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Rams-Niners Stakes Its Claim As One of the Worst ‘Monday Night Football’ Games Ever

Case Keenum’s woeful night was high-level performance art


The San Francisco 49ers shut out the newly minted Los Angeles Rams 28–0 and it was, in a word, terrible.

And not “terrible” in the harmless, trite sense like, “That Sunday NFL Countdown ‘All the Way Up’ commercial is terrible,” where it could conceivably fade from public consciousness with a modest passage of time. No, it was “terrible” in a bellwether, watershed, canonical sort of way—so mind-bogglingly awful that an argument could be made for it being the worst Monday Night Football game ever, of all time. An irredeemable train wreck.

In fairness, the Raiders were shut out 27–0 by the Chargers at home almost exactly 10 years ago, logging a measly 129 total yards of offense, so that was conclusively worse. But the 185-yard spaghetti Western in Levi’s Stadium on Monday night (the seventh-worst total ever in a Monday game on opening week since 1970) was so bad that it raised simple, basic questions of intent and logic. Like, how have the Rams, who had four-plus years to recoup value on the RG3 trade, managed not to make an inch of progress toward building a playoff-caliber team? Or, perhaps a more elementary question: How is this team supposed to score? Is head coach Jeff Fisher playing some bizarro long con to have the team moved back to St. Louis? Exactly how far off is Jared Goff from being “ready” if this is the offense the Rams are trotting out? Does he have two functioning arms and two legs that aren’t broken? Can he read?

Case Keenum started off fine. He completed an 8-yard slant to receiver Kenny Britt on a third-and-4 to betray a glimmer of hope for a passing offense that finished dead last in 2015, but that was one of the Rams’ three — three! — successful third-down conversions out of a possible 15 over the course of the game. Keenum and Co. barely inconvenienced the Niners, with the Rams quarterback going 17-for-35 and 130 yards, a 3.7-yard-per-attempt average. The result of every Rams drive, when spelled out and laid end to end, blurs the line between “pathetic” and “performance art”:

Punt, Punt, Punt, Interception, Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt, Interception, Punt, Turnover on Downs

With 11 minutes left on the clock, the Rams had already punted as many times (10) as any one team had in a single game all last season. Elsewhere, Todd Gurley, the franchise’s bright and shining north star and the best skill player on either side — who was supposed to tap dance over a run defense that ranked 29th last season — mustered 47 yards on 17 carries. His longest carry? 10 yards.

The 49ers blanked the newest addition to a growing roster of underachieving Los Angeles teams (with the noted exception of the Galaxy, who are pretty all right, I guess) while putting up 320 yards of offense, but they weren’t exactly easy on the eyes, either.

Though he proved himself to be an adequately athletic quarterback (a point that Steve Young took care to emphasize, over and over and over again), 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert seemed to make a habit of either over — or under — throwing his receivers. At the start of the Niners’ second touchdown drive, Gabbert had accumulated quite the stat line: 7-for-10 for 36 yards. In the third quarter, which lasted a small eternity, both teams combined for 48 yards of offense on 30 plays, and at the start of the fourth quarter, Keenum and Gabbert both had a staggering 81 yards to their name. It seemed as time wore on that this game kept finding ever deeper and more profound lows.

All this to say: It was bad, you guys. Really fucking bad. But at the very least we have Kevin Harlan, who gave us the lone highlight of the game with a spirited play-by-play on Westwood One Radio when some hero stormed the field to rescue us from the crippling boredom of a game that held us hostage for four quarters.

Thank heavens it’s over.