Rams vs. 49ers score, highlights, things to know: Gurley shines in surprising shootout
The Rams picked up their first win at Levi's Stadium in three years
If you decided to skip out on the Rams-49ers game because you thought it was going to be a snoozefest, all you missed was the highest scoring game in the history of "Thursday Night Football."
Two teams that have battled in some historically ugly games defied the odds and played one of the most entertaining games of the regular season on Thursday as the Rams walked out of Levi's Stadium with a wild 41-39 win.
The 80 combined points smashed the previous record that had been set in 2014 when the Chargers beat the 49ers 38-35. Coincidentally, that game was also played at Levi's Stadium, which means the next time there's a primetime game played at Levi's, you're going to want to clear your schedule at least a month beforehand to make sure you can watch.
The odd thing about this game is that before it started, there was no indication that the 49ers even had the weapons to survive a wild shootout. We saw the Rams put up 46 points in Week 1, so we knew they were capable of lighting up the scoreboard, but not the 49ers. Before Thursday, the last time the 49ers score 39 or more points in a game came in 2013. That was four years and three coaches ago (Jim Harbaugh, Jim Tomsula, Chip Kelly).
This was a wild game with an even wilder finish.
With just 8:43 left in the game, the 49ers were trailing 41-26 and looked to be left for dead until Brian Hoyer led them on two straight scoring drives. After Hoyer threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Trent Taylor, which cut the lead to 41-33, Rams returner Pharoh Cooper fumbled away the ensuing kickoff to the 49ers.
Eight plays after that, the 49ers were back in the end zone thanks to a one-yard run by Carlos Hyde that cut the Rams' lead to 41-39. After San Francisco missed a dramatic two-point conversion, that could've been the game, but then luck struck again for the 49ers on the ensuing kickoff when they recovered the onside kick.
The Rams weren't able to celebrate their win until Hoyer was sacked by Aaron Donald on a last gasp fourth-and-20 play.
So how did in the name of Bill Walsh did a shootout happen in San Francisco? Let's look at a few key takeaways.
Gurley goes off
If you started Gurley on your Fantasy team this week, you might be able to bench everyone else and still win because Gurley went off against the 49ers. Last season, Gurley rarely had a chance to put up big numbers because every team would stack the box and dare the Rams to run the ball. That led to an ugly 2016 for Gurley, who didn't hit the 100-yard mark in a single game last year.
Now that the Rams are running Sean McVay's wide-open offense, Gurley has more room to run, and he's definitely taking advantage of it. The Rams running back carried the ball 28 times for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Gurley averaged 4.03 yards per carry against the 49ers, which was almost a full yard over what he averaged during the 2016 season (3.2 ypc).
Although both of Gurley's touchdowns came on short runs (two yards and three yards), he also did some damage out in the open field. Not only did Gurley have a 29-yard run in the game, but he was one of Jared Goff's favorite outlets on the night. Gurley caught five passes for 36 yards, including the touchdown you see below.
This game is probably going to do big things for Gurley's confidence. For one, he hit the 100-yard mark for the first time since December 2015. Going into Thursday, Gurley had gone 20 games without hitting the 100-yard mark. The Rams' third-year running back also scored three touchdowns against the 49ers, which gives him six for the season. That's a huge number because Gurley only scored six in all of 2016.
With six touchdowns through three games, Gurley tied Marshall Faulk (2000) and Crazy Legs Hirsch (1951) for most touchdowns in Rams history through three games. The good new for the Rams is that in both 1951 and 2000, they ended up making the playoffs after watching their running back get off to a hot start.
Goff-to-Watkins is officially a thing
Sammy Watkins has only been with the Rams for six weeks, and there's a good chance he already likes it much more than the entire three years he spent in Buffalo. After only totaling 88 yards receiving through the first two weeks of the season, the former Bills receiver exploded for a huge game against the 49ers.
