The San Francisco 49ers haven’t won a game since their home opener in September, and Saturday’s match up against the Los Angeles Rams offers a legitimate shot of snapping their 13-game losing streak.
Their home opener was against the Rams, and they controlled the game from start to finish in a 28-0 win.
While the 49ers have been mired in mediocrity all season, their opponent is in the same situation.
The Rams have four wins, and they fired head coach Jeff Fisher the day after their 42-14 blowout loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
With an interim head coach, and a lethargic offense, the 49ers have a chance to pounce on the Rams early.
The Rams offense doesn’t offer much fire power; they are ranked dead-last in the league in yards per game and in points per game. If San Francisco can jump out to an early lead, they should be able to hold it.
One of the Achilles Heels of San Francisco has been their consistent second half collapses. They’ll enter halftime with a lead, and the second half ends up being a debacle that costs them the game.
Their game two weeks ago against the New York Jets was a textbook example of their second half woes, according to Head Coach Chip Kelly:
“We talked about it with the game before with the Jets. We open up the drive with a drop, and then second drive we have a drop. With the next two drives we had penalties that set us back and all of the sudden we’re playing in big down and distance situations that make it difficult.”
The 49ers led 17-3 at halftime in that game, and then ended up losing in overtime, 23-17.
The Rams lack the firepower to muster comebacks from large deficits, and most of their scoring is reliant on the run game.
San Francisco will have a tall task ahead of them in corralling Rams running back Todd Gurley. Gurley has had a respectable 2016 so far, with 778 rushing yards and five touchdowns. His sophomore campaign has been a step back from what he did a season ago, but he is still an explosive runner who hits running lanes with conviction.
In their first meeting of the year, the 49ers defense was able to hold Gurley to 47 yards on 17 carries. It was the best run-stopping performance of the season for the 49ers, who give up a league worst 176.3 yards a game on the ground.
“The back is the feature player for them. Gurley is a talented guy.”
If the 49ers can corral Gurley again, it will force rookie Jared Goff to make plays with his arm, which is not the strong suit of the Rams offense.
Goff, the first overall pick of the 2016 NFL draft, was knocked out of the Rams last game against the Seattle Seahawks with a concussion. Cornerback Richard Sherman laid a massive hit on Goff along the sideline, and his status for Saturday is uncertain.
There is a possibility he starts, but the 49ers are prepared for whoever the Rams throw at them.
“We have to be prepared for both him and Case (Keenum). There are rumors of (Sean) Mannion, so you have to be ready for all of them. Their offense hasn’t changed drastically from Case (Keenum) to Jared (Goff), it’s a familiar offense.”
In five career starts, Goff hasn’t thrown for more than 235 passing yards, and he has a 54.7 completion percentage.
Under duress he isn’t very accurate, and Kelly said the 49ers need to make sure he doesn’t have time to set his feet:
“He throws a nice ball, it’s catchable. He’s very accurate when he has a chance to get his feet set. We need to disrupt the timing of the routes and try to get some pressure on him. When you give him time to throw, he is a very accurate thrower.”
Offensively, the 49ers will rely on running back Carlos Hyde to have a standout performance. In their first meeting against the Rams, Hyde rushed for 88 yards and rumbled for two touchdowns.
Hyde said about the Rams defense:
“Not too many running backs had success against them running the ball. I feel like I’m the only one who’s really had some runs against them. They play the run pretty well.”
The recipe for success for the 49ers is to dominate the run game on both sides of the ball. Control the clock on offense, and shut down Gurley on defense.
The 49ers defense manages to once again limit Gurley, this time to less than 90 yards rushing. Carlos Hyde scampers for 100 yards and a touchdown against a very stout Rams rush defense.
49ers win this one, 20-10.