- Expectations were low for this week's Thursday Night Football game, but the Rams and the 49ers—led by their young coaches—put on a show to remember.
Three quick thoughts from Rams 41, 49ers 39:
1. Just like we all predicted—ahem—49ers-Rams was the most entertaining primetime game so far this NFL season. Ratings have been sagging. Close games have been fewer and farther between. Scoring was down. And then, just as we were all settling in for another 13–9 Thursday Night Football barnburner … we got a thrilling 41–39 shootout between the two youngest head coaches in the league, with creative play-calling and wild momentum swings. It was the highest scoring TNF in the series' history, broadcaster Rich Eisen said moments after the game ended. There’s something to be said for offenses starting to coalesce in Week 3, playing more like the regular season and less like an extended preseason. There’s also something to be said for no one ever really knowing what to expect in the NFL. Of course, there was one thing that we did know to expect last night: A half-empty NFL stadium in California.
2. There has (rightly) been focus on the revival of Jared Goff under new Rams coach Sean McVay, but just as important has been Todd Gurley. In three games this season, the running back has already matched his touchdown total (six) in all of 2016. Gurley was the offensive rookie of the year in 2015—the season after he tore his ACL, no less—but his production took a major step back last season. This year, McVay has made Gurley a centerpiece of the Rams offense, utilizing his skills as both a runner and a pass-catcher, which has been good for both Gurley and Goff. The reason Gurley was the No. 10 pick in the draft, despite his ACL tear five months before, was that some teams viewed him as the best running back to enter the NFL since Adrian Peterson.
3. Was that offensive pass interference on third-and-10? The call was one of the deciding factors of the game, with the penalty against the 49ers negating an 11-yard gain on third-and-10 at the 50-yard-line with just under two minutes to play. Instead of getting a fresh set of downs on the edge of field goal range, the 49ers were backed up 10 more yards and failed to convert on third-and-20 and fourth-and-20, preserving the Rams’ two-point victory. From the TV replays, at least, the call was very hazy. The official ruled that WR Trent Taylor had pushed off Rams CB Nickell Robey-Coleman, but that was not clearly shown in the camera angle on the NFL Network broadcast. The officiating crew no doubt had a better angle, but you’d like to be pretty certain about a call with that much impact on the outcome of the game.