The Golden Gate and some Niners' golden playing

© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Art Spander

The Golden Gate Bridge still is standing, as we were reminded on Sunday night’s telecast of the Niners game, a repetitive issue, though as we know Levi’s Stadium is in Santa Clara, miles away from the Gate.

But TV has to be prepared. What were the people at NBC going to show if the Niners again fell on their backsides — a photo of US 101 without traffic, or team owner Jed York again making a move at halftime?

Presumably Jed, one of the few humans allowed to watch in person in these Covid-19 restricted times, stayed the route. His team certainly did.

A week after sending him home early — to beat the traffic that doesn’t exist without fans — the 49ers made a merry return to their recent past, defeating the Los Angeles Rams, 24-16.

They took the ball, took an immediate lead and then took themselves and their distressed fans back to last winter.

Yes, they were frustrated, most of all embarrassed, after getting battered 43-17 by the not-so-good Miami Dolphins, eight days earlier. So they did something about it.

They went to their strengths, ball control, run defense. They played conservatively, intelligently, and in the end, kept the Rams at bay and D-lineman Aaron Donald — “the best player anywhere,” Cris Collinsworth told NBC's audience — out of their hair and their backfield.

The offensive line was dominant, the defense was aggressive and the coaching — wasn’t it only a few days ago that critics wanted Kyle Shanahan fired? — was wise.

You well know the “any given Sunday” warning — nobody wins them all, and only a rare, awful team loses them all. But the bounce back was a reminder not to panic.

The Niners, after a second straight loss to a, shall we say, sub-mediocre opponent and dropping to 2-3, seemed very much in trouble. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had that high ankle sprain, and others either were hurt or lifeless. What to do?

Get the leaders, the captains and veterans, to offer some harsh words. Hey, guys, what is going on? You want your owner walking out on you? Oh yeah, he already did. The phrase “sense of urgency” was brought up a few dozen times.

One is to wonder: When a career is short and a schedule so brief, isn’t there a sense of urgency on every down?

“We had to hold ourselves accountable,” said tight end George Kittle, who holds on to passes but when he’s blocking tries his best not to get called for holding.

Basically, the Niners, in football lingo, were going to run the ball everywhere and anywhere, using time and protecting Garoppolo from needing to throw under pressure.

A handoff, to Raheem Mostert or Deebo Samuel. Then another handoff. Or a quick look-in pass. Or a touchdown throw to Kittle.

“I was very impressed with the character of our team,” said Shanahan, “just the way the players carried themselves.”

Just as the team had to be impressed with Shanahan’s coaching.

The 49ers had 390 yards in offense. So much for the incompetent offensive “malign,” that supposedly couldn’t open as hole or protect poor Mr. Garoppolo.

“We’ve been seeing all week,” rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk said about the O-line’s improvement. “They’ve been challenged. They took it head on, and they played a great game.”

It is a truism that you win on defense. To repeat the favorite comment of the late coach John McKay, “If the other team doesn’t score, you’ll never get worse than 0-0 tie.”

The Niner defense, as should be apparent when the Rams got only two touchdowns and a field goal, did very well.

Fred Warner had seven tackles, and Jason Verrett grabbed an interception when the Rams had fourth and goal in the third quarter.

That was after a spectacular sunset, which naturally gave the TV folk another chance at the main attraction. “I never tire of seeing the Golden Gate Bridge,” said Al Michaels, a one-time Bay Area resident.

On Sunday around here, it had to share billing with the 49ers.

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