Five keys for Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers

Eric D. Williams

It’s Niners week.

The Los Angeles Rams take on the defending NFC West champs, the San Francisco 49ers, on the road at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara in a nationally televised Sunday Night Football contest.

The Rams are looking for a little bit of revenge after being swept by San Francisco last year.

I predicted the Rams over the Niners, 27-21. You check out the reasons for my pick here. I’m 5-0 so far on my picks this season.

Here are five keys to the game for the Rams as they look to improve to 5-1 on the season against 2-3 San Francisco.

Stop the run: San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan will try and create balance on offense by leaning on the running game with running backs Raheem Mostert and Jerick McKinnon, along with receiver Deebo Samuel on jet sweeps. San Francisco averages 130 rushing yards a contest, showing teams a diverse run scheme that’s hard to game plan against. So the Rams have to be disciplined and stout up front, stop the run on early downs and force San Francisco to throw it on third down.

Make Jimmy G uncomfortable: San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo played with a high-ankle sprain last week and did not look comfortable moving inside the pocket. He struggled in the first half against the Miami Dolphins and ultimately was pulled in favor of C.J. Beathard. According to reports from San Francisco, Garoppolo looked healthier in practice this week. Still, Aaron Donald and company need to heat up the pass rush and force Garoppolo into some mistakes while moving around.

Keep George Kittle in check: The talented tight end gets San Francisco going with big plays, and he’s been particularly effective against the Rams. The University of Iowa product has career highs in targets (47), receptions (32), receiving yards (537) and touchdowns (3) in six career games against the Rams, averaging 11.4 yards per reception. Perhaps we see Jalen Ramsey matched up against Kittle, forcing the Niners to go somewhere else on offense.

Create a big play on special teams: The Rams really have not got many big plays from special teams so far this season. They could use a momentum-shifting play on Sunday like a big return, a punt or field goal block or a forced fumble that helps flip field position.

Find the mismatch on defense: The Niners gave up a handful of big plays last week against the Miami Dolphins due to injuries in the secondary. I’m sure Sean McVay will have some calls on his play sheet to attack San Francisco deep with someone like Robert Woods, seeing if he can create some chunk plays to help put his offense into scoring position. 

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