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Week 17 Game Recap: St. Louis Rams 16, San Francisco 49ers 19


What you need to know

St. Louis Rams

The Rams lost in overtime 19-16 to the 49ers after a Greg Zuerlein field goal was blocked. Todd Gurley was inactive with a toe injury. Tre Mason was ineffective filling in but found the end zone. Tavon Austin was the centerpiece of the Rams offense on the ground and in the air.

San Francisco 49ers

In the passing game, Gabbert channeled Houdini at times. Most other times, his gaudy yardage number was the result of wide-open receivers, open-field runners after an easy catch, miscues by the Rams' defensive backs, and schematic errors by St. Louis at the worst times. In the running game, San Francisco ended up with an above-average yards per carry, but that was primarily due to DuJuan Harris once again running for large gains thanks to wide-open lanes created by the 49ers' offensive line. In the end, San Francisco won this game, but their offenses stats were almost entirely misleading.

St. Louis Rams

QB Case Keenum, 71 offensive snaps, Pass: 22 - 37 - 231 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - 2 - 0
Keenum had 22 completions on 37 attempts for 231 yards. Early 1st quarter, Keenum completed a 54 yard pass to Kenny Britt. On the play, Keenum hit Britt running in-stride down the middle of the field. Mid 2nd quarter, Keenum led a 12 play-66 yard drive which ended with a field goal. During the dive, Keenum completed passes of 12 yards to Brian Quick, 11 yards to Wes Welker and 9 yards to Tavon Austin. At halftime, Keenum had 126 passing yards. During the 3rd quarter, Keenum led a 14 play-46 yard drive which ended with a missed field goal. During the drive, Keenum completed passes of 5 yards and 12 yards to Kendricks, 9 yards to Britt, 7 yards to Austin, and Cunningham for 11 yards. In overtime, Keenum led a 12 play-51 yard drive which ended with a blocked field goal. On the drive, Keenum completed passes of 6 yards to Kendricks, 18 yards to Britt, and 13 yards to Cunningham.

RB Tre Mason, 36 offensive snaps, Rush: 18 - 44 - 1
Tre Mason had 18 rushes for 44 yards and 1 touchdown. Mason had little room to run throughout the game. Early in the 1st quarter, Mason ran up the middle and fumbled before the Rams recovered the ball. Late 2nd quarter on 2nd and goal, Mason ran a HB pass option to the right for a 4 yard touchdown run. On the play, Mason looked as if he was going to pass the ball before keeping it and running into the end zone for the touchdown. In overtime, Mason ran up the middle and fought for a 11 yard gain.

RB Benny Cunningham, 22 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 38 - 0, Rec: 3 - 34 - 0 (3 targets)
Benny Cunningham had 4 rushes for 38 yards with 3 receptions for 34 yards. Late 2nd quarter, Cunningham ran up the middle before cutting to the left sideline for a 40 yard gain. Late 3rd quarter, Cunningham caught a screen pass and ran for a 11 yard reception. Late 4th quarter, Cunningham caught a screen pass and ran for a 10 yard reception. In overtime, Cunningham caught a screen pass for a 13 yard reception.

WR Tavon Austin, 61 offensive snaps, Rush: 6 - 32 - 0, Rec: 5 - 30 - 0 (8 targets)
Tavon Austin had 5 receptions for 30 yards with 6 rushes for 32 yards. Early 1st quarter, Austin ran up the middle before bouncing to the right sideline and cutting back to the middle of the field for a 13 yard gain. Late 1st quarter, Austin ran a curl-route for a 7 yard reception. Early 2nd quarter, Austin caught a screen pass and ran for a 7 yard reception. On the next play, Austin caught another screen pass for a 10 yard reception. Mid 2nd quarter, Austin ran an end-around for a 4 yard gain. A few plays later, Austin ran a curl-route for a 9 yard reception. Early 3rd quarter, Austin caught a screen pass for a 7 yard reception.

WR Kenny Britt, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 81 - 0 (5 targets)
Kenny Britt had 3 receptions for 81 yards. Early 1st quarter, Britt ran a vertical-route for a 54 yard reception. On the play, Britt ran undefended down the middle of the field. Early 3rd quarter on 3rd and 5, Britt ran a comeback-route for a 9 yard reception. In overtime, Britt ran a crossing-route for a 18 yard reception.

WR Brian Quick, 30 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 23 - 0 (5 targets)
Brian Quick had 2 receptions for 23 yards. Early 2nd quarter, Quick ran a crossing-route for a 11 yard reception. Mid 2nd quarter, Quick ran a slant for a 12 yard reception.

WR Wes Welker, 13 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 16 - 0 (3 targets)
Wes Welker had 2 receptions for 16 yards. Mid 2nd quarter, Welker caught a screen pass and ran for a 11 yard reception. Late 4th quarter, Welker caught a screen pass for a 5 yard reception.

TE Lance Kendricks, 48 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 37 - 0 (5 targets)
Lance Kendricks had 5 receptions for 37 yards. Early 1st quarter, Kendricks ran a curl-route for a 8 yard reception. A couple of plays later, Kendricks ran an out-route for a 6 yard reception. Early 3rd quarter, Kendricks caught a screen pass for a 5 yard reception. A couple of plays later, Kendricks caught another screen pass and ran for a 12 yard reception. In overtime, Kendricks ran a curl-route for a 6 yard reception.


