SANTA CLARA, Calif. — A Chip Kelly-coached team is usually synonymous with a fast-paced and prolific offense.
But in his first game as San Francisco’s coach on Monday night, Kelly’s defense pitched its first opening week shutout in franchise history as the 49ers got a 28-0 win over the Los Angeles Rams.
“We felt good about our defense going into this game, but you never know until you get a chance to go out there,” Kelly said. “To hold (Todd) Gurley, who I think is one of the top backs in the league, to under 50 yards, I think that’s a good day for us defensively.”
The game plan was to limit Gurley and force quarterback Case Keenum to beat the 49ers through the air. Gurley finished with 47 yards rushing on 17 carries while Keenum completed just 49 percent of his passes for 130 yards.
“If you can’t stop the run in this league, you struggle to stop anything,” defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil said. “Again, the guys up front did a great job. We played good team defense. Guys executed.”
Los Angeles had as many punts (10) as first downs. Keenum was intercepted twice and San Francisco outgained the Rams 320 yards to 185.
NaVorro Bowman registered an interception, leaping to snag a deflection by defensive lineman Quinton Dial in the second quarter. The turnover led to the 49ers’ second touchdown of the game.
“We went out expecting the Rams to play better than they did,” Bowman said, “expecting the Rams to get the ball in their playmaker’s hands. And the coaches did a great job with preparing us for this week. … We did everything that we were supposed to do.”
The 49ers say their strengths defensively are depth and versatility. They rotated Gerald Hodges and Ray-Ram Armstrong at inside linebacker Monday in the heart of their 3-4 defense next to Bowman. They also tried three-safety formations, allowing second-year standout Jaquiski Tartt to play 16 snaps in a specialized role roving the middle of the field.
“It helps when you’re trying to match up, and it’s a match-up league,” Kelly said. “People want to go big, we have the big personnel to go up against you. If you’re going to go little, I think we can match up with you when you go little.”