Aaron Donald ripped the ball out of Matt Breida’s hands to set up one touchdown. He harassed C.J. Beathard with four sacks and several other hits that helped shut down San Francisco’s offense.
Donald’s dominance helped improve Los Angeles to 7-0 for the first time since 1985 with a 39-10 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday and showed that the defense can play as big a role in the success as the Rams’ high-powered offense.
“I don’t think there’s anybody that’s been like him in the NFL,” 49ers left tackle Joe Staley said. “He’s in a class of his own. At the end of the day, he’s still an NFL player and our job is to block him. He was really impactful today.”
That’s an understatement.
Donald used his brute strength to set up one of Todd Gurley’s three touchdowns with his fumble recovery in the first half for the Rams and got a couple of his sacks by just pushing offensive linemen into Beathard and knocking him down.
After recording no sacks in his first three games following a training camp holdout, Donald now has eight in the past four games, showing why he earned that $135 million, six-year contract this summer.
“You feel him and he did a great job affecting and influencing the game in a variety of ways,” coach Sean McVay said. “He was great against the run, did a good job of being able to get to Beathard on a handful of occasions. But, our defense overall, Aaron was a big part of that.”
Donald had plenty of help on defense with Cory Littleton getting two sacks and a blocked punt for a safety ; Troy Hill and John Johnson III intercepting passes; and Samson Ebukam getting an early strip sack that Trevon Young recovered.
“One of the best defensive performances I’ve been around,” Rams quarterback Jared Goff said. “It seemed like every time we sat down we got back up and went on the field. … It was just a lot of fun to watch.”
Here are some other takeaways from the game:
Gurley ran for 63 yards, caught four passes for 23 and had his third three-touchdown game of the season. His 14 TDs this season tie Priest Holmes (2002, ’04) for the most through seven games in the Super Bowl era. His most memorable score was his last one when Goff somehow found him through traffic on a cross-field screen pass and Gurley broke a tackle from Reuben Foster and raced in for the 12-yard score .
“It didn’t play out quite the way we wanted it to,” Goff said. “That’s just me and him trying to make a play. He’s a great player, try to get him the ball and he made it work.”
TURN IT OVER
It’s hard to determine whether the 49ers are worse at creating turnovers or committing them. San Francisco ranks last in the league with three takeaways through seven games — tied for the fewest at this point in the season since the 1970 merger — and has committed the most with 18. The Niners have committed 14 turnovers since their last takeaway on Sept. 30 against the Chargers. Beathard has thrown seven interceptions and lost three fumbles in four starts.
“It’s inexcusable,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It’s impossible to win in this league when you turn the ball over like we are and you when don’t get any.”
The Rams barely had time to celebrate this victory before fielding questions about what comes next. Los Angeles is starting a tough four-week stretch that starts with a home game against Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay next week, followed by a trip to New Orleans to face Drew Brees and the Saints, a home game against Seattle, then a game in Mexico City against Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City.
“I think we just have to keep building off of today’s game,” cornerback Troy Hill said. “It’s one of those things that we’ve been waiting for, and so now we just have to keep on stringing it together.”
Breida has shown good sparks as the team’s main running back with 445 yards rushing and an NFL-best 6.5 yards per carry. But the second-year back has struggled to stay healthy as he has been hampered by shoulder, knee and ankle injuries. He was limited to five carries against the Rams after rolling his ankle but might need some time off to fully heal.
“I tried to keep on playing,” he said. “I have to be smart and not hurt my team at the same time. If I can’t go out there and go 100 percent, I have to let the guys that can do it.”
Source: The Associated Press