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Week 16 Game Recap: San Francisco 49ers 22, Los Angeles Rams 21


What you need to know

San Francisco 49ers

The bigger big story is one you probably know already: Carlos Hyde suffered a season-ending MCL tear. The smaller big story that can only be told by watching the tape of San Francisco's offense was that, due to the superiority of the Rams' front seven vis-a-vis the 49ers' offensive line, Hyde and Shaun Draughn had little running room to work with, and Colin Kaepernick was stymied on every scramble attempt except for his 13-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. This combination completely neutered their offense for three-and-a-half quarters, but Los Angeles did them the favor of switching to a soft zone coverage with 10 minutes left and ahead 21-7 (which is weird given that hyperaggressive Gregg Williams is their defensive coordinator). In their ensuing two drives, San Francisco moved the ball with ease because receivers ran routes freely through the Rams' zones and there was minimal if any pressure from the Rams' pass rush. For the umpteenth time this season, their pass offense had success only when the opposing defense, either strategically or tactically, allowed them to do so.

Los Angeles Rams

Despite giving up an early lead on the first drive of the game, the Rams had built a comfortable 21-7 lead going into the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the Rams defense gave up two late touchdowns and a 2-point conversion to blow that lead. Jared Goff added two more interceptions and did not manage to break 100 yards passing on the day. Todd Gurley also continued his trend of sub 100-yard rushing games against one of the worst rush defenses in the NFL. The San Francisco 49ers only have 2 wins on the season and they have both come against this Rams team.

San Francisco 49ers

QB Colin Kaepernick, 75 offensive snaps, Pass: 28 - 38 - 266 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 6 - 15 - 1
Kaepernick struggled mightily until the Rams went into their prevent defense up 21-7 midway through the fourth quarter. From that point on, he went 13-of-18 for 122 yards and a touchdown pass, with 13 yards, a touchdown, and the game-winning two-point conversion added in on the ground. The problem beforehand was what it always seems to be for Kaepernick: An erratic arm coupled with a "one-read, then dump off or take off" style of quarterbacking. In this game, the Rams talented front seven easily neutralized the "take off" option. Aside from his 13-yard touchdown scramble, he took four sacks and gained only 2 yards on five other scrambles because a defensive lineman or linebacker was able to track him down before he could get out in open space. As for his passes, even including completed passes, he threw behind crossing receivers early and often. More egregious, however, was a badly overthrown interception that set up Los Angeles' ensuing one-play, go-ahead scoring drive; as well as missing two easy red-zone touchdowns on consecutive fourth-quarter plays. First, he badly underthrew a wide-open Garrett Celek. Then, he badly overthrew a wide-open Jeremy Kerley. If he's only going to throw the ball when his receivers are wide open, he can't be missing them so often when they are.

RB Shaun Draughn, 42 offensive snaps, Rush: 10 - 17 - 0, Rec: 6 - 48 - 0 (7 targets)
Draughn suffered from the same lack of running room that plagued Carlos Hyde in this game. The longest of his 10 runs went for only 3 yards. As a receiver, his first two receptions were the same exact play, one which the 49ers haven't used all year. He starts out lined up next to Colin Kaepernick in shotgun. Just prior to the snap, he motions wide so as to be running parallel to the line of scrimmage at the snap. With two wide receivers out there, it essentially becomes a standard bubble screen, with Kaepernick immediately delivering the ball to Draughn a couple of yards behind the line, and Draughn having two blockers in front of him for run-after-catch. One of these went for 8 yards; the other 9. Two of his other targets (one reception for 11 yards) also came on identical routes; this time the Texas route. It's a staple of the West Coast Offense that Chip Kelly, apparently, decided to feature somewhat out of the blue. Draughn's three other targets were either dumpoffs, came against the Rams' fourth-quarter prevent defense, or both.

