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Kurtenbach: The 49ers were nowhere near their best against the Rams. The fact that they still won speaks volumes

Kurtenbach: The 49ers were nowhere near their best against the Rams. The fact that they still won speaks volumes

The 49ers’ Week 1 win was perfection.

Their Week 2 win was gritty.

And while everyone prefers the first option, the second might tell us more about the 2023 Niners.

San Francisco knew that not every game this season would be as easy as the opening win against the Steelers. How could they be?

No, this league is too good. The competition is too tough. Most games this season will resemble Sunday’s choppy, chippy 30-23 victory over the Rams in front of a partisan crowd in Los Angeles. (Partisan for the Niners, that is.)

And yet, even in a game where the 49ers missed so many opportunities, they were still far and away the better team on the field Sunday.

If Niners quarterback Brock Purdy had simply connected on one of the three wide-open deep pass opportunities he overthrew Sunday, this contest would have been a blowout.

But he missed on all three and wasn’t good on third downs, where the team was just 2-of-9. Meanwhile, the 49ers defense started the game on the back foot, and the referees were apparently watching another game. (I hope it was a good one.)

For a lesser team, the confluence of those missed opportunities, poor play, and bad luck would have become excuses for a loss.

For this team, they were merely speed bumps en route to another win.

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If the truth is found in the margins, the fact that San Francisco still won this game by a comfortable one speaks volumes.

This is not a flashy team. Its offense can win games. Its defense can win games. Special teams might get in on the action, too: Rookie kicker Jake Moody hit a 57-yard field goal Sunday.

These Niners are a rock-solid football operation, even when they don’t play their best.

Outside of the missed big-play opportunities, it must be noted that Purdy expertly managed the Niners’ offense Sunday, playing turnover-free football and distributing the ball to the team’s elite playmakers, Christian McCaffrey (135 yards, a touchdown) and Deebo Samuel (101 yards, one touchdown).

This might be Purdy’s floor as a quarterback. There’s no better example to date. He’s yet to lose a professional game that he’s finished with two functional arms.

And if this is, indeed, as bad as it gets for Purdy, it’s still pretty darn good. The same can be said for the Niners and Sunday’s game.

If the Niners can pair that kind of game management with the skill and toughness shown Sunday, it’s hard to imagine the San Francisco offense having dud games this season.

After all, this game felt a bit like a dud. The Niners still scored 30 points.

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But “dud” might be a generous definition of the 49ers’ first half on defense Sunday.

The Niners were being pushed around up front by an inferior offensive line, and Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford was picking apart San Francisco’s soft and predictable pass coverage.

But the defense — the supposed leading unit of this team — rallied in the second, despite not getting much help from the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Nick Bosa. By blitzing far more often after halftime, the 49ers began to pressure Matthew Stafford, who generally doesn’t play turnover-free football.

Sure enough, Stafford coughed up the ball once the Niners were able to put defenders in his face, and two second-half interceptions — the first by Isaiah Oliver on a tipped ball, the second from Deommodore Lenoir on a sharp undercut of a Stafford pass — flipped the game in the Niners’ favor.

Bosa waited until the game’s final moments to make any impact. By then, his work was inconsequential.

The win was the 49ers’ ninth straight in the regular season against the Rams. And that domination has everything to do with the Niners’ quality, not the Rams’.

San Francisco lacked a game-winning quarterback and, for all intents and purposes, their top defender on Sunday.

They still won because they were tough. They made adjustments. They didn’t turn the ball over.

There’s nothing sexy about that, but it wins football games any month of the year.

And when you pair it with the kind of talent up and down their roster, it stands a chance of winning a whole lot of games this season.