Reflections on San Francisco 49ers Week 17 Loss to Los Angeles Rams

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49ers Week 17 Loss
GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 28: Tight Ends/Assistant Head Coach Jon Embree of the San Francisco 49ers talks with Garrett Celek #88, George Kittle #85 and Ross Dwelley #82 in the locker room prior to the game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on October 28, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the 49ers 18-15. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

The San Francisco 49ers concluded a season largely defined by key injuries throughout the lineup with a 48-32 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The 49ers have finished the season 4-12 and will be projected to secure the number two overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. With their win today, the Rams have secured the number two seed in the NFC playoff picture, guaranteeing themselves a first-round bye.

49ers Week 17 Loss Against LA Rams

Turnover Problems

The 49ers entered this game with the worst turnover differential in the league and continued to have problems giving the ball up. The 49ers committed four turnovers, and many of those mistakes would ultimately result in Rams points. The Rams scored 21 points off turnovers, and the 49ers dug themselves a hole that proved inescapable very early on.

Nick Mullens threw three interceptions in the first half, but he bounced back from that putrid start to actually have a decent game. Mullens finished 23/33 for 282 yards, 8.5 yards per attempt, three touchdowns, three interceptions, and an 88.2 passer rating.

Cory Littleton had two of those interceptions and returned one for a touchdown that basically put the game out of reach by the second quarter. The other interception was picked off by Blake Countess on a throw that was intended for George Kittle in the end zone.

The first turnover of the game by the 49ers turned out to be their only fumble, which was forced by Mark Barron and recovered by Aqib Talib and returned to the red zone. Kyle Juszczyk was attempting to reach out for a first down, but the ball was poked out after he extended his arms towards the marker.

It’s extremely unlikely that a team that turns the ball over four times is going to win a game, much less when the opponent is one of the elite teams in the league. The 49ers finished with a nice offensive output in terms of scoring, but they really handed the Rams a lot of points on essentially a silver platter.

Kittle Sets Single-Season Tight End Yardage Record

Kittle became the main focal point by the time the game was out of reach and broke open a long touchdown catch to write his name in the record books.

Kittle set a new single-season yardage record for tight ends and finished this game with nine catches for 149 yards and a touchdown. Travis Kelce had actually set the record earlier that day, but Kittle shattered that previous mark with a 43-yard touchdown near the end of the fourth quarter.

49ers Offense Makes too Many Mistakes

After the early turnovers, it already looked like the 49ers had absolutely no chance to come back to win this game. The 49ers offense ended up scoring an impressive 32 points this game, although the final outcome was never in doubt.

Kendrick Bourne had a solid game, hauling in five catches for 59 yards and a touchdown that came in the fourth quarter. The other Mullens touchdown pass was caught by Richie James near the end of the second quarter. James finished with three catches for 32 yards.

The hole the 49ers dug for themselves early on proved to be insurmountable, and they just couldn’t keep up with the Rams. The 49ers went just 3-11 on third down conversions and weren’t able to effectively prolong enough drives to close the deficit. The 49ers offense lost the time of possession battle 31:50-28:10, but actually averaged more yards per play than the Rams did.

The 49ers offense averaged 6.7 yards per play, while the Rams offense managed to average 5.3 yards per play over the course of the game. The Rams offense was able to greatly benefit from nice field position provided by their defense that forced numerous turnovers.

The 49ers averaged 5.8 yards per run attempt as a team and finished with 127 rushing yards behind a great game from Alfred Morris. On 16 carries, Morris led the 49ers with 111 yards and scored a touchdown, including a nice 51-yard run that set up a Robbie Gould field goal.

Aaron Donald came into this game just a few sacks away from the single-season sacks record but fell short of that mark after recording just one sack. The 49ers offense can take a little bit of pride in that they didn’t allow Donald to get this prestigious record.

Rams Offense Capitalizes on Opportunities

The Rams have such a dynamic offense, and the 49ers turnover problems made it that much easier for the Rams to put up this lofty point total.

Starting in place of the Todd Gurley due to injury, C.J. Anderson had another great game for the Rams, carrying the ball 23 times for 132 yards and a touchdown. As a team, the Rams ran for 155 yards on the ground.

The 49ers turnovers would set the Rams up with fantastic field position, and the Rams offense was extremely efficient in capitalizing on those chances.

With the outcome of the game already safe by the beginning of the fourth quarter, Jared Goff was pulled to get some extra rest before the playoffs and replaced by Sean Mannion. Goff had an excellent game, finishing 15/26 for 199 yards, 7.7 yards per attempt, four touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 121.6 passer rating.

The 49ers defense had no answer for this high-powered Rams offense, who were able to find success on the ground and through the air. The Rams went 10-16 on third down and made the most of their opportunities to really light up the scoreboard in this season finale.

Brandin Cooks and Josh Reynolds both had two receiving touchdowns. Cooks had five catches for 62 yards while Reynolds had four catches for 55 yards.

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