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Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

49ers vs. Rams: Keys to Victory in MNF Showdown

Rohan Chakravarthi
Oct 1, 2022 at 6:45 PM--

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Fresh off a disappointing 11-10 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football, the 49ers will host their division-rival Los Angeles Rams in a Monday Night showdown this week during a matchup in which the 49ers could come away with first place in the NFC West should they win.

Here are the keys to win for the 49ers in Week 4.

1. Third Down Conversions

Last weekend, the 49ers converted just 1/10 of their third-down opportunities, keeping their offense off the field and limiting the number of chances for a potential score.

If they want to win games, the 49ers will have to be much better than their season clip, as they currently have converted just 35% of their third downs this season, good for 20th in the NFL.

Meanwhile, the Rams defense hasn't produced as well as expected, as the unit has given up a third-down conversion rate of over 47%, good for 27th in the NFL.

On the flip side, the Rams have converted third downs at an extremely high rate, ranking fourth in the NFL with a 48.4% conversion rate, while the 49ers have been stout defensively, allowing a 32.5% rate.

Providing more chances for scoring opportunities is crucial for this 49ers' offense, especially with the lapses in execution they showcased last Sunday, which is why the third down conversion rate for both teams will be something to monitor and a likely deciding factor in the outcome.

Additionally, an increased third down conversion rate leads to our second key to win, which is...

2. Time of Possession

During the last six meetings between the 49ers and the Rams, San Francisco has dominated the time of possession factor, gaining control of the ball for a majority of the time in five of those games.

In fact, the only game where the 49ers lost the time of possession battle was during last year's NFC Championship, which was the only loss for San Francisco during the six-game stretch.

Given that each team essentially has each other figured out, it's inherent that the time of possession marker has played an important battle in this rivalry between Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay.

Of course, as a statistic on its own, time of possession doesn't necessarily matter as much, but when attributed to the game pace and how it can wear a defense down, then its importance is revitalized.

If the 49ers can, once again, dominate time of possession against the Rams, they'll place themselves in a position to succeed by wearing down a Von Miller-less Rams defense, while keeping their defense fresh.

Currently, the 49ers have controlled time of possession at a significant rate this season, ranking eighth in the NFL, while the Rams rank a paltry 25th.

If San Francisco can continue that trend this week, they'll place themselves in a position of success in a crucial matchup early in the season.

3. Penalties

Unfortunately, while the 49ers have dominated the time of possession, they've struggled with penalties early in the season, providing opposing teams extra opportunities on either side of the ball.

Thus far, the 49ers have averaged 6.7 penalties per game, ranking 23rd in the NFL, while the Rams have been very disciplined, committing just 4.3 penalties per game, which is good for fourth in the NFL.

The 49ers need to remain disciplined, especially offensively, if they want to provide Jimmy Garoppolo with the easiest potential game script to operate and score.

Additionally, creating fewer opportunities for Cooper Kupp and Matthew Stafford would obviously bode well defensively, limiting the chemistry to build over the course of the game, while keeping the defense fresh.

However, the 49ers are without starting left tackle Trent Williams, who will likely miss a few weeks with a high-ankle sprain, meaning that Colton McKiviz will take over at left tackle.

In the two games that San Francisco has lost this season, penalties have been a key issue. The 49ers committed 12 penalties in Week 1, while committing two turnovers, and had seven penalties in Week 3, while giving away the ball three times.

With the trends that have followed the 49ers this season, it seems that penalties, or a lack of, will play a big role in Week 4.

4. Turnover Battle

Alluding to it in the previous excerpt, turnovers have been a downfall for the 49ers this season.

While they've forced four turnovers in three weeks, the 49ers have lost the turnover battle in both games they've played this season.

Now, on the other hand, opposing quarterback Matthew Stafford has been fairly turnover-prone to begin the season, already having five interceptions on the season.

The Rams are amongst the league leaders in 2022 with seven takeaways so far, therefore; with both defenses being fairly stout in the turnover department, the offenses will have pressure on them to execute cleanly and create as many scoring opportunities as possible.

5. Injuries

Injuries are always a factor when it comes to the 49ers, but the Rams have dealt with an injury bug of their own, as head coach Sean McVay ruled out several players ahead of the Monday Night matchup.

David Edwards and Brian Allen will be key losses for the Rams as Coleman Shelton will play at center again, shifting from his original position of guard, while Los Angeles will debut two new interior offensive linemen alongside tackles Joe Noteboom and Rob Havenstein.

In addition, the Rams are without cornerback depth as both David Long and Cobie Durant will be out for Week 4 for the visiting team.

Meanwhile, the 49ers have ruled out Azeez Al-Shaair, Tyler Kroft, Tyrion Davis-Price, Tarvarius Moore, and Trent Williams ahead of the Rams game, while placing Danny Gray as doubtful, and Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, and Ross Dwelley as questionable.

While several of these names were expected to be out on Monday, safety Tarvarius Moore will be an underrated loss as he was one of the team's top gunners on special teams opposite of George Odum.

With the known health concerns of both teams, respective backups will need to play impact roles for their teams, and some of the questionable players, such as Armstead and Kinlaw, could be significant factors for the game.

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