Well, you can say one thing about the San Francisco 49ers (2-5), they’re the farthest thing from boring (at least off the field). From locker room arguments, to love triangles, to media leaks, no one does drama quite like they do in Santa Clara. What will be interesting to see, is if the team can put all of that behind them and begin to salvage whatever is left of their season when they travel to St. Louis to take on the Rams (3-3) in Week 8.
The division rivals faced off in Week’s 6 and 9 of 2014, with each of them coming away with a victory. QB Colin Kaepernick might have played his best game of the season in the first matchup, throwing for 343 yards and three scores in the Niner’s 31-17 win. WR Anquan Boldin hauled in seven passes for 94 yards and a score, and WR Brandon Lloyd managed to get behind the secondary at the end of the first half on his way to an 80 yard touchdown reception.
The second game was mired in controversy, as it appeared Kaepernick may have scored on a quarterback sneak in the closing seconds, but he was ruled out of the end zone on the field. The replay appeared to be inconclusive. Still, San Francisco couldn’t get much going on offense in the 13-10 loss, as the Rams recorded eight sacks.
Players to Watch
It’s no secret that the Niners offense often looks it’s best when TE Vernon Davis is heavily involved, so maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that things have gone south the past year and half without Davis really being a threat. Davis has had some decent games this season when healthy, and is coming of four catches (on six targets) and a team high 61 yards receiving in Week 7. OC Geep Cryst simply has to get him involved early, which could help open some plays for Boldin, and WR Torrey Smith.
RB Todd Gurley has been everything St. Louis could ask for and more since taking over as the starting running back in Week 4. In his last three games, Gurley has rushed 68 times for 434 yards and two scores. What’s been remarkable has been his consistency, as his lowest rushing total in that time frame was 128 yards. At this point, he’s the centerpiece of the Rams’ offense, and that should continue against the 49ers.
Game Changing Factor
The Rams’ defense boasts a dominate front four that currently ranks second in the NFL with 23 sacks. DT Aaron Donald and DE Robert Quinn have paced the attack, combining for 8.5 of them. One would have to imagine the duo would have their way with a 49ers’ offensive line that has give up 25 sacks and is allowing their quarterback to get dropped on 11 percent of the total drop backs so far this season. This mismatch could make life miserable for Kaepernick and company.
Stats to Know
The 49ers are at their best when they can run the football, but RB Carlos Hyde hasn’t had much room to work since his breakout performance on opening night. Since gashing the Minnesota Vikings for 168 yards on 26 carries (6.4 yards per attempt), Hyde has been held to 302 yards on 89 rushes (3.39 per rush) over the last six games. He’s only averaged more than four yards per carry once, and has been held to under three twice. After scoring two touchdown’s in Week 1, the the beleaguered back has found the endzone just one time since. Whether it’s because of his foot injury, bad offensive line play, or a combination of both, Hyde simply hasn’t been the same player. The 49ers have to find a way to alleviate this, as he’s too crucial to their attack.
The Rams are not a very good offensive team, and rank last in the NFL in first downs (88), total yards (1793), and passing yards (1066). They have also scored the second fewest points in the league (only the Niners have less). Considering the lack of firepower, this looks like a very winnable game for the 49ers. Having said that, the mismatch in the trenches scares me. I don’t know if San Francisco will be able to handle the pressure the Rams will bring, and it could make for some sloppy play. I think the game will be low scoring, but I’m not sure the 49ers can pull this one out on the road.