The 49ers jumped to a 14-0 halftime lead by following a pretty simple formula espoused by Kelly throughout the preseason: Running the ball effectively and stopping the run on defense.
San Francisco rushed for 123 yards on 23 attempts, an average of 5.3 yards per carry, and scored both of their touchdowns on the ground. Carlos Hyde did the bulk of the heavy lifting, with 10 carries for 65 yards and a score. Perhaps that success shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise given the Rams’ propensity for struggling to stop the run early in the season under coach Jeff Fisher.
Since Fisher took over in 2012, the Rams have allowed 134.7 rushing yards per game (31st in the NFL), 4.66 yards per carry (30th) and 18 rushing touchdowns (tied for 30th) in weeks one through four. On the flip side, Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles were 24-8 when rushing for 100 yards or more in his three seasons there.
Meanwhile, the Niners clearly built their game plan around slowing down running back Todd Gurley. Gurley mustered just 28 yards on 11 carries in the first half.
If that holds up in the final two quarters, the Kelly era will have begun on the right foot. And, after a long offseason, the Niners and chief executive officer Jed York can cap off a night that had him excited pre-game.
“It’s been a very, very long offseason,” York said before Monday night’s game. “We’re just ready to get back to football. I think that’s what we’ve seen with coach and everybody in the offseason. Guys are excited to play. You see them at practice. They’re excited to compete, whether it’s in a drill in practice, and they’re certainly going to be excited to come out here and play the second game of a Monday Night Football doubleheader. They’re fired up then you add to it, San Francisco-Los Angeles rivalry, people are fired up. That’s great. That’s what we should be doing right now.”
Another 30 minutes similar to the first and we can officially call it a strong start for the Kelly era.