It’s do or die for the 49ers: 5 keys to victory over Los Angeles Rams

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) walks off the field after the 49ers were defeated by the Arizona Cardinals in an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

The San Francisco 49ers (3-5) will look to snap an eight-game home losing streak and keep their playoff hopes alive when they take on the Los Angeles Rams (7-2) on Monday night at Levi’s Stadium. The last time the 49ers won a home game was October 18, 2020, when they defeated the Rams 24-16.

Here are my five questions to watch out for on Monday night.

1. Will Jimmy Garoppolo reach 300 yards passing for the third week in a row?

Garoppolo has thrown for 300 or more yards in back-to-back games twice in his career, but he has never reached that total in three straight and never has reached that total against the Rams.

Despite the lack of a 300-yard game, Garoppolo has been successful against Los Angeles with a career record of 4-0.
Garoppolo’s last victory over the Rams was also the last victory for the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. In that game Garoppolo completed 23 of 33 attempts for 268 yards and three touchdowns.

The key for Garoppolo this week is to not turn the ball over. In his four starts against Los Angeles, he has committed six turnovers, five interceptions and one lost fumble.

2. Can the 49ers offensive line neutralize the Los Angeles pass rush?

As if trying to keep Aaron Donald, 6 sacks, and Leonard Floyd, 7.5 sacks, off your quarterback wasn’t already a tough challenge, Monday night will mark the debut of Von Miller for the Rams.

Los Angeles added the three time All-Pro when they sent their second and third round selections in the 2022 draft to Denver at the beginning of November. Miller currently has 4.5 sacks on the season, which would be third most for the Rams.

The 49ers will need to try and keep the trio off their quarterback without right tackle Mike McGlinchey who was lost for the season with a torn quad muscle suffered last week against Arizona.

With McGlinchey out, San Francisco will turn to either Tom Compton or Jaylon Moore. Compton made three starts for the 49ers last season and was replaced in each by Colton McKivitz. Moore has already made one start in his rookie season when he stepped in for Trent Williams against Indianapolis. Williams has primarily played on the left side this season, but he has been getting practice on the right side to be ready if called upon.

3. Will the 49ers secondary be able to contain Matthew Stafford?

Facing rookie Justin Fields and backup Colt McCoy the last two weeks, the 49ers secondary has forced only 12 incompletions. This week the secondary gets to face the quarterback with the best rating in the NFL at 111.0, Matthew Stafford.

Los Angeles acquired Stafford through a trade with the Detroit Lions to upgrade the position, and so far, this season it has paid off. In addition to having the top rating, Stafford is third in the NFL in passing yards per game, 307.9 and second in touchdown passes, 23.

The 49ers hope to have safety Jimmie Ward back this week after he missed the Arizona game. The veteran could help due to his leadership on the back end of the defense and his sure tackling. Both of which were missed last week.
Having Ward return could provide a boost, but San Francisco will need to have a big game out of their pass rush as well. The Los Angeles offensive line has been terrific in pass protection this season, allowing the fourth lowest sack percentage in the NFL.

Except for Nick Bosa, San Francisco has struggled with getting to the quarterback this season. Bosa has recorded 17 quarterback hits through the first eight weeks while no other 49ers player has more than four.

4. Can Kyle Shanahan get back to his offensive identity?

One of the first things that comes to mind when discussing the 49ers offense under Kyle Shanahan is running the football. During San Francisco’s run to the Super Bowl in 2019, they ran the ball nearly as often as they threw it, 49% run to 51% pass.

This season that number is heavily skewed towards the pass. Through the first eight games, the 49ers offense has ran the ball on only 43% of their offensive snaps.

With a defense that is struggling to get off the field, a successful run game could become San Francisco’s best defense. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that the run game has been featured during all three wins this season.

5. Will the 49ers play a clean game?

The 49ers are two games under .500 in large part because the offense continually shoots itself in the foot with penalties, dropped passes and turnovers. The Ram’s defense has forced the eighth most turnovers this season, 14.
The pass defense for Los Angeles has been particularly adept at taking the ball away, forcing 12 interceptions while allowing only 10 touchdowns.

Meanwhile, San Francisco has turned the ball over in all but two games this season. If they have any chance to pull off the upset on Monday night, they need to make sure this is the third time.


Rams 31, 49ers 21

This article has 27 Comments

  1. In 8 games we have held opponents to less than 28 points twice and one of those was a loss. And on offense, we have only scored more than 28 points twice. Injuries on both sides of the ball would argue that we are going to have to have an exceptional performance by either the offense or defense. I find it hard to believe that the Rams will put up less than 28 or we will put up more. So Jack, I think you’ve handicapped this game about as good as anyone. Just saying.

  2. 1. I hope Jimmy doesn’t need to throw for 300 yards. This most often would mean that they are behind and have to play catch up or their run game is stymied.

