Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


Rams vs. 49ers: 3 things to watch for San Francisco in Week 7

Oct 21, 2018 at 10:52 AM


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The San Francisco 49ers host the undefeated Los Angeles Rams at Levi's Stadium in Week 7, and here are three elements of the game worth paying attention to.


The NFL's Week 7 contest between the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams was supposed to be one of those highly heralded bouts between two up-and-coming division rivals. Six weeks into the season, though, the Niners have just one win. The Rams haven't lost.

In fairness, San Francisco's season went awash after losing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a season-ending ACL injury. With him out and the 49ers struggling, no wonder the league flexed this divisional bout out of the prime-time Sunday Night Football slot -- the time when the Niners were going to debut their throwback uniforms to the 1994 Super Bowl-winning squad.

At least the 49ers will still don those outfits for this game, so that's something to watch.

There are a few other things too, especially with backup quarterback C.J. Beathard coming off arguably his best game as a pro -- a 33-30 heartbreaking loss to the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football last week. If Beathard can be as effective as he was in Week 6, perhaps San Francisco has a chance.

C.J. Beathard and the Turnover Differential


The turnover game hasn't been friendly to San Francisco in 2018. Head coach Kyle Shanahan's squad has lost 14 turnovers thus far, which is second worst in the league. And the Niners defense has generated just three turnovers, which comes in last over six weeks.

Beathard was responsible for a big turnover last week, tossing a game-changing interception in Green Bay on a drive that would have likely ended in a 49ers' game-winning field goal as the clock expired.

Over his three starts this season, Beathard has been responsible for eight turnovers -- three fumbles lost and five interceptions. Not all of those picks have been truly his fault. But when facing off against a high-powered Rams offense, not unlike quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last week, Beathard and Co. can't afford to lose the turnover battle.

And if San Francisco's defense isn't generating turnovers, it's going to mean Beathard needs to protect the ball as much as possible.

First-Class Defensive Tackles


Both the Niners and Rams boast pretty impressive defensive tackles, DeForest Buckner and Aaron Donald, respectively.

Pro Football Focus ranks Donald the No. 1 interior defender in the league entering Week 7, posting an elite-level 94.3 grade on the year. Buckner is currently ranked 24th with a 76.5 mark. Still, these two players are among the best defenders in the NFL today.

Which one gets the edge?

The 49ers offensive line has shown massive improvement this year, but it's still something of a liability in pass protection. Football Outsiders ranked the Niners O-line 26th, while L.A. is ranked ninth.

If San Francisco is able to contain Donald and his teammate, Ndamukong Suh, it will have a chance to keep Beathard upright and perhaps avoid some of those worrisome turnovers that have plagued Shanahan's offense all season.

49ers Winning on the Ground


While Beathard managed to have a great game and has played well enough to win in two of his three starts, the 49ers' No. 1 offensive strength this season still remains the ground attack.

Namely running back Matt Breida.

Remember the 49ers O-line? Pass protection might not be the strength, but Football Outsiders ranked this unit second in the league after six weeks. So no wonder Breida is leading the league with an average of 6.8 yards per carry. He's been a solid workhorse in relief of Jerick McKinnon, who was lost to an ACL injury before Week 1.

The Rams have a solid crop of defenders at all three levels, and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has his defense allowing the seventh fewest points in the league. But if there is a notable weakness, it's against the run game. Opponents are averaging 4.8 yards per carry against L.A.'s defense, which is fifth worst among all defenses in the league entering Week 7.

So one might expect Shanahan to feature Breida, Alfred Morris, Raheem Mostert and as much of the 49ers ground game as possible.

Especially if it means keeping the Rams' own MVP-candidate running back, Todd Gurley, off the field as much as possible.

The 49ers and Rams kick off at 4:25 p.m. ET from Levi's Stadium on Oct. 21.
  • Written by:
    Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to his Twitter account.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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