The San Francisco 49ers are in the final stretch. Only two games remain of the 2019 regular season, and both are crucial to the team’s playoff positioning. The Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks await, and a win against both will likely secure the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs. It’s imperative coach Kyle Shanahan right the ship coming after a disappointing loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Here are five players to watch as the 49ers look to back in the win column against an NFC West foe:
DE Nick Bosa
Bosa was clearly frustrated with his performance in the 49ers’ loss to the Falcons. After the game, the No. 2 pick told the media in the locker room that he didn’t win enough one-on-one opportunities, as well as made several mental mistakes. Bosa will be eager to redeem himself against Los Angeles on Sunday. The 49ers’ pass rush will be counting on his productivity without defensive end Dee Ford, who’s still recovering from an aggravated hamstring. Bosa only managed one assisted tackle last time he faced off against the Rams, his worst statistical game of the season.
RB Raheem Mostert
The 49ers have always favored a split backfield under Shanahan. This season has been no different, with Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, and Raheem Mostert all over 500 yards on the season - though the former has begun to distance himself from the pack. Against the Falcons, Mostert carried the ball 14 times while Breida and Coleman got four each. Of the three, Mostert is having the best season, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. The 49ers offense seems to function better with Mostert in the backfield. His continued dominance of the offensive snaps will be worth keeping an eye on against the Rams.
S Jimmie Ward
The New Orleans Saints targeted star wideout Michael Thomas with ease, and the Falcons did the same with Julio Jones, all the way to the game-winner. The Rams don’t have a playmaker of the same caliber as Thomas or Jones, but they do have a wealth of targets at both receiver and tight end that’ll require Ward’s best as the deep man. Last time he faced the Rams, Ward was instrumental in stiffing the passing attack, especially on key third- and fourth-down stops late in the game. Even with cornerback Richard Sherman and K’Waun Williams returning to the fold, Ward will be one of the defense’s most critical elements in shutting down a Rams offense that favors the air.
QB Jimmy Garoppolo
The 49ers quarterback authored a forgettable afternoon against the Falcons. Some of Garoppolo’s struggles can be attributed to an offensive line that consistently collapsed under the pressure of the defense. He also never quite seemed to get into a rhythm, missing some throws and reads that would’ve helped ease the offensive woes. Garoppolo targeted tight end George Kittle 17 times against the Falcons, more than every other pass-catcher combined. It was an odd display of tunnel vision from an offense that typically spreads the ball around. Shanahan may share some of the blame, but Garoppolo must spread the ball around against the Rams.
DL Arik Armstead
Four 49ers were selected into the Pro Bowl - Bosa, Kittle, Sherman and fullback Kyle Juszczyk, With ten sacks, Armstead is the team’s biggest snub, only being recognized as an alternate. Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Fletcher Cox was selected over the 49ers’ former first-round pick despite only managing 3.5 sacks. Armstead told the media that he was angered, feeling like he was clearly deserving but overlooked. It wouldn’t be surprising if Armstead considered Saturday’s matchup against a lackluster Rams offensive line an opportunity to prove his point and relieve some frustration.