    2. I think in your last sentence you meant Moore not Williams unless I’m reading that wrong.. Our success here will depend mostly on who plays RT and how well they do. Yet to be determined who it will be.

    3. Ward would certainly help but I believe this is our weakest area and based on recent results I have little faith the secondary will meet the challenge. I think that both the secondary and the DL will need to step up to have any chance on containing Stafford.

    4. I don’t really buy the identity argument. I know that Shanahan would like to have more run than pass plays but each game dictates what’s working and not working. When we are behind in the score, that usually means more pass plays in an attempt to catch up. Having said that, I believe we can run on the Rams if healthy and we appear to be except RT.

    5. Nothing to add here except to say I enjoy your writings.

  3. Williams has primarily played on the left side this season, but he has been getting practice on the right side to be ready if called upon.

    Are you saying Trent Williams is ready to play right tackle, or did you mean Moore? Sorry not trying to be sarcastic or looking for errors.. genuine question. Thanks.

  4. Fun Fact.

    In today’s Seattle loss against Green Bay, Russell Wilson had this stat line:

    20/40 161 4.0 0 0 2 3-28 39.7

    Now had Wilson just taken every single snap and thrown it into the dirt for an incompletion instead, he would have finished with a pretty comparable passer rating of 39.58.

    1. That’s sad commentary on Wilson. I didn’t watch the game but It didn’t appear that GB did much either until the 4th quarter. There were some crazy upsets again this week as usual but it seems crazier this year than most.

  5. I wonder where all those people went who were apoplectic pre draft when they thought Shanahan was going to draft Mac Jones. Jones is looking pretty good right now. It seems Shanahan was correct in his evaluation of Jones and thinking he was a top 2 candidate. However, he might have been wrong on which one he chose. To be determined.

    1. I’m still not a fan of Jones.

      I think he is limited and if your goal is to win a championship you’re going to have to compete for multiple years against dynamic passers like Mahomes, Josh Allen, et al. I say multiple years because you have to be a bit lucky to win it all as well. The best shot you have as a team is to have as many chances as possible, which a dynamic QB can provide.

      I’ve watched Mac Jones play quite a bit and I think there are limitations in the throws he can make. This is his first season and defenses will likely play him differently next year. Remember how great Jimmy was in his first full season?

      Jones will come back down to earth. That doesn’t mean he’s a bad quarterback- he certainly has a bit of the IT factor between the ears. But I don’t see him as a top flight QB in this league.

      I was ecstatic when the 49ers drafted Lance because his ceiling is quite high. He also has the intangibles you look for with high IQ and decent instincts (although he had limited number of games in college). If he fulfills some of that potential he could be a top flight QB in this league. If not, well….

      Of course, I don’t know any more than anyone else. Tom Brady never gave any indication he would be this good either. But let’s not anoint Mac Jones as the next star quarterback in this league just yet.

  6. Agree with most of these Keys to Victory, Jack. I would expand #3 to focus on DeMeco Ryans ability to devise a game plan to limit the Rams offense. I’m becoming more and more convinced Ryans isn’t up to the job of a defensive coordinator. I really like Ryans as a person and as a coach but I’m not sure he’s ready to be a DC in the NFL. He honestly looks overmatched in just about every game this year. Whether it’s in-game strategy, game planning, or even coaching the players up to know the proper techniques I think Demeco and the defensive staff have been outcoached in nearly every game this year. For me, I’m looking at this Rams game as a game for me to decide if I think DeMeco Ryans should be fired in season or not.

    1. Yes, Ryans should be fired immediately. He is a failure as defensive coordinator and the Niners need leadership from someone who can prepare the defense for an upcoming opponent and then can make needed adjustments during a game. Because Ryans can’t do that the Niners are not likely to win any more games this season.

    2. I’m going to add my name to the list regarding our DC situation. Two times we have elevated a linebacker coach with very limited experience. OK I have to admit with 4 years of OJT Saleh seemed to get the hang of of. That said, would a seasoned veteran have let the Chiefs get back into the game when we were ahead by two possessions late in the game? No, we have to focus on how our QB, who supposedly has a weak arm, over threw a wide open Emmanual Sanders for what would certainly have been the winning touchdown. (Jimmy G must certainly know that his entire career may well be greatly diminished by that over throw and he needs to redeem himself) It seems like maybe our first time HC is hesitant to have anything more than first time assistants around him. I’ll also add my name to those who say that McVay was helped greatly by having Wade Phillips as a DC when he became a first time HC. We’ll see tonight because the Rams now have Raheem Morris. Last week we talked about Kingsbury out foxing Shanahan. Let’s not forget that it was Kingsbury and Vance Joseph outfoxing Shanahan and Ryans. From Vic Fangio to DeMeco Ryans. How far we’ve fallen,

  7. Some Fans are way too eager to want to fire someone. It’s only been half a season and the losses aren’t all or any of his fault. So you fire him mid season and then what? Replace him with another position coach since there are probably no experienced DC’s sitting at home ready to commit. It’s unlikely the new guy you promote is going to be successful so you then have to fire him also. Even if you find an experienced DC, he’s most likely not up to speed on the current system so he’s useless this year, Shanahan wants to run a certain system which will also diminish the number of available people. Every person new to a job, isn’t great on day one. He/she gets better with experience. Also, the DC doesn’t get on the field. There are some experienced players making mistakes. They know how to do their job but sometimes they don’t do it. Maybe they should be fired first.