RB Carlos Hyde, 31 offensive snaps, Rush: 13 - 38 - 0, Rec: 3 - 24 - 1 (3 targets)
Hyde's performance was hindered by the Rams' front not allowing much in the way of running room and tackling proficiently when they did. To wit, he gained over half of his scrimmage yards on three touches in the game's first six minutes. Working out of the pistol on San Francisco's first play, Hyde took a read-option handoff up the middle as designed. No lanes were open initially, but defensive end Eugene Sims had followed Colin Kaepernick outside, so a hole opened up off left tackle. Hyde bounced into said hole and ran for 14 yards, the final few of which he gained via running over safety T.J. McDonald like he was a slalom gate. After a short run, he closed out their next drive with a touchdown reception. Hyde ran a Texas route that linebacker Alec Ogletree overpursued to the flat. When Hyde cut his route back toward the middle of the field, he was wide open. Kaepernick delivered the ball in stride at the 15-yard line, and Hyde's elusiveness in open space did the rest, running away from one tackle and easily brushing off another at the goal line. After that, nothing eventful happened until his season ended prematurely when cornerback E.J. Gaines dove at his knees as he turned upfield after making a nice hands catch in the flat. The box score says he lost a fumble on the play, but it was more a case of dropping the ball in agony when his MCL got torn.

WR Rod Streater, 51 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 63 - 1 (7 targets)
Streater made the most of his opportunity to start in place of the newly IR'ed Quinton Patton. His first target was on a 3rd-down shallow crossing route through the Rams' zone that produced a tough 8-yard catch in traffic and a first down. His second target was also a shallow crossing route that should have also converted on 3rd down, but Colin Kaepernick threw the ball too far behind him. Accuracy wasn't an issue on Streater's next target, as his deep out route beat the Rams' Cover-2 and Kaepernick's sideline pass was perfectly thrown between the cornerback and safety. From here, the rest of Streater's targets came with Los Angeles playing soft coverage while nursing their fourth-quarter lead. In this span, he had 4 receptions for 38 yards and the game-winning touchdown. On the touchdown, Streater's slant route came open immediately against E.J. Gaines's off-man coverage, Kaepernick hit him in stride, which prevented Gaines from being able to tackle Streater before he reached the end zone.

WR Jeremy Kerley, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 62 - 0 (9 targets)
Through three quarters, Kerley had one catch for 12 yards on two targets. It wasn't until the Rams went into prevent mode up 21-7 midway through the fourth quarter that Kerley started contributing -- which is what you'd expect given that slot receivers do most of their damage against zone. His first target (and catch) in that time was on an intermediate corner route that got him wide open between the linebacker and safety. The second target fell incomplete because Colin Kaepernick threw the ball at least a yard behind him on a wide-open slant. The very next play, Kerley was wide open on a short out route, but this time Kaepernick's throw was true for a 13-yard gain. Kerley could have had another 13-yard gain later in that drive, this time for a touchdown, were it not for Kaepernick overthrowing him wide open in the end zone. Kerley was once again in the slot, once again ran unabated through the Rams' zone, once again found himself wide open between the linebacker and safety, and once again had to be thinking to himself after the play, "Kaep's trolling me, right? He's gotta be trolling me." Kerley's final three targets -- for two receptions and 16 yards -- were more of the same: What baseball aficionados would call "defensive indifference."

WR Aaron Burbridge, 38 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 15 - 0 (3 targets)
All three of Burbridge's targets came on third down. The first was a 13-yard catch on 3rd-and-3 in the second quarter. Motioning inside as the ball was snapped, Burbridge beat slot cornerback Blake Countess on a slant route and was able to haul in a pass thrown behind him. Later in the same drive, Burbridge ran a shallow cross from the rear of a bunch right formation and got open on 3rd-and-6. Colin Kaepernick was hit as he threw the pass, so Burbridge had to reach back for the catch rather than doing so in stride. This allowed cornerback E.J. Gaines to make the tackle short of a first down. Burbridge's final target came on 3rd-and-9 midway through the third quarter. The play wasn't designed to go to him, but the Rams' pass rush forced Kaepernick to roll out of the pocket to his right, and Burbridge's comeback route along the right sideline was his only desperation option. Burbridge caught the ball, but couldn't keep both feet in bounds.

