The Los Angeles Rams offense delivered again in a wild 41-39 win over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL on Thursday.
In what was an unexpected shoot-out that came down to the wire at Levi's Stadium, the Rams needed a late stop after the 49ers recovered an onside kick with just over two minutes remaining. An Aaron Donald sack of 49ers quarterback Brian Hoyer with one minute, 44 seconds remaining sealed the victory.
The way the game started, it looked like the Rams were going to cruise to another blowout victory, capitalising on turnovers as they did in a 46-9 win over the Indianapolis Colts to open the season.
Hoyer threw an interception on the first play from scrimmage, with Nickell Robey-Coleman easily jumping an out-route and taking to the 49ers' five-yard line. Todd Gurley punched it in from there a play later to give the Rams a 7-0 lead just 12 seconds into the game.
The 49ers tied it up on Hoyer's nine-yard scramble into the end zone to cap a 14-play, 81-yard drive that was kept alive by a defensive holding penalty on fourth-and-two. The Rams answered with a touchdown of their own and made it 17-7 on Greg Zuerlein's 48-yard field goal. That score was off Raheem Mostert's fumble at the Rams' 39-yard line.
Mostert got the carry after starting running back Carlos Hyde was out briefly with a hip injury. Mostert finished with 11 carries for four yards. Hyde returned to help lead the comeback with 84 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries.
The 49ers made it a 17-10 Rams lead with a 36-yard Robbie Gould field goal after 49ers long snapper Kyle Nelson recovered Tavon Austin's muffed punt.
By the time Gurley added his third touchdown of the game, the Rams held a 24-13 half-time lead. Gurley became the first Rams running back since Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk in 2001 to score three times in one half.
Gurley finished with 113 yards on 28 carries and another 36 yards on five receptions. He found the end zone three times, but Jared Goff was nearly perfect. He is finally looking like the quarterback the Rams expected him to be when they selected him first overall in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Goff was 22 of 28 for 282 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. The 107 points scored by the Rams through the first three games of the season are the most since the 'Greatest Show on Turf' Rams had 119 points through the first three games of the 2000 season.
DROP THE MIC
The Rams were first to score in the second half, thanks to a beautiful 47-yard pass from Goff to new Rams receiver Sammy Watkins to set up a short Zuerlein field goal.
Watkins finished with six catches for 106 yards and his first two touchdowns as a member of the Rams, who acquired him in an August trade with the Bills. Another former Buffalo receiver, Robert Woods, caught six passes for 108 yards to give the Rams a pair of 100-yard wide receivers in the same game for the first time since Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce each had over 100 yards in a 41-34 win over the Lions on October 1, 2006. Later that year, running back Steven Jackson joined Bruce with over 100 receiving yards in a week 16 win over the Redskins.
"That last five minutes was very stressful," Gurley told NFL Network. "It was out of our control, but we knew the defense would come through."
CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM
The Rams are 2-1 and the offense, which was dead last in the NFL a season ago, has looked impressive. The excitement for the season should be tempered. The Rams' two wins have come against a Colts team without Andrew Luck and a winless 49ers team that won just two games last season – both against the Rams. The 49ers defense was also missing key starters and lost a couple more on Thursday.
The Rams defense, which allowed 229 rushing yards in last week's loss to Washington, struggled again Thursday and could not stop a 49ers offense that had not scored a touchdown prior to Thursday. Hoyer, who was sacked four times, rebounded from his shaky start to throw for 332 yards on 23-of-37 passing with two touchdowns and the early interception. His favourite target was Pierre Garcon, who made several spectacular catches to finish with seven receptions for 142 yards.
The Rams will face much stiffer tests in the next two weeks when they travel to Dallas next Sunday before a tilt with the Seahawks in Los Angeles on October 8. If the Rams win one or both of those games, and they have had success against the Seahawks, it might be time to consider the Rams a contender in the NFC West.
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