PITTSBURGH — Opening the season with back-to-back road wins is a feat Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers pulled off in 2019 and ’21.
More of the same will be expected next Sunday when the 49ers visit the Los Angeles Rams. Opening this season with a 30-7 rout at Pittsburgh invoked memories of those 2019 and ’21 starts to deep playoff runs.
Nick Bosa was a rookie on that 2019 team, and he called this win a great way “to propel us forward.”
“You love to get a good start,” Bosa added. “We had five sacks today as a D-line, so Kris (Kocurek, the defensive line coach) was definitely happy. Drake (Jackson) broke out, which we were expecting. We just have so many players.
“It’s fun to watch Aiyuk do his thing and Purdy shut some haters up. It’s nice to be on a really good team.”
In 2019, the 49ers followed up a 31-17 opening win at Tampa Bay by posting a 41-17 rout in Week 2 at Cincinnati. In 2021, the 49ers also won their first two games on the road, at Detroit (41-33) and then at Philadelphia (17-11).
This week’s storylines
SERIES STREAK: The 49ers have swept the Rams in the regular-season series for four straight years. Of course, the Rams won when it counted most during that stretch, in the NFC Championship Game after the 2021 season. But the 49ers have a stranglehold of this rivalry, and their faithful fans have turned the stands at SoFi Stadium red and gold.
CORNERBACK DEPTH: The Steelers preyed on Ambry Thomas on their lone touchdown drive, and that is a reminder that the 49ers’ cornerback depth could be a concern, especially against a veteran quarterback like Matthew Stafford, who threw for over 300 yards in the Rams’ opener at Seattle. By the way, ex-49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon started for the Rams in that win.
AIYUK’S ASCENT: Brandon Aiyuk followed up his first 1,000-yard season by starting this one with a career-high 129 yards on eight catches with two touchdowns. Not bad for a guy who split snaps behind Trent Sherfield in the 2021 opener. “Two years ago at Detroit, that was a long time ago, but that was a different time — that was a very different time,” Aiyuk said. “I’m just kind of trying to come out here every day and do my job.”
RAMS TO WATCH: The Rams did not miss Cooper Kupp (hamstring) in their comeback upset in Seattle. Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell each had 119 receiving yards. Kyren Williams and Cam Akers should offer a stronger challenge to a 49ers rushing defense that faced only 10 Pittsburgh runs in their opener.
THE DONALD: “Oh my god!” Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith hollered as Aaron Donald came barreling toward him Sunday, as a viral video relayed. Consider that a helpful reminder to the 49ers of Donald’s capacity as a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He was one of four Rams with a half-sack in Seattle.
— CJ Fogler account may or may not be notable (@cjzero) September 10, 2023
Injuries to track
Coach Kyle Shanahan said no players were injured during Sunday’s opener, other than Thomas being checked for a concussion and cleared. That said, it’s worth following to see how others fared after earlier health concerns, such as tight end George Kittle (groin) and linebacker Dre Greenlaw (hamstring).
Week 1 rewind
49ers: Their defense, with Nick Bosa back in the fold, did not allow a first down on its opening five series under new coordinator Steve Wilks. Brock Purdy engineered four scoring drives on the 49ers’ first four possessions, including his two touchdown throws to Aiyuk.
Rams: They won in Seattle 30-13, by rallying from a 13-7 halftime deficit and scoring 20 unanswered points. Stafford pumped out 334 passing yards (24-of-38). Nacua, a fifth-round pick from BYU, had 10 catches on 15 targets.
The 49ers won 31-14 at Los Angeles on Oct. 30, with Christian McCaffrey’s touchdown hat trick (he threw a scoring strike to Aiyuk, then later scored on a catch and a run).
“We expected this. Obviously, the world didn’t know, but this is what we’ve been seeing at camp — guys flying around, guys making plays, and we just translated that to the game. So we ain’t shocked. We ain’t surprised. The world might be, but we expected this.” — Donald, after the Rams upset the Seahawks.
SoFi Stadium is an indoor facility with a roof. But outside, it should be sunny, 74 degrees, per Weather.com.
The 49ers are 7-point favorites, per Caesars Sportsbook.
Prediction: 49ers 33, Rams 16