The 49ers are fighting a brutal rash of injuries; the LA Rams, not so much. But for Saturday’s match-up, the reigning NFC champs’ three injuries are unusually significant.
Most notably, starting left cornerback, Troy Hill is out. Now that the Niners have settled on an effective WR receiver rotation of Emmanuel Sanders, Deebo Samuel, and Kendrick Bourne, that will hurt. As great as Jalen Ramsey is, he’s not going to cover two or three receivers. And the Rams could not be criticized if Ramsey followed tight end, George Kittle, instead of a receiver per se.
Kicker Greg Zuerlein did not practice Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, and is officially “questionable” for the game. For a typical NFL player, that would mean that he is likely to tough it out, but kickers are binary; they either make their kick, or they don’t. Playing at 60% is playing at zero; you miss the kick in both cases.
Need more evidence? No problem. On Thursday, the Rams worked out kicker Brett Maher, who has already missed ten field goals this year (for the Cowboys, before they cut him). Clearly, they think Maher might be better Zuerlein.
If the two are even close, that will be a big advantage for the Niners. Keep in mind that San Francisco is great at stuffing opponents on fourth down, denying 14 of 21 attempts (including 5 of 8 one-yard runs). Just in case McVay figures he’ll just get aggressive and go for it on fourth down.
Finally, Jared Goff (of tiny baby hands fame) has an injured thumb on his throwing (right) arm. He was a full participant in practice. Still, the guy has been a mediocre to poor QB since opposing defensive coordinators figured out that they could totally panic him by shifting the defensive formation after his coach’s helmet microphone was cut off.
It’s hard enough for the guy when he’s healthy, and a “bruise” that has left his thumb “stiff” won’t help.