Niners Live broke down every angle of the heartbreaking loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Now the 49ers play a quick turnaround game, and our coverage continues as we preview week #3 against the Los Angeles Rams, the second of three straight divisional games. We will breakdown the key offensive and defensive match ups.
Try as many might, there are no moral victories for the San Francisco 49ers after suffering a 12-9 loss, at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks; the 49ers’ defense held the Seahawks’ offense to 312 yards of total offense and rushed for over 150 yards on their defense. They will have to get over that quickly, as they will be featured in their only scheduled prime-time appearance Thursday Night, at home against The Los Angeles Rams. The 49ers, of course, have a two-game winning streak against the Rams, a fact that the Rams are looking to avenge. Fair warning, this article will talk extensively about the passing game. After all, when it can only produce 88 yards in the air with no touchdowns in two games, it deserves scrutiny.
49ers Offensive Line & Running Backs vs. Rams Front Seven
The running game for the 49ers actually showed life on Sunday, to the tune of 159 rushing yards. Carlos Hyde averaged just over 8 yards per carry with 124 yards on 15 attempts. It seems the insertion of Laken Tomlinson at Left Guard bred new life into the running game, which used plays inside the tackles on the left side and outside the tackle on the right side opening holes against a Seattle defense that was previously tough to run against. The 49ers got a chance to get established last week.
Meanwhile, Right Tackle Trent Brown, Center Daniel Kilgore, and Right Guard Brandon Fusco were routinely opening holes for Carlos Hyde, and for the most part, provided decent pass protection. Joe Staley however, was beaten for two sacks and couldn’t seal the left side on running plays to the left outside the tackle.
The Rams’ defense just surrendered 229 rushing yards to the Redskins on Sunday and have given up an average of 152 rushing yards per game this season. Los Angeles operates from the traditional 3-4 alignment, which saw the return of its star, 3-time pro bowler, Defensive Tackle Aaron Donald, who played on Sunday after ending his holdout. Ethan Westbrooks plays Defensive End and Michael Brockers is the Nose Tackle. The Rams have two talented Outside linebackers in Robert Quinn and Connor Barwin. Alec Ogletree leads the duo of inside linebacker and is partnered with Marc Barron. Despite their loss against the Redskins, this is a young but talented front seven who can make things difficult for the offense. However, if the 49ers are successful in running the ball, it could be very interesting. Last week, Kyle “Juice” Juszczyk was used as a traditional fullback, his role Thursday night will be critical to the 49er game plan.
Brian Hoyer vs. Robert Quinn & Aaron Donald…..Make or Break Time
Brian Hoyer is playing for his job and possibly his career in this game. He received pretty good pass protection against Seattle last week and by his own admission under performed. Hoyer has yet to lead a single drive to a touchdown, a fact that was more apparent last week. If he doesn’t get in the end zone Thursday night, expect the 49er Faithful chants of “We want C.J.” (C.J. Beathard) to get louder.
Meanwhile, Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald of the Rams make up one of the most feared pass-rushing duos in the NFC. Quinn is coming off an injury-plagued 2016 and is looking to get back to his All-Pro status. Donald, a reigning two-time 1st Team All-Pro member, led the Rams with 8 sacks last season.
49ers WRs& TEs vs. Los Angeles Secondary
The success of the 49ers receivers and Tight ends, will largely depend on how well Hoyer does. Forty-niners Pierre Garcon leads the team with 9 receptions and will be going against one of two Cornerbacks, either Kayvon Webster, a free agent signee from Denver (game-time decision from an ankle injury), or his replacement, Nickell Robey-Coleman. Marquise Goodwin will be matched up against Trumaine Johnson. Goodwin is under scrutiny because of a key drop in the 4th quarter, which it turns out would have secured the first win of the season for the 49ers. The syndrome of dropped passes seems to have followed Goodwin from Buffalo. Aside from the speed factor, one has to ask; will Aldrick Robinson play this game? Robinson is next fastest receiver and is more familiar with Shanahan’s scheme. Trent Taylor may see increased playing time if Goodwin’s drops continue. Tight end George Kittle will see the safety tandem of LaMarcus Joyner at free safety and Maurice Alexander in the Box. Yards will be tough to come by, as the Rams only give up 153 yards per game in the air, so the 49er Pass catchers have to play mistake-free football.
49ers Front Seven vs. Rams Offensive Line and Running Backs
Running back Todd Gurley is on pace for 1,000 yards this season, but he will face a stingy 49ers front seven that has yet to give up a 100-yard game to an individual running back. The strength of the Rams offensive line is the left side, led by guard Rodger Saffold and tackle Andrew Whitworth. The rest of the line is comprised of John Sullivan at Center, Right Guard Jamon Brown and Rob Haverstein at Right Tackle.
The 49ers Front four is building a resume on the way to becoming a great unit, with a great performance by DeForest Buckner, a sack from Arik Armstead and constant pressure inside from Earl Mitchell and Tank Carradine, and even a tackle for a loss by Solomon Thomas. Welcome back Aaron Lynch, who got the first sack of the year. Navorro Bowman led the 49ers with 7 tackles and 3 assists last Sunday and Ray-Ray Armstrong will again get the start at the Will linebacker spot and Eli Harold will start again at the SAM.
Jared Goff vs. Arik Armstead & Aaron Lynch
Jared Goff is fully entrenched as the Rams starting quarterback and has been a mixed result so far. He has displayed the quick release, which will make him a mainstay for years to come, but he is susceptible to the sack. We highlight both Aaron Lynch & Arik Armstead, as they both got to Russell Wilson last week, which is never easy to do. The push-up front that dominated Seattle last week could see greater results Thursday night, meaning we could see both Lynch and Armstead in the sack column.
49ers Secondary vs. Rams Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
For the most part, the 49ers Secondary did a fairly decent job against Seattle on Sunday. Corners Dontae Johnson and Rashard Robinson more than held their own against the Seahawks receivers. Box Safety Eric Reid will be closely monitored, as he went down twice during the game against Seattle. The play of K’Waun Williams will get the start again as the slot corner. Once again, we ask is it Jimmie Ward or Jaquiski Tartt as the starter at Free Safety? It may not matter as the Rams present a trio of receivers led by Tavon Austin, former Buffalo Bills receivers Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins. Also look for talented rookie Cooper Kupp to see action. Tyler Higbee stands 6’6” and gives Goff another big target as the Tight End.
Storylines: The ties that connect the 49ers and Rams
This is the first official divisional coaching matchup between Rams Head Coach Sean McVay and San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan. Shanahan was the offensive coordinator for the Falcons last year and will be coaching against Rams Offensive Coordinator Matt LaFluer, who served as the Falcons Quarterback coach last year. Eric Yarber, who serves as Rams Receivers Coach, held the same position with the 49ers during the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Rams Quarterbacks Coach Greg Olson, held that position with the 49ers in 2001, guiding then starter Jeff Garcia. Marquise Goodwin will be reunited with former Bills Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins.
One More Thing
This is a big game for many reasons. First, the 49er offense MUST find its way into the end zone and establish some consistency. Second, this is the second of three straight divisional games, and being that the NFC West is wide open right now, a win Thursday along with a win the following week against a struggling Arizona Cardinals team, puts the 49ers right in the thick of the race. Finally, this is a chance to show the rest of the NFL the progress that is taking place with this organization, Seattle took notice and the rest of the league is sure to follow during the season. Expect another low scoring defensive battle and anything less than a W, will be a huge disappointment.
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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author and new Staff Writer @NinersLive.net, David Edmondson. Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims