The situation: After yet another slow first-quarter start offensively, the Rams found themselves trailing the Niners 3-2 when they got the ball back with 10:35 to go in the second quarter. Despite attempting to jump-start the offense in the first quarter by going no-huddle on the opening drive, that unit again failed to produce much of anything. In the first quarter, the Rams had 53 yards of offense and just two first downs. On the one drive that had some promise, receiver Tavon Austin fumbled it away after a 24-yard gain.
Running back Todd Gurley had six carries for 15 yards going into the Rams' sixth possession as they took over at their 29 following a 30-yard punt.
The play: The Rams have been unafraid to mix up their approach offensively this year, especially in the run game. They've used plenty of outside zone and misdirection and have also worked in some power concepts. On first down from the 29, they offered a look at a power run out of a look that normally wouldn't portend one.
With Gurley set up to quarterback Nick Foles' left, two receivers split wide, one to the left and a tight end attached at the right side of the line, the Niners had four defenders at the line of scrimmage with all three corners also at the line, two linebackers at normal depth and two safeties 10-plus yards beyond the line.
In a bit of a different look, offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti had this play set up with the intent to not only spread out the defense but get some of the Niners' bigger run defenders off the field, which worked as they switched to a nickel package. At the snap, the Rams' offensive line immediately created big holes by using favorable angles to their advantage. Left guard Garrett Reynolds pulled from his spot through the hole on the right side created by center Tim Barnes blocking down on the nose tackle and Jamon Brown doing the same to the end. That allowed right tackle Rob Havenstein to surge to the second level with Reynolds close behind. Havenstein easily wiped out the approaching linebacker and Reynolds took out the other one. The receivers and tight ends did their job in getting hat on hat with their defenders as well.
Gurley, who is unafraid to press the hole with his speed, wasted no time turning on the accelerator, running through the angle that looked to be there for safety Eric Reid and outracing him untouched to the end zone for a 71-yard touchdown run. Really, there wasn't much fancy about the play, but it was effective in part because it combined a very simplistic idea with a bit of a misleading formation.
The fallout: Gurley's 71-yard touchdown run is the longest of his young career and spurred him to his fourth 100-yard rushing effort in as many starts. It also helped him to an NFL record as the most prolific rusher in his first four NFL games since the AFL/NFL merger.
More importantly, the touchdown gave the Rams an 8-3 lead that might not have seemed insurmountable at the time but considering San Francisco's offensive struggles and the Rams' defensive dominance, it was. The Rams tacked on plenty more to win by three touchdowns, but Gurley's score turned out to be all that they would need as they improved to 4-3 on the year and sit with a record above .500 in November for the first time since 2006.