DeMeco Ryans is due for a promotion. It appears the defensive coordinator isn't long for San Francisco because of how effective his unit has been in the first month of the season, and Monday night stands as his best showing yet. Ryans capitalized on a weakened Rams offensive line by dialing up plenty of pressure with a variety of attacks, overwhelming the undermanned Rams to the tune of seven sacks. Ryans' defense reduced the Los Angeles offense to rubble, limiting the Rams to 257 total yards and keeping them out of the end zone entirely. When things got close late, rising star Talanoa Hufanga delivered the knockout punch with a fantastic pick-six. We've seen enough to know the 49ers won't always get the best performances from Jimmy Garoppolo, but if the defense remains this effective, they'll have a shot in every game -- and Ryans will find himself on the head-coaching interview circuit in 2023.
The Rams' offense is in shambles. Widely seen as an offensive genius, Sean McVay hasn't found an answer for Los Angeles' struggles with the football. The offensive line has been decimated by injuries to the point Matthew Stafford chose to throw to Cooper Kupp -- his only trusted target -- in double coverage on a crucial third-and-10 instead of waiting one more beat to look to Allen Robinson, resulting in an incompletion. Robinson, meanwhile, continues to struggle to find a place in this offense, and Los Angeles hasn't shown much of an offensive rhythm. Kupp is all Stafford has to work with in this offense right now. And the running game remains absent, gaining just 57 yards as a team. That's deserving of a place on the side of a milk carton, and is the only explanation for McVay calling three straight passes in a goal-to-go situation from San Francisco's 8-yard line.
Deebo Samuel is back to his old self. He never truly left, but after the 49ers failed to do anything of note just a week ago, they took their second straight prime-time game and ran with it. Samuel did so literally, catching a short pass from Garoppolo (which was nearly intercepted), then becoming a tackle-breaking, nightmare-inducing machine, barreling down the field like a runaway 18-wheeler with a convoy of blockers coming along for the ride. The yards-after-catch total on that play was 52, boosting Garoppolo's final line on a night in which Kyle Shanahan wisely relied on a short passing game and let the targets do the dirty work. Samuel had plenty to show for it, finishing with six catches for 115 yards and a touchdown. As Garoppolo said afterward, the YAC Bros. are back.
This is a Talanoa Hufanga appreciation point. We mentioned him in the first point tonight, but Hufanga has earned his own note. No player on the 49ers' defense has been better through the first month of the season, which made Monday night a little strange because Hufanga hadn't made a significant play in the first three quarters. As it turns out, he was saving his best for last. Clinging to an eight-point lead in the final quarter, Hufanga perfectly read a receiver screen, jumping Stafford's pass intended for Kupp, juggling it and securing the ball just as he took off for the end zone. Hufanga's pick-six put the Rams to bed and the rest of the football world on notice. You no longer have to watch the 49ers every week to know Hufanga is a difference-maker -- and one of my favorite players to watch in the entire league in 2022.
The Rams can't survive the Bay Area once again. Monday night marked Los Angeles' seventh-straight regular-season loss to the division-rival 49ers. They're remarkably bad when heading to the greater San Francisco area, falling to 3-11-1 in road games against the 49ers since 2008. That's well before the start of the Sean McVay era, but no matter the coach, quarterback or home city (they were headquartered in St. Louis until 2016), the Rams just can't get the job done in San Francisco. Monday night was only one game, but it stands as a point of concern for the Rams, who at 2-2 are tied with the 49ers and the rest of the NFC West, but have a lot of questions to answer going forward. It's difficult to defend a Super Bowl title -- one earned in part by taking down the 49ers at home in the NFC Championship Game -- and performances like this one don't inspire much confidence.
NFL Research: Matthew Stafford threw his 28th career pick-six Monday night, tying him with Hall of Famer Joe Namath for the third-most thrown by any player since 1950. Stafford also failed to throw a touchdown pass for a second straight game, the first time he's done so in consecutive contests since Weeks 15-16 of the 2016 season.
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