What has the potential to remedy a losing streak? A win versus a hated divisional rival.
Matches between these two teams tend to be hard-hitting affairs. Could we see a repeat of last years 34-31 win?
Let’s dive right in.
Why the 49ers Will Win
First off, the team is actually starting to get healthy. Starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is another week removed from his ankle injury, and is good to go for this weekend. Raheem Mostert looked good in his first action back last week. On defense, cornerback Emmanuel Moseley is expected back as well, which will immensely help the beleaguered secondary.
Garoppolo is in a do-or-die situation. Last week, he was benched at halftime “to protect him.” If you believe that, I have an ice farm to sell you in Phoenix, Arizona. The reality is, he stunk, and he needs to show that he is the franchise quarterback in order to keep a job. Top athletes tend to perform their best when they have something to prove. This is the perfect time to prove it.
To simplify the passing game is this: slow down Aaron Donald. Donald exemplifies one of Garoppolo’s nagging issues: interior pass rush. While he may not be able to be stopped, it is critical for the 49ers to double him so he cannot destroy the game plan by himself. The biggest key to that is going to be running the ball on first down, and doing it successfully. The 49ers are currently the 19th-ranked offense on third-down percentage. The 49ers don’t want to have a struggling offense facing obvious passing third-downs against the Rams front.
The key to this game offensively will be the running backs. Obviously, there is a need to run the ball well and stay balanced, but they need to be heavily utilized in the passing game as well. Get Mostert and Jerick McKinnon out against the Rams linebackers, and make them miss. Swing passes, screens, or any other kind of quick dump off should be a large part of the plan here.
Defensively, the 49ers need to start getting home. This is a team that is first in the league in pressure rate, and yet, are at the back of the pack for sacks. The defense will slow down the Rams running game, but when they force the game into Jared Goff’s hands, how will they hold up? Yes, Moseley is back, but the secondary is still banged up. Kerry Hyder, Jr. and Arik Armstead need to lead this unit to some sacks.
Why the Rams Will Win
If the 49ers defensive secondary plays even remotely the same as it did against the Dolphins, the game’s over. Goff just has to many passing targets for the 49ers’ hobbled secondary to cover. Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Tyler Higbee have been having a field day so far this year. If Moseley is even a little hobbled, and not able to take away one of these targets, it may spell doom.
The other issue here is Donald. The fearsome linemen is looking likely for another Defensive Player of the Year award from the way he has been playing. While the 49ers attempt to slow him down, he has other plans. Donald spends the day living in Garoppolo’s lap, and never lets the 49ers offense get moving. Jalen Ramsey will also be causing a lot of problems, as he tends to do.
When the 49ers are able to pass, the Rams will smartly take away George Kittle. The Rams will double-team and bracket Kittle in order to force someone else to try and beat them. The large problem there is that the aforementioned Ramsey will be on one side of the field stopping passes that way. This will allow the Rams to roll coverage elsewhere and stifle the 49ers offense.
The Rams are going to end up on top in this one.
The 49ers offense hasn’t been rolling consistently for many reasons this year. Playcalling that doesn’t always seem to make much sense, with players constantly out of the lineup. These, combined with the defensive front of the Rams, spells a long day for Garoppolo and company.
The Rams win this one, 28-10, and we are stuck wondering where we go from here.