The Los Angeles Rams' fake field goal wasn't a poorly designed play, or even a bad idea from Sean McVay. It's just that the San Francisco 49ers were ready for it and shut it down.
It was a microcosm of Monday night. The Rams added a lot of superstar talent, but on Monday night the 49ers were the team that was ready to play and had a plan to win. They executed that plan to perfection too.
The Rams were sloppy on offense and got pushed around on defense. The 49ers looked like the superior team all night as they beat the Rams 31-10.
The signature play was a fake field goal near the end of the second quarter. The Rams were hoping for Tyler Higbee to sneak out on a corner route. But Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, a little-used second-year linebacker, covered it like he expected it from the snap. He was clearly ready for a fake and ran step for step with Higbee. Johnny Hekker, the Rams' punter and holder for field goals, didn't have Higbee open and was rushed into a short throw to his emergency outlet that was stopped well short of a first down.
The 49ers were better and more prepared, at least on Monday night.
49ers control game on the ground
It takes more than just big-name veterans to win football games, not that the 49ers don't have some blue-chip players themselves.
The 49ers had a clear plan. They dedicated themselves to running the ball until they were forced to throw it. They often used motion to get blocks on the perimeter, allowing them to run away from Aaron Donald or at least get him moving laterally.
It worked well. San Francisco controlled the ball most of the first half, running 22 times for 89 yards. They were great on third down, mostly because they were rarely in third-and-long, a situation in which Donald becomes even more menacing. Time of possession was heavily in favor of the 49ers. San Francisco held the ball for nearly 40 minutes, which kept the Rams' offensive talent on the sideline.
The 49ers got the one huge play they needed on defense, when Higbee mishandled a quick pass and went right to Jimmie Ward, who returned it 27 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
At that point the Rams had to press a bit, including that failed fake field goal.
Rams have to get desperate
The Rams probably knew, trailing 21-7, that field goals weren't going to win the game. Not with the way the 49ers were playing. Matthew Stafford got nothing going on offense all night. The Rams needed to gamble.
The problem was the fake was defended perfectly.
— NFL (@NFL) November 16, 2021
The Rams have had some rough games this season. They're still 7-3, and have the upside of a Super Bowl contender. Adding Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller over the past few weeks will pay off. But like all other contenders this season, they're capable of some awful efforts. Monday night was one.
Give the 49ers credit. Kyle Shanahan has been criticized the past few weeks as the 49ers struggled to a 3-5 record going into Monday night's game. He and his coaching staff had the right plan against the Rams. By the time Deebo Samuel broke free for a 40-yard touchdown, it was 31-7 and an absolute rout. The 49ers have a five-game winning streak over the Rams.
The Rams will bounce back. They have too much talent not to. But if you thought the Rams were the team that can look like a championship contender week in and week out, they're not it either.