49ers shut down Rams and remind them how hard winning the NFC West will be

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The Rams’ fast start, forged against teams from the NFL’s worst division, the NFC East, had the ominous look of an illusion Sunday night at Levi’s Stadium.

In their first game against an NFC West opponent, the Rams’ offense stalled, the defense could not produce pressure and untimely penalties sabotaged several opportunities.

That was more than enough for the San Francisco 49ers to take advantage of and show they remain a force in the West.

Jimmy Garoppolo passed for three touchdowns as the defending division-champion 49ers defeated the Rams, 24-16.

After beating up on the NFC East, the Rams got a reality check as their record dropped to 4-2.

Quarterback Jared Goff struggled from the outset, missing receivers on short, mid-range and long routes nearly the entire game. An offense that was averaging nearly 140 yards rushing produced only 113 against the 49ers (3-3), who bounced back after getting routed by the Miami Dolphins the previous week.

And a Rams defense that had eight sacks in last week’s victory against Washington managed zero against the 49ers.

It doesn’t get any easier for the Rams.

With a “Monday Night Football” game against the Chicago Bears (5-1) next week and a trip to play the Dolphins (3-3) before an off week, the Rams will play five division games in the second half of the season.

One of those will be against the 49ers, who only figure to get stronger when injured cornerback Richard Sherman, defensive end Dee Ford and linebacker Kwon Alexander return from injuries.

The Rams trailed, 21-6, at halftime after Garoppolo passed for three touchdowns and the 49ers outgained the Rams, 291 yards to 102. The Rams cut the deficit to 12 with a career-best 42-yard field goal by rookie Samuel Sloman.

The Rams got the ball midway through the third quarter and gave it to running back Darrell Henderson seven times while driving to the 49ers’ two-yard line. But on the third down, Goff’s pass to receiver Cooper Kupp fell incomplete. On fourth down, the Rams passed again, and cornerback Jason Verrett intercepted it in the end zone.

The 49ers added a field goal with less than six minutes left, but the Rams cut the lead to eight when Goff connected with receiver Josh Reynolds for a 40-yard touchdown with 3:24 to go.

But when receiver Deebo Samuel took a shovel pass and used second effort to pick up a first down with about a minute left, the Rams’ fate was sealed.

Goff completed 19 of 38 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception. Henderson rushed for 88 yards in 14 carries. Garoppolo, who had been nursing a high-ankle sprain, was 22 of 33 for 268 yards.

Tight end George Kittle caught seven passes for 109 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown. Raheem Mostert rushed for 65 yards in 17 carries before suffering an ankle injury in the third quarter.

The 49ers put on a clinic in the opening drive with Garoppolo sandwiching an 18-yard completion to Kittle between shovel passes to Samuel, including one for a six-yard touchdown.

The Rams’ first possession featured a 17-yard completion to tight end Tyler Higbee but three incomplete passes intended for Kupp. It was a bad omen for a Rams team that scored on its first possession in all four of its victories.

The 49ers got the ball again with less than six minutes left in the first quarter and Mostert and Garoppolo went back to work. On a fourth-and-two play at the Rams 44-yard-line, Garoppolo connected with Kittle, who shed Rams cornerback Darious Williams and then sprinted to a 44-yard touchdown for a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Goff saved the Rams when he scrambled for a first down early in the ensuing drive. Henderson broke off an 18-yard run and had several more productive carries before receiver Robert Woods carried twice for a first down.

On third and goal from the 10-yard line, Goff found Woods on a crossing route in the back of the end zone, and Woods made a tough catch for a touchdown. But the 49ers blocked Sloman’s conversion kick, preserving the 49ers’ 14-6 lead.

The 49ers answered with 13-play, 75-yard drive that featured consecutive 19- and 25-yard passes to receiver Kendrick Bourne, and culminated with Garoppolo’s two-yard touchdown pass to receiver Brandon Aiyuk.

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