San Francisco 49ers

QB Blaine Gabbert, 82 offensive snaps, Pass: 28 - 44 - 354 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 7 - 7 - 0
Wait a second: Gabbert threw for over 350 yards in this game? Girl, you know it's true. The thing is that 244 of those yards came on only eight pass plays, and five of those eight were successful for reasons other than Gabbert himself. Example No. 1: On his 33-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin, the defender fell down at the top of the route. Example No. 2: Quinton Patton's 33-yard catch and run in overtime was the result of a negative-2-yard catch, and a 35-yard run. Example No. 3: DuJuan Harris' 31-yard reception came on a screen pass. Example No. 4: Torrey Smith's 31-yard reception doesn't happen unless cornerback Janoris Jenkins slips on the turf in coverage. Example No. 5: Gabbert's overtime pass to Vance McDonald resulted in a 24-yard gain thanks to 24 yards of run-after-the-catch. All in all, that's 154 passing yards of which Gabbert had zero to minimal influence. He threw for 354 against the Rams, so this math leaves 200 yards outstanding. And yes, Gabbert gets credit for manufacturing most, if not all, of it. That includes perhaps the signature play of the 49ers' season: Gabbert's desperation heave to Boldin for 27 yards after narrowly -- miraculously, even! -- escaping the Rams' pass rush with two minutes left in fourth quarter.

RB DuJuan Harris, 47 offensive snaps, Rush: 16 - 67 - 0, Rec: 8 - 86 - 0 (12 targets)
As a runner, Harris had the same kind of boom-bust game he had last week, perhaps even more so: Of his 61 rushing yards, 47 came on one carry. And the similarities don't end there. As was the case against Detroit in Week 16, Harris' longest run came on an inside handoff out of a shotgun formation, with San Francisco's offensive line parting the Red (and Gold) Sea. To wit, he wasn't even touched this time until he had gained 45 of the 47 yards. As a receiver, Harris largely assumed the role of "dump-off target extraordinaire" that Jarred Hayne filled last week. That said, and this may come as a shock, but his longest receiving gain (31 yards) came on a screen pass where -- wait for it -- he wasn't touched until 25 yards after the catch.

RB Mike Davis, 27 offensive snaps, Rush: 10 - 34 - 0, Rec: 2 - 15 - 0 (3 targets)
Like DuJuan Harris, Davis' production was mostly a byproduct of good run-blocking: 22 of his 34 rush yards came on two rushes behind an offensive line that cleared out open space. Unlike Harris, however, when San Francisco called Davis' number, the 49ers' offensive intelligentsia made sure the run-blocking scheme was power, not zone. To wit, Davis' longest run, a 13-yard scamper in the middle of the first quarter, involved a lead-blocking Bruce Miller, and there was no contact between the time Davis got the handoff and the time he was tackled.

WR Torrey Smith, 62 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 61 - 0 (8 targets)
Boom-bust Torrey Smith reared his ugly head once again in this game. With the 49ers facing 2nd-and-12 down 3 points to start the fourth quarter, Blaine Gabbert had Smith wide open on a slant route, and Smith treated the ball like a hot potato. The very next play, Smith drew a defensive holding penalty on a route that had no chance. Five minutes of game time later, Smith somehow found himself open on a corner route even though St. Louis had five defenders covering three receivers. After slipping, cornerback Janoris Jenkins wasn't able to recover his position in time, so Smith's reception went for 31 yards.

WR Anquan Boldin, 63 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 71 - 1 (8 targets)
After 16 weeks of failed bubble screens to Boldin, his first target was -- wait for it -- a bubble screen that gained 1 yard. Boldin's second target was his statistical highlight of the game, although there wasn't much personal skill involved. Lined up outside the numbers of a twin left formation (which has been exceedingly rare for him during his San Francisco tenure) in 22 personnel (i.e., 2 running backs, 2 wide receivers, 1 tight end), Boldin ran a skinny post against Janoris Jenkins' man-to-man coverage. He got zero separation on his route, but Jenkins slipped on the Levi's Stadium turf at the top of it, so he was able to catch the pass and waltz 15 yards into the end zone for an easy touchdown. I'd mention his late fourth-quarter reception that will be included in all Blaine Gabbert highlight reels from here to eternity, but a desperation heave that Boldin just happened to be the recipient of shouldn't be construed as a reflection of his own ability or performance.

WR Quinton Patton, 31 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 33 - 0 (2 targets)
Patton had only one catch (and only two targets), but it essentially won the game. With four minutes left in overtime, and just outside Phil Dawson's range, Blaine Gabbert made a sight adjustment based on the Rams' blitz look and the 9-yard cushion that cornerback Tramon Williams was giving Patton outside the numbers in a four-receiver set. At the snap, Gabbert immediately threw Patton's way. After the catch, Patton cut inside, juked strong safety Maurice Alexander, then juked free safety Rodney McLeod 8 yards further downfield, and then sprinted towards the end zone. If there was any nit to pick on the play, it's that, despite being a wide receiver in full sprint, Patton was actually caught from behind by defensive tackle (!!!) Ernie Sims.

TE Vance McDonald, 70 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 37 - 0 (5 targets)
For all of his targets, and most all of the routes he ran, McDonald was matched up against strong safety Maurice Alexander. His first reception was on a short out route, but Alexander's tight man-to-man coverage allowed him to tackle McDonald immediately. His second reception was on another short out, but this time McDonald had room to run after the catch because Alexander was in zone. His final reception saw Alexander once again in man-to-man, but McDonald was lined up next to Blaine Gabbert in the pistol formation, so he got a free release on his flat route. Alexander was delayed in his coverage for a moment by Quinton Patton's crossing route, which give McDonald several yards of separation, thereby allowing him to pick up an additional 7 yards after the catch. Finally, with respect to McDonald's incomplete targets, both were the result of "random" circumstances throwing off the timing between quarterback and receiver: On one, he slipped; on the other, he was the victim of illegal contact that went unpenalized.