Watkins and Jared Goff were on the same page all night, and Goff clearly trusts his new receiver now because he even started getting the ball to Watkins in key situations. One of those key plays came on a third-and-4 in the fourth quarter: Goff threw a short pass to his new wide receiver and then watched as Watkins bulldozed two 49ers defenders to get in the end zone.
That fourth quarter touchdown was Watkins' second of the game, and proved to be the game-winning touchdown.
The former first-round pick also caught a laser from Goff for a one-yard score in the third quarter.
Although touchdowns are nice, the best Goff-to-Watkins connection on the night didn't go for a score, but it did go for a 47-yard gain.
On a first-and-10 play in the third quarter, Goff launched a pass to Watkins, and then Watkins did the rest.
Overall, Watkins finished with six catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns before leaving the game with a possible concussion late in the fourth quarter.
As for Goff, he arguably had the best game of his career. In his return home to the Bay Area -- where he went to high school and college -- the Rams quarterback went 22 of 28 for 292 yards and three touchdowns. Although Goff also put up big numbers in the Rams' opener, it was more impressive to see him do it against a 49ers defense that's slightly better than the Colts D Goff faced in Week 1.
Against the 49ers, Goff finished with a 78.6 completion percentage and a QB rating of 145.8, which were both career highs. Goff seems to be playing slightly better under new coach Sean McVay, and by slightly, we mean a lot better.
The 107 total points that the Rams have scored through three games this season is already more than the Rams scored total in the seven games that Goff started last year (85).
The Rams are probably regretting that Austin contract
The highest-paid receiver on L.A.'s roster is Tavon Austin, and if the first three weeks of the season are any indication, he also happens to be the receiver they need the least. Of the 292 yards that Goff threw for against the 49ers, exactly zero of those went to Austin.
Austin's hurt the Rams more than he's helped him this year, and that continued on Thursday when he muffed a punt in the second quarter.
The 49ers ended up getting a field goal after recovering Austin's muffed punt. The muffed punt was Austin's second of the season, which means he now has as many muffed punts this year as he does receptions. The Rams receiver has caught two passes for 12 yards through three games.
The ugly part for Austin is that a total of seven Rams receivers caught passes in the game, and he wasn't one of them: Cooper (one catch for four yards), Tyler Higbee (one catch for four yards), Cooper Kupp (two catches for 17 yards), Derek Carrier (one catch for 17 yards), Gurley (five catches for 36 yards and a touchdowns), Robert Woods (six catches for 108 yards) and Watkins all had at least one catch. Those seven players combined have a smaller 2017 cap hit than Austin this season.
The 49ers finally score a touchdown
If you don't count the Bengals, there was no offense in the NFL that was worse than the 49ers offense through the first two weeks of the season. In their first two games, the 49ers were outscored 35-12, and even worse, Brian Hoyer and the offense didn't produce a single touchdown, putting the team on the verge of matching the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the worst offensive start in history.
The Bucs are the only team in the Super Bowl era to make it through their first three games without scoring a touchdown. Unfortunately for the Bucs, the 49ers won't be matching their futility because San Francisco finally managed to get in the end zone on Thursday.
The 49ers' first touchdown of the 2017 season came on a nine-yard run by Hoyer.
The score from Hoyer apparently opened the floodgates because the 49ers would score four more touchdowns after that.
Hoyer almost throws a pick-six on the first play of the game
Although Brian Hoyer led the 49ers offense to five touchdowns on the night, he also basically gave one away. On the first play of the game, Hoyer telegraphed a pass to Marquise Goodwin and then watched in horror as Rams corner Nickell Robey-Coleman jumped in front of Goodwin to pick off the pass.
Robey-Coleman returned the ball 25 yards to the 49ers' 3-yard line. One play later, Todd Gurley was able to cash in on the turnover with a three-yard touchdown run.
