The Los Angeles Rams moved into early pole position in the NFC West with a brilliant offensive display in a 41-39 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
The Rams held a 41-26 lead in the fourth quarter and survived two late San Francisco touchdowns thanks to a failed two-point conversion and fourth-down sack after the 49ers recovered an onside kick.
Los Angeles is 2-1 after the intra-divisional battle thanks largely to the trio of offensive stars in quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley and wide receiver Sammy Watkins. They combined for all five of the Rams' touchdowns, as the 49ers had no answer against the pass or run.
San Francisco can take solace in knowing it scored its first touchdown of the season and battled back, but it dropped to 0-3.
It was no surprise the Rams scored so much given their final totals. Gurley posted 113 rushing yards, 36 receiving yards and three touchdowns, Goff threw for 292 yards and three touchdowns, and Watkins hauled in two touchdowns and 106 receiving yards. Robert Woods was impressive with 108 receiving yards even though he didn't find the end zone.
San Francisco countered with 84 rushing yards and two touchdowns from Carlos Hyde, 332 passing yards and three total touchdowns from Brian Hoyer and 142 receiving yards from Pierre Garcon.
The individual stat lines tell the story of the offensive dominance but not the full picture of how tense the final quarter was in the back-and-forth shootout.
Watkins' 13-yard touchdown reception and the ensuing extra point made it 41-26 with less than nine minutes remaining, but Trent Taylor caught a touchdown and Hyde scored his second touchdown—both of which came on fourth-down runs—to pull the 49ers within two just before the two-minute warning.
The Rams appeared to clinch the win when they stopped the two-point conversion, but San Francisco recovered a brilliantly placed onside kick from Robbie Gould.
The 49ers couldn't take advantage, though, thanks to Aaron Donald's sack on 4th-and-20 after a critical offensive pass interference call on Taylor.
San Francisco wouldn't have even needed the two-point conversion had Gould made his extra point following Garrett Celek's touchdown catch earlier in the fourth.
The Rams' victory was a change of pace from the recent matchups between these teams, as ESPN Stats & Info illustrated heading into the game:
While San Francisco deserves credit for its comeback, Thursday's contest couldn't have started in much worse fashion for the home team. Gurley scored three touchdowns in the first half, including one in the final minute of the second quarter that helped give the Rams a 24-13 halftime advantage.
CBS Sports noted it took Gurley fewer than three games to match last year's touchdown total:
His first touchdown came on the second play from scrimmage after Hoyer threw an interception to Nickell Robey-Coleman on the first play. What's more, Joe Fann of the 49ers' official website noted Hyde suffered an early hip injury, although he returned and nearly spearheaded the comeback in the second half.
Hoyer did redeem himself after the interception with a rushing score—San Francisco's first touchdown of the season—and 332 yards through the air, but he couldn't match his counterpart's consistency.
Goff didn't throw an interception, as San Francisco's defense was largely hopeless against the Rams attack, allowing scores on seven of Los Angeles' first eight possessions. New head coach Sean McVay has instituted a formidable offensive turnaround:
Even with the Rams flying on offense, the 49ers remained within striking distance because of their work inside the 2-yard line on both sides of the field in the third quarter.
It looked as if Los Angeles would put the game away after Watkins made an incredible over-the-shoulder catch against double coverage on a deep ball to move inside the red zone, but San Francisco's defense stopped Gurley at the 1-yard line later in the drive to hold the Rams to a field goal.
Hyde scored on the ensuing possession on his third straight run from the Rams' 1-yard line.
That set the stage for the dramatic fourth quarter, which also included a Pharoh Cooper lost fumble on the Rams' kickoff return before Hyde scored just before the two-minute warning.