What We Saw: Week 18

Week 18 was one of the craziest of the season thanks to Jacksonville's stout defense

49ers @ Rams

Final Score: 49ers 27, Rams 24 (OT)

Writer: Chris Sanzo (@Doombot12_FFย on Twitter)


If you would rather hear the rundown from George Kittle, I’ll give you the chance to scroll down and grab it now. Just ignore the next paragraphs until you get to him.


This was a tale of two halves. The Rams would dominate the first half, doubling the 49ers in time of possession, and scoring the first 17 points of the game. The 49ers, in a win-or-go-home game, would outscore the Rams 21-7 in the 2nd half, mirroring the dominance by way of time of possession and nearly tripling the Rams total yards 287-103. The difference was how the passing game was executed around the pressure from the opposing defensive line. On their first possession, Matthew Stafford was able to move the ball on long 3rd downs but ultimately was sacked on 3rd down in the red zone, keeping a 15 play, 67-yard opening drive to just a field goal. They were able to find cracks in the secondary and move the ball downfield on the backs of Stafford and Cooper Kupp, but then the 2nd half happened.

The 2nd half was Jimmy Garoppolo‘s turn. He would outgain Stafford 176 – 76 in the air and Kupp would be held to just two catches and 34 yards. The 49ers sped up their offense in terms of execution and the Rams would be forced into short drives, keeping their defense on the field for long stretches. San Francisco doubled up the Rams 14-7 in 1st downs and converted on five of seven 3rd downs. A bad throw by Jimmy in the red zone and a great play by Jalen Ramsey, would end as the blemish on the half as that play would keep points off the board. Deebo Samuel as you’ll see, would have himself quite the full game.

In overtime, the Rams were still as flat as they were in regulation and after a Robbie Gould field goal, Ambry Thomas would seal the 49ers’ 6th consecutive win against the Rams on an interception, San Francisco 27, Los Angeles 24.



San Francisco 49ers




Jimmy Garoppolo: 23/32, 316 yards, TD, 2 INT, 3 sacks | 1 carry, 1 yard


Jimmy G was rough early. San Francisco had -4 yards total yards at the nine minute mark in the 2nd quarter. Both teams were having protection issues and Jimmy was having trouble adjusting. He was moving away from contact well, but didn’t really look to scramble as much as he may have previously, especially in the face of the rush, but managed to limit the sack total.



He looked mostly unfazed by the thumb but there were some distance and timing issues that still could have had something to do with it. It’s impossible to know. In the 2nd half, everything turned around. Kyle Shanahan was calling quicker developing plays to get the ball out of his hand and they were mixing in play action and deep shots which opened up the run game for Elijah Mitchell to at least pick up some important short downs. The passing game got an unexpected bump in production, as this TD was delivered beautifully on the run to Jauan Jennings which tied the game in the 3rd.



Running Backs


Elijah Mitchell: 21 carries, 85 yards

JaMycal Hasty: 1 carry, 4 yards | 3 targets, 2 receptions, 21 yards


As previously mentioned, the line was having issues all game and Mitchell was having trouble finding room to run. The 49ers only ran 17 plays in the first half so that would be another great reason for him struggling off four attempts. In the 2nd half, he was able to reach a more respectable 4.4 ypc to end with 85 yards. JaMycal Hasty had the best opportunity of any player in the first few drives, but after beating a defender on a stutter step, Jimmy underthrew him. Had he hit him in stride, there’s at least a chance he’s still running. As it was, Hasty still could have provided a big play to get the offense moving if he at least just secures the catch.



The run game did get a boost in the 2nd half when they recorded their longest run of the day…



Wide Receivers/Tight Ends


Deebo Samuel: 6 targets, 4 receptions, 95 yards | 8 carries, 45 yards, TD | 1/1, 24 yards, TD

