Sunday's NFL: 49ers dismantle Rams to remain unbeaten
Los Angeles — The Los Angeles Rams ran the ball on their first seven consecutive plays, marching straight through San Francisco’s defense for 65 yards and a touchdown.
“That definitely hits you on a personal level,” 49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. “I’m pretty sure a lot of guys took it personally.”
The Niners’ defense vowed to spend the rest of a memorable Sunday making up for that embarrassment. And with a fourth-down stop on the goal line several minutes later, San Francisco completely changed the direction of this NFC West rivalry.
Jimmy Garoppolo passed for 243 yards and ran for a touchdown, and San Francisco remained unbeaten with a dominant defensive performance in a 20-7 victory over the struggling Rams.
George Kittle had eight catches for 103 yards for the Niners (5-0), but their tenacious defense did most of the work. San Francisco held Los Angeles’ once-unstoppable offense to 157 yards in coach Kyle Shanahan’s first victory over Rams coach Sean McVay in a game in which both California rivals were playing their starters.
“LA has gotten after us a lot the last couple of years, so it was a game for us to come out here and just show that we are back and for real,” Niners defensive lineman Solomon Thomas said.
These rivals are going in opposite directions after this one-sided showdown at the Coliseum. San Francisco stayed alongside New England as the NFL’s only unbeaten teams, while the Rams (3-3) are on their first three-game losing streak of McVay’s 2½-year tenure.
After enduring two miserable seasons while the Rams reached Super Bowl heights, the Niners were eager to reassert themselves in this classic NFL rivalry.
San Francisco won a defense-dominated game by thoroughly throttling the defending NFC champions’ once-impressive passing game. Jared Goff went 13 of 24 for a career-low 78 yards while failing to get comfortable behind a porous offensive line, and the Rams didn’t manage a completion longer than 12 yards while going 0 for 9 on third down and 0 for 4 on fourth down.
“We were running the ball so well early, and we were trying to stick with that,” Goff said. “We just never really got in a rhythm. Their defense was able to settle in, and that’s part of it.”
The game was still up for grabs when the Rams reached the San Francisco 1 on third down shortly before halftime, but the Niners smothered two straight running plays up the middle.
“It sparks everybody,” Garoppolo said. “Coaches, players, everybody is hollering on the sideline.”
Tevin Coleman rushed for an early touchdown for San Francisco, while Garoppolo was mostly effective despite two turnovers. The Niners didn’t score a touchdown in the final 27 minutes, but they’re off to their fourth 5-0 start in franchise history, and their first since 1990.
With Todd Gurley sitting out to rest his bruised thigh, Los Angeles couldn’t move the ball in its least productive performance of McVay’s tenure.
Robert Woods rushed for a touchdown on the opening drive for the Rams, who then managed 48 net yards on their next seven drives combined.
“We came out and started fast, but it comes back to consistency,” Woods said. “We look like a good offense sometimes, (and then) we look like a bad offense. We’re just not being consistent.”
The Niners’ offense wasn’t significantly better during a first half in which both teams turned the ball over at the opponents’ 1, but San Francisco capitalized on Rams rookie Darrell Henderson’s fumble on the opening snap of the second half for a short go-ahead TD drive capped by Garoppolo’s sneak.
San Francisco then took control, moving the ball deliberately and thoroughly shutting down the Rams. Garoppolo’s fumble was returned to the San Francisco 36 with 8:40 to play, but the Rams promptly turned it over on downs.
“After that, I had a feeling that if we just don’t turn it over, we’ll win this game,” Shanahan said. “I haven’t had that feeling very much in my career, and the defense definitely gave it to me the whole game.”
Pittsburgh 24, (at) L.A. Chargers 17: James Conner scored two touchdowns, Devin Bush (Michigan) recovered a pair of turnovers and Devlin Hodges won his first NFL start as the Steelers held off the Chargers.
Conner had his first game with both a rushing and receiving touchdown and accounted for 119 scrimmage yards (41 rushing, 78 receiving).
Hodges, who was elevated into the starting spot after Mason Rudolph suffered a concussion last week against Baltimore, didn’t look fazed. He completed 15 of 20 for 132 yards and benefited from a running game that helped control the clock. Benny Snell led the way with 75 yards on 17 carries for the Steelers (2-4).
Bush forced turnovers on the Chargers second and third drives. The rookie linebacker scored his first NFL touchdown when he scooped up a backward pass from Philip Rivers that Melvin Gordon was unable to handle and went 9 yards to give the Steelers a 7-0 lead. Bush got his second turnover four plays later when he intercepted a Rivers’ pass that was deflected by defensive end Tyson Alualu at the line of scrimmage. That would lead to Conner’s first TD.
Houston 31, (at) Kansas City 24: Deshaun Watson threw for 280 yards and a touchdown while running for two more, outdueling Chiefs counterpart Patrick Mahomes in a matchup of former first-round picks and leading the Texans to victory.
Carlos Hyde added 116 yards rushing and a touchdown against the team that traded him to Houston (4-2) before the start of the season. DeAndre Hopkins hauled in nine passes for 55 yards.
None was bigger than his last, when the Texans star made a sliding grab on fourth-and-3 from the Kansas City 27 with just under 2 minutes to go. That allowed Houston to run out the clock and deal the Chiefs (4-2) their second consecutive loss — both at Arrowhead Stadium.
Mahomes, who was selected two spots ahead of Watson in the 2017 draft, finished with 273 yards passing and three touchdowns, though he also threw his first interception of the season.
Star wide receiver Tyreek Hill returned to action for the first time since Week 1, when he broke his collarbone, to catch five passes for 80 yards and two of the Chiefs’ scores.