WR Chris Harper, 37 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 1 - 0 (1 targets)
Harper's one and only target came just over a minute into the game. The play looked like a fake bubble screen designed to get Rod Streater open deep. The Rams didn't fall for it, and so what started as a decoy route turned into Kaepernick's dumpoff option when no one else was able to get open. Harper caught the ball, but got tackled immediately.

TE Garrett Celek, 59 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 39 - 0 (7 targets)
Celek could have had a much larger fantasy output in this game if not for Colin Kaepernick's erratic arm. He was open for 10 yards (or more) on his first target, having beaten safety Mark Barron, but Kaepernick overthrew him badly. After a 12-yard reception on a pick play targeting linebacker Alec Ogletree, Celek was once again the recipient of an overthrow, this time on a deep corner route that resulted in an interception. After beating safety T.J. McDonald on a pivot route for 12 yards on the first play of the second quarter, Celek didn't see another target -- a 3-yard reception -- until midway through the fourth quarter, when Los Angeles was playing prevent defense while nursing a 21-7 lead. His next target should have been a touchdown, as he was wide open on a corner route in the red zone for an easy walk-in score, but Kaepernick badly underthrew him. Celek's final target came during San Francisco's game-winning drive. He beat Ogletree's man-to-man coverage down the seam, and this time Kaepernick delivered a perfect throw in a tight window for 12 yards.


Los Angeles Rams

QB Jared Goff, 59 offensive snaps, Pass: 11 - 24 - 90 - 1 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 2 - 4 - 0
It has been trial by fire for Jared Goff after he took over for Case Keenum and the results have simply not been there. Goff threw one touchdown to backup tight end Tyler Higbee, but added two interceptions and could not consistently move the ball against the worst defense in the NFL. The touchdown pass came on a third and goal from the two-yard line. Goff went play action, dropped back, and waited until he could find Higbee over the middle. This put the Rams up 21-7 early in the 4th quarter. Goff did have to deal with losing his top receiving threat in Kenny Britt due to a shoulder injury, but even with him in the lineup, Goff was inaccurate and complacent. The Rams built a lead they felt comfortable with and then let up in the second half.

RB Todd Gurley, 50 offensive snaps, Rush: 23 - 67 - 1, Rec: 3 - 20 - 0 (3 targets)
Today was Gurley's best chance to have a big game and go over 100 yards rushing, but even facing the league's worst overall defense could not help. Gurley did manage to take the ball right up the middle for a 1-yard touchdown in the first quarter, but that was his only saving grace on the day. He was given the chance in the 4th quarter on the goal line again, but after two failed attempts the ball was eventually put in the air to Tyler Higbee. Gurley added another 30 yards receiving on the day, but with no Kenny Britt to stretch the field there was not a lot of room for Gurley anywhere.

WR Tavon Austin, 48 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 26 - 1, Rec: 2 - 14 - 0 (7 targets)
With the loss of Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin had a chance to step up and take over the offense. He was targeted a team-high 7 times but was unable to do anything with the extra targets. Jared Goff was off the mark on several throws and Austin had to find other ways to contribute. This came in the way of a 30-yard rushing touchdown. Austin took the handoff off tackle and went untouched into the end zone. If Britt is out next week, look for a significant bump in touches for Austin.

WR Kenny Britt, 31 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 15 - 0 (4 targets)
Kenny Britt was able to give the Rams their first 1000-yard receiver since 2007, but unfortunately, he was sidelined with a shoulder injury early in this one. It is the same shoulder that has gave him issues coming into the game. It is unknown whether or not he will play next week, but with nothing on the line, there would be no reason to risk further injury.

TE Lance Kendricks, 52 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 36 - 0 (4 targets)
Lance Kendricks again had a chance to step up this week with Kenny Britt leaving due to injury. Unfortunately, the big tight end just could not help his team put points on the board. He only managed three receptions and was a nonfactor in the red zone. The big catch came on a 24-yard fourth and two pass to set up first and goal for the Rams. Kendricks was a simple check down option but was able to take the blown coverage down the sideline for 24 yards.