The Los Angeles Chargers won a close one against the Falcons last week and now face an even bigger challenge; an away game against the 49ers. Both teams have had similar seasons being plagued by injuries despite having definitive star power. But who will have the edge on Sunday Night Football? Let’s review some matchups to watch for in-game as well as keys to victory for the Bolts.
Matchups to watch
Run Game vs 49ers Defense
The Chargers have struggled to run the ball at times which is to be expected rushing behind a shaky offensive line. The 49ers on the other hand have been one of the best teams defending the run. Austin Ekeler‘s rushing stats don’t tell the whole story, as when he faces tougher defenses, he doesn’t do as well.
The Chargers have also failed to get a second back to complement him with Sony Michel and Joshua Kelley splitting time behind him. Justin Herbert shouldn’t have to pass 50 times a game for the team to win, especially when facing a 49er defensive line led by Nick Bosa. That line going up against this Chargers offensive line is a scary thing to think about. Especially considering Herbert seems to have finally fully recovered from his rib injury sustained in Week 2. Getting the running game going against a tough defense will be a challenge, and should be something to watch. But it is also necessary against the 49ers pass rush.
Wide Receivers vs SF corners
Yet again, the Chargers passing game going to be tested. Josh Palmer had a breakout game against the Falcons and he looks to continue that streak versus San Francisco. The 49ers defense allowed over 400 passing yards to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs so they are vulnerable to aggressive passing attacks.
According to head coach Brandon Staley, Keenan Allen is day-to-day so he might be limited another week. Even if he does play, I wouldn’t expect him to come in and have a massive role with Palmer doing well and the fact that he hasn’t played meaningfully since Week 1. The 49ers are also down Emmanuel Mosely and possibly Jason Verrett, so attacking their young backups should be the way to go for Herbert
Chargers Run Defense vs 49ers rushing attack
The 49ers have been one of the best teams in the league running the ball under Kyle Shanahan. The Chargers run defense this year has been gashed by many teams and is a big reason why opponents have kept games closer than they should be.
If the Falcons were able to run the ball well against the Chargers, the 49ers should do much better at it. Christian McCaffrey is coming off a triple touchdown performance (One rushing, one receiving, and one passing touchdown.) against the Rams, and off a bye, he will be just as much a threat to the Chargers. Along with Deebo Samuel, Elijah Mitchell, and Kyle Juszczyk all potentially returning, the 49ers will have an even more dynamic rushing attack.
Keys to win
Make Jimmy G win the game
This should be any team’s plan that plays against the 49ers. Jimmy Garoppolo is a solid quarterback, but he’s not going to solely win you the game. Once this team has to rely solely on his talent and ability that’s when they’re most vulnerable on offense. That comes from stopping the run and making him drop back and pass more often. If the defense can make the 49ers air it out more than run there’s a good chance the Chargers can keep it close.
Every time that the Chargers’ offense touches the ball, they need to be more efficient with it. The offense had its struggles against the Falcons defense. So I can imagine what this matchup will look like. A balanced offense with Ekeler getting involved with screen passes is what I’d expect them to go with, definitely if Allen remains out. This is especially important against a team like the 49ers who like to play ball control football, it’ll be up to the offense to capitalize every time they touch the ball.