It’ll take more to beat the Rams

It was good enough to beat the sad Texans and their 30th-ranked defense, but Trey Lance and Co. will need to do better if the rookie makes his second straight start against the Rams. Lance clearly settled in after the 49ers didn’t score for the first 29 minutes of the game, but considering the opponent, the final numbers were quite disappointing: 19 first downs, 23 points, 416 yards, 5 on 15 in the third and fourth tests and a TD in four trips to the red zone. The return of running back Elijah Mitchell (119 yards) from a knee injury was a huge boost to the rushed attack, and wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk (combined seven catches, 157 yards, TD) took turns making big games. Close end George Kittle had a superb one-handed catch, but was otherwise invisible in a two-target game.

Defense

POLITICAL APPLAUSEThis unit did its job in shoving a weak: The Texans were a four-game winning team from a rookie third-round pick at QB. Houston’s 11 complete practices: seven punts, interception, failed downs, loss of possession on downs and a touchdown. The pick of linebacker Marcell Harris in the third quarter led to a 58-yard TD, and the constant harassment from QB Davis Mills (3 sacks, 8 hits) is why he is averaging 5.1 yards per attempt. Defensive end Nick Bosa was held bagless for the second straight game, but he pulled a hold appeal that nullified a 50-yard finish. Cornerback Josh Norman was benched after his last pass interference penalty, but rookie corner Ambry Thomas continued to improve and made a nearly six.

Special teams

ALERT VIEWERListen, readers, no massive game-altering blunders! Richard Hightower’s beleaguered squad were strong but unspectacular, a major improvement over many past performances. Punter Mitch Wishnowsky’s net average (34 yards) didn’t look great, but he dropped two of his four kicks inside the 13-yard line. Aiyuk and Travis Benjamin combined averaging 8.25 yards on four punt returns. Kick-off returner JaMycal Hasty didn’t fumble with his two runbacks (the bar is low, folks), and Robbie Gould was perfect, putting in FGs from 37, 27 and 36 yards.

framing

ALERT VIEWERKyle Shanahan’s offensive game plan made sense given that Lance was in his second career start and the 49ers weren’t exactly up against the 1972 Dolphins. He smartly established Mitchell and the ground game, which resulted in helped set up some big action plays in the second half, including Samuel’s 45-yard touchdown. The Texans scored their only touchdown when wide receiver Brandin Cooks faced linebacker Fred Warner, which didn’t seem like a good idea.

Globally

ALERT VIEWERThe 49ers probably can’t beat the Rams (12-4) on the road with Lance starting, right? Wrong. They beat the Rams with Nick Mullens from the last time they played in Los Angeles. The 49ers own the Rams, but it would be a good idea to have a more complete performance the next time they meet. You know, just to be safe.

– Eric Branche