SANTA CLARA, Calif. — After a blowout loss to the Miami Dolphins that many San Francisco 49ers called embarrassing, the Niners spent this past week hammering home the need for a sense of urgency Sunday night against the Los Angeles Rams.
Lest their 2020 season slip away before they even reach the halfway point, the Niners and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo made it clear from the game’s first possession that this week would be different.
With coach Kyle Shanahan pressing the right buttons, Garoppolo shaking off his halftime benching from last week and a stingy defense, the Niners jumped to an early lead and held on for a much-needed 24-16 bounce-back win against the Rams on Sunday night.
The 49ers improved to 3-3 with the win, which also was their first at Levi’s Stadium this season. They also avoided becoming the first Super Bowl losing team to have a record below .500 through six games since the 2016 Carolina Panthers.
To make it happen, the Niners got off to a hot start in which Shanahan set up Garoppolo for early success with a number of short throws that got the offense rolling on the opening possession.
Coming off a career-low QBR of 1.4 last week against the Dolphins that ended with him benched in favor of C.J. Beathard at halftime, Garoppolo completed four passes on the first drive, all of which were behind the line of scrimmage.
But the Niners picked up 88 yards after the catch on a drive that covered only 76 yards of actual field, as Garoppolo averaged negative-4.9 air yards per attempt. As it turned out, that drive gave Garoppolo the confidence needed to later push the ball to the intermediate levels as he posted his best performance of the season on his still-recovering high right ankle sprain.
Garoppolo finished 23-for-33 for 268 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 124.3. Garoppolo is the first Niners quarterback since Jeff Garcia in 2003 to throw for 200-plus yards with three touchdowns in the first half of a game.
Tight end George Kittle served as Garoppolo’s primary target, finishing with seven catches for 109 yards and a touchdown.
The defense, meanwhile, held the Rams to 4-of-12 on third down and cornerback Jason Verrett came up with his first interception since Sept. 11, 2016, to kill a Rams drive in the end zone.