    1. This is the obvious rebuttal for firing a DC midseason. I don’t really disagree with any of the logic. A firing would obviously necessitate promoting someone likely from the current staff. I would think Johnny Holland would be the obvious choice. Then I’d think you would bring in an experienced guy to assist Holland. Maybe someone like Greg Manusky or Matt Patricia. Not sure either of those guys are available but there is always someone with experience available. I actually think a lot of the poor performances on the defense are on Demeco Ryans. The collapse against Detroit and then the collapse against the Packers. Then the bad performances against the Colts and the Cardinals were just poor game plans in my opinion. The obvious thing you get by firing DeMeco is a potential improvement in game planning and in-game defensive calls. Obviously, Kyle has to decide if DeMeco is the problem or not but from my seat on the couch he looks to be a big part of the problem. After the embarrassment against the Cards, DeMeco Ryans really needs the defense to have a good game against the Rams.

      1. We’ll see how it goes in about 4 hours. But more and more I think the problem is that Shanahan does not want an experienced DC (or even OC for that matter). Not sure if it is arrogance or an actual insecurity. Insecurity in the sense that KS knows his offensive schemes will not be questioned but all other aspects might be questioned by the more experienced person. I mean when you think about it, he has surrounded himself from day one with inexperienced people (GM, DC, OC (if you can call the person with that title an actual OC), unless he knows them from working with them in the past (RB coach).

        Hate Harbaugh all you want, but at least he tried to bring in the best coaching talent that he could. Initially I didn’t like Roman, but afterwards I realized he was a big reason CK7 was even a passable QB.

          1. Did they try hard, Razor? I remember fans mentioning it, but don’t recall much actually written by journalists or better yet, statements by Lynch.

            1. C’mon Cubus, I know you have google, and not only that, I know your memory isn’t that fuzzy; and I was one of those fans who was calling for it early on in the process:

              Matt Barrows
              Hearing #49ers were interested in bringing Vic Fangio back to Bay Area as DC, but he’s under contract in Chicago and Bears blocked move.
              7:34 PM · Jan 19, 2017

              1. What part of the Bears blocked the 49ers don’t you get? Grant, is that you?

                Maiocco just said in his facebook live chat that Vic Fangio wanted to come back to the Niners. Bears wouldn’t let him out of his contract.
                we knew the niners asked but Fangio wanting to come back is definitely new info.

                maybe if we don’t change the defensive system up too much and don’t improve enough we’ll get Fangio back next season when his contract runs out.

                could be seen as a positive or negative really. good to have a backup plan but might make a DC candidate less likely to want the job now.

              2. Matt also reported:

                Per source, it never got to the point where the #49ers made a formal request to Bears for permission to talk to D-coordinator Vic Fangio.

                Didn’t see much effort to try and bring in an experienced guy once Saleh left. Capisci.

              3. B L O C K E D- U N D E R C O N T R A C T

                This narrative that Shanny’s “ego” is responsible is pure Grant Cohn BS! You should be ashamed.

              4. I’ll leave it like this. I provided evidence to support my position. I’m still waiting for your “ego” evidence. LMAO!!

        1. The best thing Harbaugh ever did was hire Vic Fangio as his DC and he only did that because he brought Fangio with him from Stanford. I don’t necessarily think Shanahan wants only inexperienced guys so no one questions him. I think he wants people he knows and a lot of those people simply don’t have enough experience. Promoting from within is always a great idea because it makes up and coming coaches want to work for you but DeMeco only had 4 years of experience as a coach. 2017 he was a Defensive Quality Control Coach. Then he was an Inside LBer Coach. And then he was promoted to DC. I just feel like he’s overmatched because he doesn’t have the experience and there wasn’t a strong enough support staff around him. If you look at Mike Vrabel, he was named a DC after only 3 or 4 years of coaching but the Texans kept Romeo Crennel on staff to help Vrabel. If you don’t want to fire DeMeco hire him some more experienced help for his support staff.

          1. Thanks for the common sense. This nonsense about Shanahan’s personality from people who’ve never even met the man is pure BS. It’s just another way to attack Shanahan. Every Fangio started out as a Ryan. Give the man a chance.

            1. You realize he’s had plenty of time as a head coach for a proper evaluation, right?

              I’m not saying there’s anyone better available. But what’s this about giving the guy a chance?

              Is half a decade enough or do you need a full 10 years? Basically.. the time it takes your elementary school kid to head off for college?

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