Jared Goff, Todd Gurley lead Rams to a wild 41-39 victory over the 49ers

The Times' Bill Plaschke, Gary Klein and Lindsey Thiry break down the Rams 41-39 victory over the San Francisco 49ers to improve to 2-1 this season.

One postgame interview had just ended, another was about to begin.

So when Rams coach Sean McVay saw quarterback Jared Goff waiting in the doorway, he apparently could not resist.


"All right, brother," McVay said as he tightly embraced Goff.

Then they both exhaled sighs of relief.

The Rams had barely held off the San Francisco 49ers 41-39 in a wild game at Levi's Stadium, a victory that showed how far the Rams have come and how far they still have to go.

The Rams led by 15 points in the fourth quarter but did not seal the victory until lineman Aaron Donald sacked 49ers quarterback Brian Hoyer with 1 minute 44 seconds left.

Even then, the Rams needed to see the clock hit 0:00 before they were sure they had improved to 2-1.

"It's the NFL and Thursday night — the colors are bright," Rams receiver Robert Woods said. "As long as we finish the game and get a win, that's all that matters."

Goff passed for 292 yards and three touchdowns, Todd Gurley scored three touchdowns and eclipsed 100 yards rushing for the first time since 2015, and Woods and fellow receiver Sammy Watkins each amassed more than 100 yards receiving as the Rams scored more than 40 points for the second time in three games under McVay.

The defense gave up 421 yards against a 49ers team that entered the game without having scored a touchdown. And the usually reliable Rams special teams also had miscues, including allowing the 49ers to recover an onside kick after their final touchdown.

But it was still a huge win for a Rams team that will head to Dallas to play the Cowboys next week before returning home to play the defending NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks.

"You see a lot of playoff teams win games like this," said defensive lineman Michael Brockers, who intercepted a potential tying two-point conversion pass in the final minutes. "I'm not saying that we're going to the playoffs, but when you can get a win like this you can just feel it.

"You can feel the confidence rising in the offense. You can feel the confidence rising in the defense, because we feel like we had a terrible game and we still came out with a W.

"We have some things to fix but we feel like, for the most part, we had each other's back, and that's what real teams do."

A national television audience — and a crowd that numbered about half of the announced 70,178 — saw a much different Rams team than the one that got shut out 28-0 in last season's opener.

The game marked the homecoming of Goff, who returned to the Bay Area where he starred at Marin Catholic High and at Cal.


The Rams and their quarterback bounced back from Sunday's defeat by the Washington Redskins, a loss that was sealed when Goff had a pass intercepted in the final minutes.

Goff, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft, was inactive for last season's game at Levi's Stadium, but he was fully engaged Thursday night.

He connected with Watkins for two touchdowns and with Gurley for another.

"It was a really fun day, regardless of where it was," Goff said.

Gurley rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns in 28 carries. He also caught five passes for 36 yards and a touchdown. His three first-half touchdowns helped the Rams take a 24-13 halftime lead.

It was the first time Gurley has scored three touchdowns in an NFL game. The third-year pro, who scored six touchdowns all of last season, has already equaled that total in three games.

Gurley credited McVay and the offensive staff for involving all of the Rams' weapons. "Just takes the pressure off everybody," he said.

Despite the standout performances on offense — and cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman's interception on the first play of the game — the Rams nearly blew it.

For most of the game, a defense that failed to stop the run against the Redskins did moderately better against a 49ers team that couldn't score a touchdown in its first two games.

But not in the fourth quarter, when the Rams nearly let a 15-point lead disappear.

Goff's 13-yard touchdown pass to Watkins with 8:43 left gave the Rams a 41-26 lead and seemingly put them in control.

But 49ers quarterback Hoyer connected with receiver Pierre Garcon for 59 yards to set up Hoyer's touchdown pass to Trent Taylor.

On the ensuing kickoff, the 49ers knocked the ball out of returner Pharoh Cooper's hand and recovered the fumble. The 49ers pulled to within 41-39 on Carlos Hyde's one-yard touchdown run on fourth down, setting the stage for a two-point conversion try.

Hoyer's pass into the end zone bounced off Rams cornerback Troy Hill and into the hands of Brockers for an interception.

The 49ers recovered the ensuing onside kick, needing only a field goal for the victory. The game was not in hand until Donald sacked Hoyer.

"Just knew we needed to make a big stop," Donald said.

Players said the victory can set the Rams on track for more.

"It just showed that we can fight together and battle adversity – that's what you look for," Hill said. "Last year, who knows what would have happened?

"This team has a different feeling. There's a lot more fight in it and we believe in what the coaches say."

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein