Breaking Down 49ers Defensive Success Against The Rams


On Monday Night Football, to open the 2016 season, QB Blaine Gabbert and the San Francisco 49ers beat the odds and smashed the Los Angeles Rams by a walloping score of 28-0. That’s right, folks, the Gabbert-led 49ers dropped 28 points on what was supposedly supposed to be one of the best defensive teams in the NFL.

While the 28 points might be impressive, considering the 49ers finished in the red zone every opportunity they had, what might be more impressive is the 0 points put up by Los Angeles.

49ers vs. Rams Review: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Led by RB Todd Gurley, the Rams offense could not get anything going. The star running back, poised for a huge year following his 1,106 yard rookie season (in 13 games), had 17 carries for just 47 yards, yielding an average of 2.8 yards per carry.

Defensive Coordinator Jim O’Neil’s logic and defensive scheme were actually quite beautiful in their simplicity. The Rams’ QB Case Keenum, is, to be quite honest, not a good quarterback. So the 49ers focused their attention on Gurley, who is the heart of the offense.

By sending multiple defenders at him and plugging up the small holes he is usually able to burst through, Gurley was stuffed more than once. His longest run was 10 yards.

When Keenum had to throw the ball, on 3rd down and long, he could find his receivers. The Rams punted 10 times, the most of any team in week 1.

Other than holding Gurley to measly statistics, the 49ers’ defensive line also got to Keenum multiple times throughout the night. LB Ahmad Brooks, who is trying to bounce back to his glory days of 2013, barreled through his defender and savagely took down Keenum for a loss of 6 yards on 3rd and 8.

DT Arik Armstead also brought the pressure, but was not credited with the sack. Brooks is moving into the history books for the 49ers.

Some argue that the 49ers’ secondary is the strongest area of the team. Their secondary is filled with capable players such as FS Eric Reid, SS Antoine Bethea, CB Tramaine Brock, and, DB Jimmie Ward. 

The secondary surely showed up to play against the Ram. If it wasn’t enough that the 49ers defensive line was bringing the pressure, the secondary never got burned and they all kept their hands active, trying to disrupt any passes.

DE Quinton Dial deflected a Keenum throw in the second quarter, which yielded to a LB NaVorro Bowman interception. Other than that, the 49ers had 7 pass deflections. They would not be burned, and they would not allow the Rams’ receivers to make easy catches. Active hands were always making catches more difficult.

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) ORG XMIT: FXN

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) ORG XMIT: FXN

With 1:02 left in the third quarter, LB Ray-Ray Armstrong picked off Case Keenum to stop a drive that looked like it was going to culminate in at least a field goal for the Rams; he preserved the shut out by reading the passing lane perfectly. Keenum had all the time in the world, but Armstrong just beat his receiver to the spot.

O’Neil has devised an aggressive defensive scheme for the 49ers. Whether it was NaVorro Bowman obliterating his blockers to bring Gurley down in the back field, or the fantastic football IQ of the secondary, or the constant pressure the defensive line put on Keenum, the 49ers pitched a shut out. No matter who is the QB, that is a very difficult thing to do.

The defense was clutch, it was sharp, they committed no penalties, and they played the Rams exactly how they should have. If O’Neil can read teams this well, and everyone in the 49ers’ defense does their job, they may shock the league and lead the way for this young 49ers team.

Tej is a Bay Area native and Senior Staff writer for A devout San Francisco 49ers and Golden State Warriors fan, Tej is determined to get you the information you crave. His work has been featured on the FanSided Network, Bleacher Report, and Sports Illustrated.