Rams Vs. 49ers Preview: L.A. Looks To Stay Hot Facing First Division Opponent
Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

After making easy work over the entire NFC East, the Los Angeles Rams (4-1) are now preparing for their first divisional matchup versus the San Francisco 49ers (2-3) on Sunday Night Football.

Rams Offense Vs. 49ers Defense

Although the Rams are coming off their most dominant win of the 2020 NFL season, the offense received plenty of help from the defense after they went flat in the second half. This was in part due to the lack of efficiency in the ground game as the backfield committee mustered up just 3.7 yards per carry versus Washington.

L.A. can take solace in the fact that they are once again sporting a clean bill of health on this side of the ball so this leaves them with little excuses to not keep it going in Week 6.

They will have their work cut out squaring off against a formidable 49ers defense that is giving up the fifth-fewest total yards per game (323.0) this season. Not only are they limiting ball-carriers to a mere 3.8 yards per carry, but their stingy secondary has allowed the third-fewest yards per game (215.6) through the air.

The absence of linebacker Kwon Alexander leaves a notable void but their improved health as of late should continue to pay dividends.

Rams Defense Vs. 49ers Offense

The Rams’ defense is coming off a dominant two-week stretch led by the efforts of defensive tackle Aaron Donald as his stellar play provided a much-needed spark for a pass-rushing department that registered 13 sacks during that span.

Unfortunately, L.A. suffered some casualties in the process after placing safety Jordan Fuller on IR while linebacker Ogbo Okoronkwo recovers from his surgically-repaired elbow that is expected to keep him out 4-6 weeks.

Meanwhile, the 49ers’ fortunes on offense turned around with the return of their two most integral pieces in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and running back Raheem Mostert in Week 5. However the excitement was short-lived for Garoppolo after completing just 7-of-17 passes for a mere 77 yards and two interceptions before he was benched in favor of backup C.J. Beathard.

While Garoppolo may have struggled, Mostert hit the ground running with 90 yards on 11 carries coming off a knee injury. It is safe to say that head coach Kyle Shanahan will rely heavily on him as a stabilizing factor for the offense moving forward.

Three Keys To Victory

1. Make Garoppolo Beat Defense

Between the ankle injury and his poor play to start the 2020 campaign, it is no secret that Garoppolo is still struggling to find his footing. A meeting with Donald the week after the offensive line gave up five sacks and eight QB hits to a mediocre Miami Dolphins’ pass rush certainly does not bode well for a potential turnaround.

Expect defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to load up the box, bring the pressure and force Garoppolo to make plays on the outside.

2. Limit Checkdown Opportunities

Head coach Kyle Shanahan is going to do all he can to alleviate his shortcomings under center by utilizing Mostert’s versatility as a pass-catcher out of the backfield and he has good reason to be confident. Despite limiting Washington’s backfield to a mere 38 yards on the ground, they also gave up 11 receptions and 70 yards combined to running backs Antonio Gibson and J.D McKissic.

3. Maintain Healthy Balance On Offense

Head coach Sean McVay is hoping the potential increased workload for rookie Cam Akers can add yet another intriguing dynamic to the backfield. Regardless, the onus will fall on quarterback Jared Goff to find the holes in the stout 49ers’ secondary should the run game start to falter like it did last week.

Given how well-round both groups are, the outcome may very well be determined by the coaching battle between former colleagues McVay and Shanahan.

How to watch
Time: Sunday, 5:20 p.m. PT
Location: Levi’s Stadium
TV: NBC /blockquote>