SANTA CLARA — It was a good night to send the kids to bed early, because after a first half that saw scattered action, the game only got less exciting from there as one team truly had a night to forget.
This is how the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers’ drives in the third quarter ended: punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, interception.
Things got a little more interesting in the fourth quarter — thanks to a fan who rushed the field and a pair of superfluous touchdowns — but the Rams were all but done by then en route to a 28-0 loss in their first game back as L.A.’s hometown team.
When the consistently overwhelmed Case Keenum slid short of the first-down marker on a fourth-and-10 scramble, the 49ers’ shutout of the Rams was secured.
“The credit goes to our defense and our defensive staff,” Chip Kelly said after an impressive head coaching debut. “They did a very nice job — it’s something for us to build on.”
The Rams’ highly celebrated front seven looked pedestrian throughout the game. The collectively horrible performance culminated in the fourth-quarter ejection of All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
It was so bad for the Rams that Niners starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert outrushed Rams running back Todd Gurley 40-28 in the first half. (Gurley ultimately won the battle on the ground 47-43, but that’s not exactly the performance Los Angeles coaches were looking for out of their second-year back.)
Niners running back Carlos Hyde looked spry when he was on the field. The Ohio State product launched the game’s scoring with more than three minutes remaining in the first quarter on a deft hesitation move that opened a wide running lane to the end zone from 11 yards out. He finished the contest with 88 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns.
In the second quarter, with Hyde on the sideline following a big hit, backup Shaun Draughn took a read-option handoff and bounced it to the left for a four-yard score.
The San Francisco front seven looked to either be one of the best in the NFL or playing against a woefully overmatched Los Angeles offensive line. If it weren’t for a couple big gains by Kenny Britt, the visitors wouldn’t have broken 85 total yards in the first half.
“We went out expecting the Rams to play better than they did,” said veteran linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who had a first-half interception, after the game.
NATIONAL ANTHEM PROTEST CONTINUES, GROWS
In front of a flag that spanned 100 yards from end zone to end zone, 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick continued his protest of the national anthem by kneeling through the song. Safety Eric Reid joined him for the second-straight week.
Across the field, Britt and defensive end Robert Quinn held their right fists in the air as the Star-Spangled Banner was played.
This isn’t the first instance of pregame activism for Britt, who entered the field when the Rams were in St. Louis with his hands up to protest the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.