Brandon Aiyuk: 7 targets, 6 receptions, 107 yards

George Kittle: 7 targets, 5 receptions, 10 yards

Jauan Jennings: 7 targets, 6 receptions, 94 yards, 2 TD

Trent Sherfield: 1 target, 1 reception, 13 yards

Travis Benjamin: 1 target


If you couldn’t tell, Deebo Samuel is not a wide receiver, he’s a weapon. Though 4th on the team in targets, one behind the trio of Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, and Jauan Jennings, he was 2nd in yards with 95, ran in a TD, averaged nearly six ypc, and threw a TD to round it all out. He plays every down with an unmatched fire that is his greatest intangible. With the 2nd half resurgence of Brandon Aiyuk to the pass catching rotation, Deebo is free to move about the formation and wreak havoc, much like he did in his rookie year. Aiyuk has already proven he can be the team’s number one if need be, and they’ll need balance from this group if they are to advance in the playoffs. You can see that Jimmy trusts Aiyuk now, unlike earlier in the year when the team was one dimensional in both the run and pass games. George Kittle played the security blanket role, but also stayed in to help with the pass rush.



It is really noticeable how well Jennings is coming along. Trent Sherfield has show some rapport with Trey Lance, but Jennings has been ascending regardless. When they move Deebo to RB, he is not just a forgotten 3rd target behind Aiyuk and Kittle, he is a legitimate threat on all depths.



Los Angeles Rams




Matthew Stafford:ย  21/32, 238 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT, 5 sacks


I still cannot believe how good a throw this is. He is throwing flat-footed because of the pressure in his face preventing him from stepping up and delivers it to the one spot his TE can get over the top and make the play.



Stafford was facing pressure all game as the no.1 graded Rams pass-blocking unit, per PFF, was manhandled from the whistle. They did their best to double and triple-team Nick Bosa, but the rest of the line was able to step up and take advantage, accumulating 13 hits on Stafford to go with their five sacks and eight tackles for loss.



When Stafford had a clean pocket, he was lethal. He consistently came up with the big throw when they needed it and wasn’t afraid to test the secondary. The connection he has with Cooper Kupp is real and even on throws like this TD, you can see the timing and trust. Just like with Higbee, he places the ball where only his receiver can get to it, throwing the ball before Kupp is even in his break, but accounting for the DBs sitting in the front of the end zone to fall back on the route. Had the protection held, this would have been a completely different game.



Running Backs


Sony Michel: 21 carries, 43 yards | 4 targets, 1 reception, 6 yards

Cam Akers: 5 carries, 3 yards | 3 targets, 3 receptions, 10 yards


It was a mostly quiet night for Sony Michel and it’s clear that Sean McVay was over committed to the run. There’s not much to say about his game except he was getting hit behind the line all night and was inefficient even in the passing game. During the national telecast, it was brought up multiple times that the Rams wanted to match the physicality of the 49ers. They did… at first. But it was unwise to play into the strength of the 49ers and ultimately cost them the game.

This is the one that really matters. Welcome back Cam Akers! What an impressive turnaround. It was great to see him on the field, though he like Michel, had no room to get going. Just getting back and through the game was the real test though.



Wide Receivers/Tight Ends


Cooper Kupp: 7 targets, 7 receptions, 118 yards, TD | 1 carry, 18 yards

Odell Beckham Jr: 5 targets, 2 receptions, 18 yards

Van Jefferson: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 31 yards

Tyler Higbee: 8 targets, 6 receptions, 55 yards, 2 TD

Ben Skowronek: 2 targets


Cooper Kupp and Matt Stafford have a connection that you normally find in pairings that have been playing together for years, not months. The 49ers pass rush was the only reason Kupp did not have a bigger day. When Stafford stepped into his throws, he had Kupp open all over the field.



It seemed that the Rams were going to have to play this game without Tyler Higbee as he hobbled off the field early in the 2nd quarter. It was so bad, he ended up catching a TD on the same drive. He would later score again paying off any fantasy owner that played him in their week 18 finals. Higbee played the role of WR2 for Stafford as the Rams had an abnormally successful game against a usually strong middle of the 49ers defense. Higbee also flashed better hands against San Francisco than he had all year, another small, but important positive for the Rams.



Odell Beckham Jr had a great catch on a 3rd and 12 on their opening drive but was kept quiet for the better portion of this one. He would add only one more catch in regulation, ending with 18 yards, and yet recorded more targets in overtime than he did in regulation. His 3rd target was the interception by Thomas to end the game.



Chris Sanzo (@Doombot12_FFย on Twitter)

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