Seattle 32, (at) Cleveland 28: Chris Carson scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 3:30 left, Russell Wilson threw two TD passes and ran for one and Seattle rallied past mistake-prone Cleveland, improving to 3-0 on the road for the first time in 39 years.
The Seahawks (5-1) gave up touchdowns on Cleveland’s first three possessions before storming back.
Wilson connected with Jaron Brown for two scores, and Seattle’s cool quarterback scampered 16 yards for a TD. The Seahawks last won their first three road games in 1980, when they went 4-12.
The Browns (2-4) were hurt by their own miscues. They couldn’t overcome four turnovers, a blocked punt or quarterback Baker Mayfield’s hip injury and fell to 0-3 at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Mayfield threw three interceptions, raising his NFL-leading total to 11. Trying to bring the Browns back late, Mayfield, who went to the locker room in the third quarter to be evaluated, was picked off by Seattle’s K.J. Wright with 2:41 remaining.
New Orleans 13, (at) Jacksonville 6: Teddy Bridgewater found Jared Cook for a 4-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter, and New Orleans held on to beat Jacksonville and improve to 4-0 without injured starter Drew Brees.
Coming off a 300-yard, four-touchdown performance against Tampa Bay, Bridgewater was less effective against the Jaguars (2-4). But he did enough for New Orleans’ defense.
Gardner Minshew was sacked twice, hurried often and threw his first interception as a starter. The rookie sensation completed 14 of 29 passes for 163 yards and was held without a touchdown for the first time this season.
Bridgewater was 24 of 36 passing for 240 yards for the Saints (5-1).
Michael Thomas had eight receptions for 89 yards, and Alvin Kamara finished with 31 yards rushing while playing through an ankle injury.
(At) Baltimore 23, Cincinnati 17: Lamar Jackson ran for a career-high 152 yards and a touchdown, threw for 236 yards and guided Baltimore past hapless Cincinnati.
Jackson carried 19 times, including three kneel-downs, and finished tantalizingly short of Michael Vick’s single-game record of 173 yards rushing by a quarterback.
Jackson now has three career 100-yard rushing games, tied with Billy Kilmer for most by a quarterback in his first two seasons since 1950.
Regardless of where Jackson went, the Bengals (0-6) were usually a step behind. Jackson was also adept when throwing, going 21-for-33 without an interception.
Cincinnati jumped on top when Brandon Wilson took the opening kickoff 92 yards for a score, but Jackson responded quickly. Baltimore (4-2) finished with 497 yards of offense, and the Ravens retained sole possession of first place in the AFC North.
Carolina 37, Tampa Bay 26: In London, Christian McCaffrey scored two touchdowns and Carolina turned five interceptions by Jameis Winston into 17 points as the Panthers beat Tampa Bay.
After starting the season with two straight losses with hobbled Cam Newton at quarterback, the Panthers (4-2) have been on a roll with Kyle Allen at quarterback thanks to McCaffrey’s big plays and an opportunistic defense that had a franchise record-tying seven takeaways on the day.
Both of those factors came up big on Carolina’s first trip to London in front of a large contingent of Panthers fans for what was designated as a home game for the Bucs (2-4).
Winston did most of his damage after the game got out of hand late, throwing for 400 yards with a 10-yard TD pass to Cameron Brate in the fourth quarter that gave him 100 touchdown passes in his career.
Washington 17, (at) Miami 16: Rookie Terry McLaurin caught two touchdown passes and Washington stopped Miami’s two-point conversion attempt with 6 seconds left in a matchup between winless teams.
Adrian Peterson more than doubled his season rushing total with 118 yards for Bill Callahan in his first game as interim coach. Washington intercepted Josh Rosen twice and sacked him five times before he was benched at the start of the fourth quarter with the Dolphins trailing 17-3.
Rosen’s replacement, Ryan Fitzpatrick, sparked a rally and led two touchdown drives, including a 75-yard march that began with 2:02 left. But after Fitzpatrick hit DeVante Parker for an 11-yard score to cut the deficit to one point, rookie coach Brian Flores decided to go for two.
Running back Kenyan Drake dropped Fitzpatrick’s quick pass with several defenders between him and the goal line.
Washington (1-5) looked like a different team after firing coach Jay Gruden, but the caliber of the opposition had something to do with that. The Dolphins (0-5) remained winless under Flores but helped their chances of securing the No. 1 draft pick in April.
(At) Denver 16, Tennessee 0: Denver’s swarming defense sent Marcus Mariota to the bench and Tennessee to its fourth loss in five games.
The Broncos (2-4) had seven sacks in a game for the first time since their 2015 Super Bowl season and they picked off three passes.
Chris Harris Jr. and Justin Simmons intercepted Mariota, who was sacked three times and was replaced by Ryan Tannehill after Simmons’ interception led to a 2-yard touchdown run by Phillip Lindsay that made it 13-0. Tannehill was sacked four times and picked off by Kareem Jackson on Tennessee’s final drive, which reached the Denver 5-yard line before two offensive penalties and a sack pushed the Titans back to the 30-yard line.
Both Denver and Tennessee (2-4) were 2 of 14 on third down, leading to 17 punts.
(At) Arizona 34, Atlanta 33: Kyler Murray threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns and Arizona built a big lead over Atlanta, lost it, and then rallied to win.
Atlanta looked like it would tie the game with 1:53 left after Matt Ryan hit Devonta Freeman on a 12-yard touchdown pass, but 44-year-old Matt Bryant missed left on the extra point, and the Cardinals ran out the clock from there.
The Cardinals (2-3-1) took a 34-27 lead with 5:12 remaining on David Johnson’s 14-yard touchdown catch from Murray. Johnson made a great adjustment to his route on the slightly underthrown ball, catching the ball between two defenders.
The Cardinals won at home for the first time since last Oct. 28.
The Falcons (1-5) have lost four straight games.