INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — More than a few San Francisco 49ers acknowledged they didn't know a whole lot about many of the unsung players going against them for the rebuilding Los Angeles Rams.
The Niners learned a bit more than they wanted to know Sunday while the Rams forced the Super Bowl contenders to dig deep to extend their remarkable winning streak in this rivalry.
Brock Purdy passed for 206 yards and ran for an early touchdown, Deebo Samuel rushed for an 11-yard TD with 11:28 left and San Francisco hung on for its ninth consecutive regular-season win over Los Angeles, 30-23.
Christian McCaffrey rushed for 116 yards and a score for the 49ers (2-0), whose only loss to the Rams since December 2018 was in the NFC championship game in January 2022. The Niners couldn't pull away this time, but Isaiah Oliver and Deommodore Lenoir intercepted passes by Matthew Stafford in the second half to finish off the Rams.
“I feel like those guys, a lot of them, you don't know them, but they're on that team for a reason,” said Purdy, who failed to throw a touchdown pass and didn't have a passer rating above 95 for the first time in his seven career starts. “Those guys are trying to make a name for themselves, and they played hard for four quarters. We knew we were going to get their best shot.”
The 49ers' defense gave up a record-setting performance by rookie Puka Nacua, who caught 15 passes for 147 yards for Los Angeles (1-1). The fifth-round pick broke the NFL’s single-game record for receptions by a rookie, and he set a new overall league mark with 25 catches in the first two games of his career while the Rams racked up 386 total yards.
“Everybody likes to mention our record against them, but they’ve always been tough for us, every single time,” 49ers linebacker Fred Warner said.
Purdy came through on fourth down at the Rams 1 on the final play before halftime, sneaking over the goal line to even the score 17-17. He finished 17 for 25 with a handful of glaring mistakes in his first career game against the Rams (1-1), who followed up their surprise season-opening win at Seattle by remaining competitive with their powerhouse opponent throughout the afternoon at SoFi Stadium.
“I don’t want to say missed out, but I think there’s learning opportunities," Rams coach Sean McVay said. “Ultimately, we didn’t come away with the result that we were hunting up, but there was a lot of good things that we can take away. ... I thought it was a high-caliber football game.”
Stafford passed for 307 yards and threw a TD pass to Kyren Williams for Los Angeles. Williams also rushed for a touchdown and had 100 combined offensive yards in his first NFL start, but he caused a key interception when a pass ricocheted off his hands in the third quarter, leading to Jake Moody's go-ahead, 57-yard field goal.
“There was a lot of time left" after that interception, Stafford said. "There’s no more conscientious guy on our team. (Williams) knows he can catch that ball. It’s part of it. I have all the trust in the world in him.”
Along with Nacua's second spectacular game, Tutu Atwell added seven catches for 77 yards for Los Angeles as both receivers stepped up again in Cooper Kupp's absence.
The 49ers are unbeaten after back-to-back road games to open the season, but they were tested in Inglewood. Los Angeles' undertalented defense made several timely stops and forced San Francisco to settle for three field goals, including after both of the 49ers' takeaways.
Los Angeles went ahead 1:45 before halftime with an 88-yard drive ending in Williams' TD run, but the Niners went 75 yards for Purdy's fourth-down sneak for a 1-yard TD at the halftime gun.
Purdy missed receivers on long throws at least three times, but Williams gifted an interception to Oliver in the third quarter when Stafford's pass popped off his hands and into the air.
Cam Akers was a healthy scratch after struggling to just 29 yards on 22 carries in the Rams' season opener. The fourth-year running back was nearly traded last season after clashing with the coaching staff, only to stay when Los Angeles found no takers.
McVay seemed to indicate the Rams are parting ways with their 2020 second-round pick.
“I have tremendous respect for Cam Akers, but I felt like in this game and as we move forward that this was going to be the best decision for us,” McVay said. “It’s not going to be a back-and-forth thing. He and I have had great dialogue, and we’ll see what happens over the next couple of days.”
49ers: CB Ambry Thomas injured his knee in the first half, but returned. ... Lenoir was evaluated for a head injury and allowed to continue playing.
Rams: RG Joseph Noteboom injured his shoulder in the second half. He had been wearing a brace on the shoulder in recent weeks.
49ers: Home opener against the Giants on Thursday, Sept. 21.
Rams: At Bengals on Monday, Sept. 25.
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