Of course, if you're playing against Hoyer in Fantasy Football this week, then I have some bad news: You might be losing a lot when you wake up on Friday. That pass from Hoyer ended up being the only truly terrible throw that he made in the game. After the near pick-six, Hoyer rebounded to finish 23 of 37 for 332 yards and two touchdowns.
Garcon goes off
One of the reasons that Brian Hoyer was able to have such a big game is because Pierre Garcon caught any pass that was thrown within 10 yards of him. If Hoyer threw it high, Garcon caught it. If Hoyer threw it low, Garcon caught it. If Hoyer threw an uncatchable pass to the sideline, Garcon caught it. You're probably starting to notice a pattern here.
Here's an example of a ridiculous catch that Garcon made on the sideline. At first, the refs ruled the pass incomplete because it didn't look like it was physically possible for anyone to stay in bounds on the play, but Garcon managed to do it for a 19-yard gain.
Garcon also did a good job of keeping the 49ers in the game in the fourth quarter when he caught a 59-yard pass that set up a Trent Taylor touchdown.
When the 49ers made Garcon one of their biggest free agent signings of the offseason, this is definitely what Kyle Shanahan wanted to see, and Garcon came through with a seven-catch, 142-yard performance. Garcon's total is the third-highest receiving total of the 2017 season so far.
The young and the restless
It's not often that you get to see two coaches under the age of 40 go up against each other in the NFL, but that's exactly what happened on Thursday. The coaching battle between Sean McVay (31) and Kyle Shanahan (37) was the second youngest matchup of head coaches during the Super Bowl era.
The only coaching combination that was younger came in 1992 when Bengals coach Dave Shula (33 at the time) had to battle wits with Steelers coach Bill Cowher (35).
Back in 1992, the older coach (Cowher) got the best of the younger coach (Shula) two different times that season, but luckily for McVay, that trend didn't continue on Thursday with the Rams' win.
The good news for football fans is that if Thursday's game was any indication, we might be watching McVay coach against Shanahan for the next 30 years, and don't think for a second that's not possible. In 30 years, McVay will only be 61. The oldest coach in the NFL right now, Pete Carroll, is 66. Carroll is literally going to be coaching against someone more than half his age when the Rams and Seahawks meet in Week 5.
National anthem protests continue
San Francisco safety Eric Reid didn't suit up for Thursday's game, but he was on the field for the national anthem, and he ended up being the only player on San Francisco's sideline who protested before the game.
The fact that Reid was kneeling wasn't surprising; the 49ers safety has knelt during every game this season, and he was also one of several players who knelt with Colin Kaepernick when the former 49ers quarterback started his movement for racial equality last season.
On the Rams' end, linebacker Robert Quinn held his fist up during the anthem.
Quinn has raised his fist for the national anthem several times since the beginning of the preseason.
Fans clearly had better things to do on Thursday
Not even an abundance of cheap tickets could get fans to Levi's Stadium on Thursday. Just hours before the game kicked off at 5:30 p.m. local time, there. Unfortunately for the 49ers though, that wasn't enough to entice fans to make the 50-mile drive from San Francisco to Santa Clara.
When the game kicked off, Levi's Stadium looked like a ghost town, which I probably shouldn't say because that's an insult to ghost towns.
There's a good chance there were more empty seats than there were people at the game. Here's a crowd shot from another angle that might even be worse than the first angle.
By the way, one fan actually found some cobwebs on his seat, so maybe calling Levi's Stadium a ghost town actually made sense.
The thousands of fans who didn't attend the game are probably going to regret it when they see how this thing played out. The moral of the story here is that the next time you see NFL tickets for $14, you should probably buy them.
Color Rush returns
If you've watched any "Thursday Night Football" over the past two years, then you know it's the one night of the week where you have to mentally prepare yourself for the brightly-colored jerseys that are going to take over your television.
For this week's game, the Rams decided to wear one of the brightest forms of yellow known to man.
On the other hand, the 49ers went with a color rush uniform that wasn't bright at all, and that's mostly because it was all black.
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