Rams Keys To Victory Over Niners
Despite being embarrassed by Dallas last week, the Rams can still make the playoffs. They just need to win their final two games. The rest is out of their hands. All they can do is pray to the gods of the frozen northern tundra that Green Bay and Chicago beat the Vikings in Minnesota. But before the Rams make an Aaron Rodgers voodoo doll or burn Mike Ditka in effigy, the Rams have to go through San Francisco.
The 49ers’ record speaks for itself, 11-3. One of those victories came from the team’s first meeting in week six. In that game, San Francisco’s defense held the Rams to 157 total yards. That is the fewest yards in the McVay era.
In a season defined by inconsistent play, the Rams find themselves with their backs against the wall. Perhaps in another season this game would be defined as a statement game or a revenge game, but at this point it’s win or go home for the Rams. The only thing this game proves is if the Rams can live to fight another day.
Contain George Kittle
Last week, Jimmy Garoppolo threw to George Kittle 17 times. That is one more that he targeted the rest of the team combined. There is good reason that Kittle should be Garappolo’s favorite target, as he leads the team with plays over 20 yards. Kittle has been superman in shoulder pads, but when it comes to football, predictability is kryponite. It will be no small task to rein in the tight end, but it comes down to who wants it more with Kittle. He fights for every yard, so the defense will have to rely on sound tackling and pure grit to stop him from getting first downs and breaking big plays.
Stifle The Pass Rush
The 49ers pass rush has only generated three sacks in the last three games. In the previous 11 games, they averaged four sacks per game. In San Francisco’s bizarre loss to Atlanta, the pass rush looked listless, particularly, Nick Bosa. In college, he never played more than 536 snaps in an entire season. As a 49er, he has already played 665 and it sounds like pro football has taken its toll.
In the post-game interview, Bosa said, “We’re playing a good team every week. In college, you’re playing a good team maybe three times a year. In this league, you have to prepare the same every week. It sounds like a broken record. You really have to take your focus to a new level.”
Bosa has been asked to carry extra weight with injuries to the defense. Linebacker, Kwon Alexander and D.J. Jones have been lost for the season. Dee Ford has been banged up for the last few weeks and has been ruled out for this game. With a few top performers sidelined, the Rams have the opportunity to wear Bosa down further. They could even turn the rookie stand out into a liability.
For much of the season, the Rams offensive line has been maligned. In recent weeks they have stepped up their play, only giving up five sacks in the last five games. The line will have to continue this trend to beat the Niners.
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Run The Damn ball
The Rams are 5-1 when Todd Gurley gets 14 or more touches. Against Dallas, Sean McVay reverted to using Gurley sparingly. Gurley rushed twice in the second quarter and three in the third. Compare that to Gurley’s usage in the win against Seattle. Gurley had nine attempts in the second quarter alone.
Sean McVay should establish the run and stick with it against the 49ers. While the Niners pass defense is formidable, their rushing defense is underperforming. They are ranked 21st in yards per game and gave up 4.5 yards per rush against the Falcons. Jared Goff has proven that he can’t be a one-man show and any defense worth it’s salt can recognize a single faceted offense.
Going back to last season, Todd Gurley’s usage has been in question and the Rams have never been forthright on the subject. It was rumored that Todd Gurley was on a “pitch count.” If that was the case, the Rams may have load managed itself right out of a playoff spot.