Six days after giving the Green Bay Packers all they could handle on Monday night, the San Francisco 49ers went home and were routed 39-10 by the Los Angeles Rams. The victory moved the Rams to 7-0, the last unbeaten team in the league.
The Rams have not succumbed to any kind of letdown from last season’s 11-5, NFC West-winning campaign and have instead put themselves in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 seed in the conference.
Basics on the Rams
Los Angeles forced four San Francisco turnovers, sacked 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard seven times, blocked a punt out of the end zone for a safety and ran out to a 22-7 halftime lead en route to a comfortable victory.
Head coach Sean McVay can be considered a “West Coast” disciple as he came up in the NFL in Washington under head coach Jay Gruden (2014-16). But McVay likes to use motion and different formations to create mismatches for his playmakers and easy throws for Jared Goff. Like 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, who gave the Packers' defense problems McVay could have his offensive personnel align in the same exact fashion as previous plays, but sprinkle in subtle variations to scheme open a particular player.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and his 3-4 scheme not unlike what is seen elsewhere – he just happens to have reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald as its fulcrum to build pressures around.
Yards per pass attempt by Goff, through 218 attempts – by far the best in the NFL among passers with at least 200 passes.
Sacks by the interior pass-rush combination of Donald (eight) and Ndamukong Suh (three).
The Rams’ red-zone percentage, which is just 14th in the league. Goff has fumbled once and thrown two interceptions inside the opponent’s red zone. He also threw an interception while at the Arizona 21.
Players to watch
Aaron Donald, defensive tackle
This is an easy one, but the 27-year-old defensive tackle is the best in the league and can totally disrupt any offensive game plan with his ability to shed double teams and collapse the pocket from the middle. At 6-feet, 1-inch and 280-pounds, Donald has the strength and quickness to twist or loop around teammates on the line of scrimmage, or even line up as a defensive end. He had four sacks against the 49ers and has brought the quarterback down in each of the last four games.
Sam Shields, cornerback
After playing just one game for Green Bay in 2016 and missing all of 2017 due to concussions and the after effects, Shield returned to the league this year at the age of 31. He has started one game and played in all seven as one of the Rams’ nickel corners. He has one interception (bringing his career total to 19) and he no doubt will be looking to make a play on an Aaron Rodgers pass.
Brandin Cooks, wide receiver
The Rams like to get the ball in the air – Goff is averaging nearly a first down for every pass attempt – Cooks is a deep threat they will like to use to exploit the back end of the Packers' secondary. Acquired from New England in the offseason, the 25-year-old Cooks is leading the team with 17.8 yards on 32 catches and has been targeted 44 times. A former first-round pick of New Orleans in 2014, Cooks has 29 career receiving touchdowns – 18 of which traveled at least 20 yards and 11 of at least 40 yards.
Reasons to worry
The eye test and the stats match up with the Rams – they’re the best team in the NFC and perhaps the entire league. Goff and running back Todd Gurley headline the league’s No. 2 offense, which is averaging 33.6 points per game, (No. 3 in the league) and Wade Phillips is calling plays for the league’s No. 7 overall defense allowing just 18.2 points per game (fourth in the league). Offensively, McVay is similar to San Francisco's Shanahan in play-design, and the 49ers were able to chew up the Packers' defense for points and yards early in the game. The Rams have scored 135 first-half points (100 in the second half), whereas the Packers defense has allowed 100 first-half points (44 in the second half).
Reasons to relax
As with any team, there is more beneath the numbers. The Rams are 3-0 at home this season but went 4-5 in the Memorial Coliseum last year, including three times to teams traveling from the Eastern or Central time zones. And not every game they’ve played this year has been a blowout. They’ve beaten the L.A. Chargers and Seattle by two, Denver by three and Minnesota by seven. Those are all competitive teams with a combined record of 15-11-1, which scored an average of 26.3 points per game on the Rams defense. The three most impressive Rams victories (a plus-83 scoring margin) have come against teams with a combined record of 3-17.
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