SANTA CLARA — It was the first entertaining Thursday Night Football game in the history of the league. It just happened that the 49ers finished on the losing end of it.
In a back-and-forth affair that saw few lead changes but plenty of intrigue, the Niners’ good luck dried up late and the Los Angeles Rams did what they couldn’t last season: Beat the NFL team based in Santa Clara.
The Rams held on to win, 41-39.
Brian Hoyer said all week that he was going to do better. That the key to his turnaround is to just go out there and produce on the field. On the first play from scrimmage on Thursday, he dropped back, telegraphed his pass to Marquise Goodwin and threw a pick — his third in as many games.
One play later, Todd Gurley was plunging into the end zone from three yards out and putting the 49ers in an early hole.
The next time the Niners got the ball, Hoyer led a 81-yard, 14-play drive that ended with him scrambling from a broken pocket and into the end zone. It was aided by the Rams jumping offsides on a punt attempt.
The following possession, the Rams were the beneficiaries of a drive-extending penalty: Elvis Dumervil and DeForest Buckner had a sack erased by a defensive holding call. Six plays and 67 yards later, Gurley was scooting inside the right pylon for his second score of the evening.
The 49ers weren’t as effective taking advantage of the Rams’ mistakes. After Tavon Austin botched a punt, allowing the Niners field position inside the red zone, the home team botched the bonus possession. They committed penalties and ultimately settled for a field goal.
Robbie Gould was back on the field the next time the 49ers had the ball, stroking a 48-yarder to make the score 17-13 in the second quarter.
The defense couldn’t make a stop to make that the halftime score. Jimmie Ward’s personal foul for hitting a defenseless receiver set up Gurley’s third touchdown of the first half.
After the half, the defense held for a goal-line stand, forcing the Rams to kick a field goal.
The offense followed with an impressive drive that featured a Pierre Garcon toe drag on third down, and four-straight attempts from the goal line by Hyde. On the fourth, he crossed the plane to bring his team within a one-score deficit.
The Niners defense wasn’t as fortunate the next time Goff would lead his team down the field. After a touchdown was taken off the board after a review, the former Cal Bear found Sammy Watkins on a quick slant for six.
Trent Taylor scored his first touchdown of his career to ensure the Niners held serve. But they needed help.
And they got it on the following kickoff, when Vic Bolden forced a fumble that Aldrick Robinson recovered.
Hyde scored his second touchdown of the season from one-yard out and all it took to tie the game was a two-point conversion, which was necessary because Gould missed an extra point earlier. Hoyer hesitated and missed the split-second window Taylor was open. The 49ers needed another stroke of luck to have a chance.
And as fate would have it: That’s exactly what happened when Raheem Mostert recovered the onside kick after it bounced off a Rams player.
The fortunate breaks stopped there. After Hoyer’s connection to Taylor was nullified by a dubious offensive pass interference call, the QB was dumped by Aaron Donald in the backfield for a sack that turned it over on downs.