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Rams' Defense Struggles to Find Answers for the 49ers' Running Game

The Rams' defensive front was largely at fault in the team's 31-10 Week 10 loss to the 49ers.

On any given night in the NFL, any team can win. On Monday night in Santa Clara, the San Francisco 49ers proved that records do not matter – especially in a divisional matchup – as they took down the high-powered Los Angeles Rams in a 31-10 beatdown.

So, what happened? Well, the 49ers opened the game with an 18-play drive that gave San Francisco notable momentum which took the life out of any pre-game energy the Rams had coming out of the locker room.

"It got us into a rhythm for sure," 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. "That's the way we want to do it. Just running the ball, converting on third down and then scoring at the end. I don't want to say it took their soul away but it definitely did something."

Coming into the game, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan set a ridiculous goal of 40-plus carries for his running game. Surprisingly, the Rams' defensive front allowed the 49ers to exceed that goal with 44 carries for 156 yards. Because of that, the Rams posted their second-worst PFF rushing grade of the season.

After not establishing the run last week against the Cardinals, the 49ers ran all over a defensive unit that is allowing only 97.6 yards rushing per game. New defensive addition Von Miller struggled against the run in his first game in Los Angeles. Miller was targeted on Shanahan’s outside runs and in multiple short passing situations to continue the 49ers’ long drives.

In the middle of the field, Aaron Donald did well as usual. However, middle linebacker Ernest Jones was the Rams' lowest graded defender against the run on Monday night. Jones lined up in the box 53 times and only totaled three tackles against San Francisco. After doing well in his first few starts in the NFL, the inexperience of Jones showed against an impressive game plan.

Coming off of two lopsided losses, the Rams have a bye week before facing the NFL's top-seeded Green Bay Packers. With Green Bay boasting a top-five defense, the Rams will have to be careful to avoid another chaotic loss. Matthew Stafford’s mistakes have consistently created difficult opportunities for the Rams defense, who could not even seem to stop the Titans or 49ers on a regular drive.

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Even with their struggles, the last few weeks, Rams coach Sean McVay indicates he's not wavering regardless of the recent outcomes.

“I choose to believe that these last two weeks aren’t who we are,” McVay said. 

But McVay also pointed out that their team’s best players did not live up to their standards. The 49ers threw the ball away from Jalen Ramsey, limiting his impact to make plays on the ball. A 49ers' offensive game plan that worked accordingly, combined with the Rams offense which consistently was shut down, gave L.A. no chance to recover after falling to an early 14-0 San Francisco lead.

The stars shine bright in Los Angeles, and after adding Miller and Odell Beckham, the Rams are all in for the 2021 season. L.A. will receive some much-needed rest and regroup for the NFC Divisional Round rematch from 2020 on November 28th at Lambeau Field. If McVay and the Rams want to take down Rodgers and the Packers, all three phases of the game will have to be as on point and complimentary as they have been early on this season.

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