Despite missing a ton of talent, the San Francisco 49ers’ defense has held its own. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has his unit among the top 10 defenses in yards allowed and sits 11th in points against per game.
The defense did its job in the loss against the New Orleans Saints. The Niners will need a similar effort to get a win against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
San Francisco has played Los Angeles well in the three previous meetings. Saleh’s defense has held the Rams to an average of 287.6 yards over three games, which all ended in a win for the 49ers. Still, Saleh knows his unit will be in tough against their NFC West rivals.
“I always feel like when you play in-Division opponents they’re usually grind,” Saleh said. “There’s so much familiarity with players, players knowing players and how they play. And so, you get enough reps against the certain player, you know how they play for lack of a better word. But, those Divisions, these Division games are always tight.”
L.A.’s offense showcased what it could do when it put up 413 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ stingy defense. Quarterback Jared Goff finished the game 39-of-51 for 376 yards and three scores, as the Rams used quick passes to pick apart the Bucs’ secondary. Even though the recipe was successful last week, Saleh isn’t expecting to see L.A. use a similar scheme on Sunday.
“I think Sean [McVay] and his staff do such a great job with regards to presenting different challenges every week to their opponent and creating a game plan and a style at which they want to play,” Saleh said. “I mean, they’ve played us many different ways.”
The Rams have talented receivers in Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. The 49ers used cornerback Jamar Taylor to cover Kupp in the Week 5 win and held him to just 11 yards. Saleh is hoping his secondary can respond with a similar effort this time around.
“I thought our guys did a really nice job executing, playing within themselves, playing within the scheme and did a really nice job studying and you know, Kupp had a lot of opportunities to get to do a little bit more,” Saleh said. “But, he is a challenge him and [Los Angeles Rams WR Robert Woods] 17, both really, really big-time challenges, Woods.”
San Francisco’s defense owned the Rams in their first meeting of 2019. Goff finished with just 78 yards passing, and the Niners went on to a 20-7 win. In their second game last season, the 49ers’ offense stepped up and led the team to a 34-31 victory. Saleh knows divisional matchups are always tricky, and he expects Sunday’s game will be no different.
“They’re always tough, both opponents know each other very, very well, and I just feel like it’s always a grind,” Saleh said. “The second time we played them was a shootout, first time wasn’t. So, it can go either way, but you always feel like in these games are just somehow someway it’s going to come down to the last couple of drives of the game.”
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