It was the Los Angeles Rams facing the San Francisco 49ers, Sean McVay challenging his friend Kyle Shanahan, Todd Gurley taking on fellow running back Carlos Hyde. That’s not to mention the two horrid defense. Seriously, those factors made the newest battle between the Rams and 49ers an offensive war that was remarkably enjoyable to watch, especially on a Thursday night.
1. McVay and Shanahan will reignite the rivalry
It’s amazing how these two coaches are closely connected to both teams. Shanahan was a possibility in Los Angeles, but the Rams decided to roll the dice with McVay, and it went in their favor this time. All things considered, both McVay and Shanahan appear to be turning their teams around. The 49ers remain winless, but they continue to give opposing teams a run for their money. If former Rams head coach Jeff Fisher still ran the show, I’m not confident that the team would have left San Francisco with a win. This matchup might just be primed for a return to atop the league’s best rivalries.
2. Future look of the Rams’ offense
The 49ers defense may have its issues, but the unit is considerably more talented than the Indianapolis Colts. Their talent level didn’t matter. Quarterback Jared Goff looked extremely confident, and it showed on the field and in the box score. He completed 22 of 28 passes for 292 yards and three touchdowns. Goff connected on a majority of those passes with the reunited duo of Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins. The passing offense put together a diverse performance, and the emergence of Woods and Watkins proves that the Rams are more dangerous than they have been in years. Keep in mind that the 49ers held rookie Cooper Kupp in check, showing that Goff has options.
3. Forget Gurley’s sophomore slump
Gurley’ ended his streak of games without 100 yards rushing in style. He finished with 113 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns and added another 36 yards and a score in the passing game. Gurley doesn’t need to go over 100 yards each game, especially if Goff gets into a rhythm. His new role in the offense makes him a multi-faceted weapon in McVay’s offense. If Gurley performs as well the rest of the season as he did against the 49ers, the Rams will be tough to beat offensively. He fought for and earned every yard he got game. Oh, and let us not forget that the offensive line did a solid job creating holes for Gurley.
4. Is there a place for Tavon Austin?
Finding a role for Austin seems more forced each week. A botched return from Austin makes his presence on the team more cloudy. His only silver lining is that his potential replacement in Pharoh Cooper also muffed a kick. If the Rams cannot find a reliable return man, Austin needs to stay. But, that’s a huge a price to pay for a situational RB/WR and unreliable special teamer. The reality is that Austin’s value won’t entice teams even if the Rams put him on the trading block. McVay must be even more creative to increase his role with the offense.
5. Wait, the defense is the issue?
I thought the defense would be fine coming into the season. Unfortunately, when the defense makes Brian Hoyer to look like an All-Pro quarteback, it’s clear there are issues to resolve. There were precious few bright spots for the defense on Thursday. Hoyer’s 332 passing yards are proof of that. Trumaine Johnson getting torched throughout the game 49ers wide receiver Pierre Garcon is indicative of the problems with the secondary. Garcon caught seven passes for 142 yard as Hoyer’s top target. If the best corner on the team cannot get the job done, the Rams will struggle against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 4.
The 3-4 defense continues to challenge inside linebacker Alec Ogletree. He led the team in tackles, but chasing down ball carriers is not the way to earn those tackles. Fellow linebacker Mark Barron performed well, making several critical stops. The problem remains that he was one of the few defensive players to hold his own against the 49ers. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will need to make some fixes if the Rams hope to compete for a playoff spot.