San Francisco 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead (91) celebrates a sack against the Los Angeles Rams at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Monday. (Stan Olszewski/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Rams looked pathetic — making it hard to gauge how good the 49ers actually are

So we’ll get to the trivial stuff quickly, meaning you won’t have to wade through the material about the 49ers crushing the Rams and Carlos Hyde rushing for 88 yards just to find out that yes, Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid knelt down during the Star Spangled Banner, next to an American flag literally as big as the football field.

That fact understood, you also might wish to know the Rams, playing their first game since fleeing St. Louis for Los Angeles, from where they previously fled to St. Louis, looked positively awful.

The Niners, playing their first game since fleeing the Jim Tomsula Era, about nine months ago, looked competent enough under the direction of Chip Kelly who not only has brought the enthusiasm missing under Tomsula but an effective (for Monday night, at least) no-huddle offense.

Whether the Niners should be judged by the 28-0 win Monday night at Levi’s Stadium  over the team once nicknamed—and not improperly—the Lambs, is problematical.

But one thing we know is they are better than the Rams—who isn’t?—and should or perhaps, could be considerably improved over the 5-11 record of last season. Be wary, however, a year ago, the Niners opened with a victory, then lost four straight.

Kelly’s hurry-up, no-huddle, run-the-opponents ragged, worked at the University of Oregon and didn’t work with the Philadelphia Eagles, or he wouldn’t have been available to be signed by San Francisco. It requires a mobile, quick-thinking quarterback, a couple of elusive running backs and an offensive line that never gets tired.

And when the other side has the ball, there must be a defense to get the ball back soon enough to keep the other opponents bewildered and panting.
The Niners, to their good fortune (and give general manager Trent Baalke credit) have been strong defensively the last five years or so. It was the D, along with Kaepernick’s dashes and passes and Frank Gore’s runs that got the Niners to the Super Bowl four years ago.

Blaine Gabbert is the QB now, and he controlled the ball, threw the ball and when under pressure scrambled with the ball. No huddle, no turnovers, no problem.

Gabbert was 22 of 35 passing for 170 yards and a touchdown.

You know the axiom, it’s impossible to lose if the other team doesn’t score.  The Niners decided to stop Todd Gurley, the fine Rams running back, and see if quarterback Case Keenum could beat them.

He couldn’t.

And the man who was selected No. 1 in the recent NFL draft, Jared Goff of Cal, eventually to replace Keenum, never got off the bench as he was deemed inactive before the contest.

So all the Niners had to do was be careful and creative. They were both, with Gabbert bursting up the middle to avoid tackles and Hyde and Shaun Draughn picking up yards on the ground.

Kelly literally laughed during his post-game press conference, obviously pleased both with the result and the manner it was achieved. Whether or not it foretells the future, there is no question the win was impressive — even if achieved against a very unimpressive team.

Hyde said of his running, “All I had to do was be patient,” meaning waiting for holes to open, and before long they did.

The Niners outgained the Rams 320 yards to 185, had 28 first downs to 10 for Los Angeles. Gleeful, heartless fans actually were chanting “Beat L.A” when before the first quarter was finished, L.A. was beaten.

There are 15 games remaining for both teams. The Niners have to be optimistic about every one of them.

The Rams? Well. Sorry.

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