Key Matchups: Los Angeles Rams Vs San Francisco 49ers
Matthew Stafford vs 49ers Secondary
Last week, Matthew Stafford faced one of the best secondaries in the game. This week is a very different story. The 49ers’ secondary has a hard time stopping big plays and Stafford has topped the league in explosive plays. He may even get to air it out to Odell Beckham this week. In all reality, Beckham’s snaps will be limited, but as the Rams have shown in the past, Stafford can make any receiver a deep threat. Van Jefferson is the team’s current leader in yards per catch and average depth of target. But Cooper Kupp is having a career year in yards per reception and in yards per route run.
Due to injury, the San Francisco secondary has once again been spackled together with veteran castoffs and rookies that are forced to play. 2021 fifth rounders Deommodore Lenoir and Talanoa Hufanga have seen the field and have actually been a bright spot, but have made rookie mistakes.
The 49ers added Josh Norman in the wake of losing Jason Verrett early in the season. Norman has struggled since joining the 49ers both against opponents and staving off the 49ers’ prevalent injury bug. He suffered a lung contusion in week three and now there are reports that he is nursing a broken rib.
A stalwart at safety, Jimmie Ward has been the most consistent member of the secondary when it comes to performance, but even he missed week nine with a quad injury. No defensive back has played all eight of the 49ers games.
Expect Stafford to test whomever the 49ers trot out early on. If Beckham sees the field this week (looks likely that he will, especially with the news of Robert Woods tearing his ACL), it will likely be in the first quarter on some simple routes. This could get the Rams up early on the 49ers. The Rams failed to do so in both losses last season.
49ers Running Game vs Rams Inside Linebackers
The Rams rank 14th in DVOA versus the run and they are going up against the best running team they have faced by DVOA. The 49ers have a fleet of running backs that could play. Their leading rusher has been a surprise, 6th rounder Elijah Mitchell, but they also have Jeff Wilson and another rookie, Trey Sermon that could be impactful.
The middle linebackers have been a soft spot recently in the Rams defense and it hasn’t gotten better since Kenny Young was traded away. They have relied on Ernest Jones and Troy Reeder as their second layer of defense against runs up the middle. They rank 101st and 86th among linebackers in PFF’s run defense grade.
Luckily for those two, they are playing behind a competent run-stopping defensive line. Greg Gaines has proved to be a quality replacement for the injured Sebastian Joseph-Day.
Shanahan isn’t afraid to patiently run the ball so they can wear down defenses then try to make them pay with a quick crosser to George Kittle. Some plays involving Trey Lance at quarterback could also give the 49ers an edge in the running game. The Rams have struggled against mobile quarterbacks.
Deebo Samuel’s YAC vs Raheem Morris
The Rams defense has allowed more yards after the catch than any other team in the NFL. They have given up 1,251 yards so far this season. Last season, they gave up 121.2 yards after the catch per game. This season it is 139 per game.
They are heading into a game against this season’s leader in that category: Deebo Samuel. He is averaging 57.9 yards per game. The second-place player is none other than Cooper Kupp. He is averaging 48.6. Last season in the two games against the 49ers, they logged a total of 385 yards after the catch. This accounts for 20 percent of all yards after the catch that the Rams allowed all season. With 234 combined yards after the catch, Deebo Samuel alone accounted for 12 percent of the Rams total. To quote The Dude, “This aggression cannot stand.”
There is a lot of finger-pointing at Raheem Morris for not having a number one defense this season. While some of those accusations are wildly overblown, this one rings true. Raheem has to figure out how to stem the tide. Especially in this game. Not only is Samuel a threat but they also have George Kittle and Kyle Juszczyk. Even second-year Brandon Aiyuk has flashed when it comes to picking up extra yards.
Von Miller’s first day on the job against the 49ers got a bit easier when Mike McGlinchey went down for the season. Miller will now face off against Tom Compton. Compton isn’t a scrub by any sense of the word, but certainly a step down from McGlinchey. He is better as a run blocker than in the passing game and is consistent as a backup.
But his position this week is not an enviable one. Von Miller will likely see his first playing time as a Ram and will certainly want to make an impression in this rivalry game.
The 49ers’ offensive line in general is faced with an onerous task. They will be the first guinea pig to face off against Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd, and Von Miller. No one knows exactly how it will look, but it will be a sight to see with all that power combined in one defensive line.