the Rams playing acted as a defibrillator for the 2021 season.

Make some plays on defense. get a lead. Play the ball early, often and late. Complete just enough passes for a glimpse of balance. This is 49ers football, and for all the talk of finesse in their Super Bowl history, their best goal is to beat their opponent to the punch. It goes back to the days of Bill Walsh, where he compared the 49ers’ style to boxing.

When the 49ers under Jim Harbaugh were good they were physical. In Kyle Shanahan’s only winning season as head coach, he was physical. ESPN analyst Louis Riddick reminded me during Saturday’s chat when Monday night’s game against the Rams broke down.

“It’s a physically tough team,” Riddick said. “It’s a very mentally resilient team. The game they played against the Rams last year, they physically beat them like a bully. And that’s how they have to play it on Monday.”

His dominance was written in the final gamebook. Shanahan wanted 40 run-and-run dramas. The 49ers drove it 44 times for 156 yards. Relentless short and medium-yard gains kept the third downs manageable and the 49ers turned eight of their first 10 third down opportunities behind quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. (He finished 8 out of 14). The 49ers held the ball for the Rams from 39:03 to 20:57, with Matt Stafford & Co. helpless.

It was a necessary statement from a team that suffered an embarrassment against Arizona last week, though it’s a stretch considering the 49ers’ recovery and a contender.

Tight end George Kittel said the 49ers put their foot on the gas pedal, but it was no Ferrari. It was a road grader, and the 49ers were in dire need of reinventing their personalities. The 49ers averaged only 3.5 yards per carry, their longest run was 17 yards and no other runs were in double digits. It was a continuous procession of the kidneys and liver being struck on the body.

“It’s been our hallmark,” said left tackle Trent Williams. “We like to be balanced but really we lean towards runs.”

For whatever reason, the Rams have been hypersensitive to the 49ers and their physicality under coach Sean McVay. In Riddick’s two close wins last season, the 49ers had possession advantages of 37:55 to 22:05 and 34:03 to 25:57. The 49ers have defeated the Rams five times in a row.

It was the most extreme, given that the 49ers occupied almost the entire first quarter with an 18-play, 93-yard, 11:03 time off the clock in the second quarter for the game’s first touchdown.

“I don’t want to say it took away his soul, but it certainly did something,” Garoppolo said.

Then, after Jimmy Ward had found his second interception and returned it from 27 yards for a touchdown to lead 14–0 and the Rams countered with a score of their own, the 49ers embarked on another time-consuming march. gone. It covered 91 yards in 11 plays and ate another nine minutes and turned.

“He was able to churn out yards and was very efficient on the third down,” McVay said.

The tone was set, and the Rams were helpless to change it.

Deebo Samuel (19) provided the physicality needed as a runner and a receiver in Monday night’s 31-10 win over the Los Angeles Rams.

“It felt good. Honestly, it felt just like Super Bowl year, when it was like we ran the ball 30 times each time,” Garoppolo said.

And while it was nice to feel like a good team again, the 49ers are 4-5 and the team whose Garoppolo speaks ended up 13-3. Shanahan’s goal was a 40 rush against the Rams, something the 49ers made in the 2019 regular season as well as four times in the playoffs against both the Vikings and Packers.

There was a wrinkle, as Deebo Samuel shifted to the backfield on occasion and ran five times for 32 yards, which Shanahan called “a different way of doing the same thing” in reference to the plan.

As running the ball, Garoppolo is acting as a handoff machine to fuel the running yard and complete enough short- and medium-distance passes to set up another run.

In the last eight games, what the 49ers did against the Rams will be difficult, even impossible, to replicate, although their Week 11 road game against Jacksonville looks promising.

You can’t take anything away from the 49ers because it’s not easy to impose a will in the NFL. But the 49ers have already proved their mettle against the rams. And let’s face it, the Rams were pretty bad Monday night, with an alarming number of mistakes and dropped passes.

And while the 49ers’ defense played well, and they got the required two turnovers from Ward, the pick six was essentially gift-wrapped to tight end Tyler Higby’s hands-free seven points. This is not going to happen every week.

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