Sean McVay’s crew comes into Santa Clara at 6-0, beating their opponents by an average of 13 points each Sunday. That doesn’t bode well for a 49ers’ team that has strong blow-out potential, after a brutal loss just six days ago.
That being said, the beauty of the NFL is that anything is truly possible each week. Here’s what Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers will have to in order to pull off the upset against the Rams.
1. Carry over the effort, energy and mojo from Week 6 at Packers
For 3.75 quarters on Monday night, many 49ers’ fans believed that San Francisco was going to beat quarterback Aaron Rodgers in his house, but it all fell apart in the last few drives down the stretch.
Quarterback C.J. Beathard and the rushing attack moved the ball up and down the field against the Green Bay defense and after an ugly opening drive, the defense played well against Rodgers and Co.
If San Francisco can bring that same intensity on Sunday, they certainly have a puncher’s chance against the Rams.
2. Slow down Los Angeles Rams’ running back Todd Gurley
Through six weeks of the season, the 49ers have the 10th-ranked rushing defense, giving up 4.0 yards per rushing attempt. On the flip-side, the Rams have the best rushing offense (tied with SF), gaining 5.1 yards per rush.
Well — when you’ve got one of the top rushing defenses against the best ground attack, something’s going to give. Against Denver’s defense last weekend, Gurley rushed for 208 yards on 28 carries, including two rushing touchdowns.
Gurley has been on a tear for the Rams and the perfect catalyst for McVay’s potent offense. The 49ers’ defense will have to sell their soul to stop Gurley from running all over them. It’s going to take monster performances from linemen DeForest Buckner and Ronald Blair III among others to have a chance.
3. Involve wideout Marquise Goodwin in the deep passing game
The biggest X-factor for the 49ers’ offense is not someone that most people would immediately think of — it’s speedy wide receiver Marquise Goodwin.
What was one of the biggest differences against the Packers last week? Goodwin was able to take the top off of the defense, have a 67-yard reception and open up things underneath for the other receivers.
Goodwin’s injuries early in the season have largely gone unnoticed, but it’s had a huge impact on Shanahan’s offense. Even though Los Angeles revamped their secondary, their pass defense is still middle of the pack, ranked 17th in the NFL.
If Beathard can carry over his performance from Monday and hook up with Goodwin for a play or two, it’s going to really open up the rest of the offense. San Francisco is going to have its hands full on Sunday with one of the best teams in the league, but if they’re going to have a chance it’s starts with these three keys.