The San Francisco 49ers travel to ‘Levi’s South’ to battle the Los Angeles Rams in their Week 8 matchup. Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo’s previous dominance over Los Angeles in the regular season means nothing after the Rams hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy last year.
Shanahan looks to iron out the kinks with a win before the team blows off some steam during the bye week. The 49ers must fight through another injury-riddled week, but I have three keys that can help below.
Shanahan’s rushing attack gets back on track
The 49ers rushed over 100 yards in two of their last three games but failed to wear out their last two opponents. Shanahan’s rushing repertoire needs a spark, and we may see it with Jauan Jennings and Deebo Samuel out. However, the offense will have to get over the hump of missing Kyle Juszczyk. Juszczyk’s impact is felt when he’s not on the field.
Jeff Wilson averaged 7.7 yards per rush last week and should’ve been given the ball more. Christian McCaffrey flashed in his first week as a 49er. Shanahan must lean on these two to get drives going. A flowing rushing attack will open up the passing game and keep Los Angeles on their heels.
Garoppolo and the offense capitalize in the red zone
There were good moments from the Niners’ offense in last week’s meltdown against the Kansas City Chiefs. They converted eight out of 14 third-downs, ran the ball well, and won the time of possession battle. Garoppolo’s arm helped the offense march downfield for a touchdown to put the 49ers down five (28-23) in the fourth quarter. But Kansas City scored on the following three possessions (including the safety).
I say this to say this 49ers offense needs to pull more weight. Shanahan was in a shootout last week, and his team couldn’t hang.
According to Pro Football Reference, Jimmy Garoppolo is throwing 62% and has seven touchdowns to one interception inside the 20. If you go further, He’s 6/10 with four touchdowns inside the 10. ‘Gucci Garropp’ has a hot hand in the red zone, and Shanahan needs to let him work.
Ryans’ defense rebounds with pressure
The Niners’ defensive line sacked Matthew Stafford seven times in Week 4. San Francisco must own the trenches to beat the Rams. Los Angeles’ pass-protection surrenders a 33.9% pressure rate. Getting to Stafford won’t only help the 49ers get off the field, but it may rattle Stafford to gift the defense the ball.
Look, DeMeco Ryans’ defense was Swiss cheese at points last week, but that does not mean this defense cannot be elite. Ryans will miss Dre Greenlaw Sunday as he’s out with a calf injury. Greenlaw is a major help to San Francisco’s run fits. He adds to Ryans’ list of wounded warriors—forcing Ryans to get even more creative. I’d expect Ryans to stay aggressive with bump and run coverage, nickel blitzes, and bringing more people than the offensive line can block.
Can we talk about what no one else wants to talk about? What does a Week 8 loss mean for this 49ers team? It would put them at 3-5 and keep them near the bottom of the division. OK, I lied about the 49ers having no threat in the NFC West. The Cardinals look like a serviceable team with the return of DeAndre Hopkins, and Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks are one of the scrappiest teams in the NFL.
People across the internet tried to silence Kyle Shanahan’s 1-30 record when trailing by three or more points entering the fourth quarter. However, Rob Guerrera and Michelle Magdziuk showed us that Shanahan’s second-half struggles are unexplainable. But hey, at least he has a better winning percentage down three points or less at any point in the fourth quarter than Zac Taylor, Kevin Stefanski, and Kliff Kingsbury.