After sweeping the NFC East throughout the first quarter of the season, the Los Angeles Rams (4-1) now hope to bring that momentum to the NFC West. They may not be at SoFi Stadium this Sunday, but the Rams will face the San Francisco 49ers (2-3) at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara. This meeting comes after the Rams lost both 49ers matchups last year.
The Rams are eager for a 5-1 start to the season. Their only loss was in Week 3 to the Buffalo Bills (4-1). L.A. hopes to parlay their huge 30-10 win over the Washington Football Team (1-4) into a victory over San Francisco. That may be possible with the Niners coming off an embarrassing 43-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins (2-3) in Week 5.
The 49ers started quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo against the Dolphins in his first game back from an ankle injury suffered in Week 2. He had an unimpressive start with seven passes on 17 attempts for 77 yards. He also had three sacks and two interceptions. He was benched for C.J. Beathard in the third quarter. Beathard threw nine passes on 18 attempts for 94 yards and one touchdown. His one touchdown pass was to wide receiver Kendrick Bourne for 19 yards in the third quarter. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk scored the only rushing touchdown for 7 yards in the second quarter.
For the season, Nick Mullens still leads the 49ers in passing with 51 completions on 73 attempts for 614 yards. He also has two touchdowns. Mullens was benched last week toward the end of their loss against the Philadelphia Eagles. Garoppolo is expected to start against the Rams, but there is no talk of who will directly back him up. Either way, the Rams have a defensive backfield ready to cover Bourne, tight end George Kittle, receiver Brandon Aiyuk and running back Jerick McKinnon. Kittle currently leads all receivers despite only playing three out of five games so far. He was sidelined after suffering a knee injury in Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals. He has 23 catches for 271 yards and one touchdown. Bourne is second in receiving with 15 catches for 227 yards and one touchdown. McKinnon has 15 catches for 107 yards and one touchdown.
49ers running back Raheem Mostert came back from injury against the Dolphins. He leads in rushing with 34 carries for 238 yards and has one rushing touchdown. He also has nine catches for 139 yards and one touchdown. McKinnon has 35 carries for 193 yards and three touchdowns.
The 49ers have versatile backs and receivers that can play multiple roles. Those players are weapons the Rams defense will need to watch. L.A. is tough up front with defensive tackle Aaron Donald leading the way. Donald already has 7.5 sacks for the season. He had four sacks against Washington and the entire defense had eight sacks in the matchup. Look for the Rams to wreak havoc on a struggling 49ers offensive line. The San Francisco offense has already given up 18 sacks for the season, fourth most in the league.
With linebacker Micah Kiser recovering from a groin injury last week, safety John Johnson is back on top leading with 33 tackles for the Rams. Kiser has 32. Linebackers Troy Reeder and Jachai Polite added the other four sacks against Washington. Reeder led with 11 tackles.
With Jordan Fuller out on injured reserve, the Rams will rely on Taylor Rapp to fill the role alongside Johnson. Rapp has 24 tackles and one pass defended for the season. Cornerback Darious Williams has stepped into a playmaker role with 15 tackles, two interceptions and four passes defended.
Cornerback Jalen Ramsey is also expected to make big plays again. Hopefully not another helmet-to-helmet hit out of bounds like the one he gave to Washington quarterback Kyle Allen. The hit caused Allen to leave the game and brought in backup Alex Smith. Smith had not played a snap since 2018. Ramsey’s hit on Allen was penalized as lowering the head to initiate contact, although it may have been unintentional. He will most likely cover Bourne or keep an eye on Kittle. Ramsey and Williams have a knack for strong tackling and reading plays well. The entire backfield should be good in coverage.
The Rams offense was strong and balanced against Washington. Quarterback Jared Goff threw 21 passes on 30 attempts for 309 yards and two touchdowns. He had one interception (his only bad decision of the game) and was sacked once. For the season, Goff has 109 completions on 152 attempts for 1,372 yards and eight touchdowns. The Rams offensive line continues to hold tight protection. They are also opening the running game.
The O-line will face a Niners defense featuring linebacker and leading tackler Fred Warner. Warner has one interception for the season and 43 tackles. Star defensive ends Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas are out for the year with knee injuries, but defensive linemen Arik Armstead, Kerry Hyder Jr. and D.J. Jones have stepped up in their place. The 49ers D-line and backfield will also have a Rams running back committee to stop.
Rams running back Cam Akers was back from his rib injury suffered in Week 2. He led with nine carries for 61 yards against Washington. Running back Darrell Henderson also had 15 carries for 38 yards and one touchdown. He also had a receiving touchdown along with three receptions for 30 yards. Running back Malcolm Brown had eight carries for 30 yards.
Wide receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp along with tight end Gerald Everett gained big yardage in the air for the Rams at Washington. Everett led in receiving with four receptions for 90 yards. He even played fullback in an offensive scheme where he blocked for Henderson for a short gain and then ran a route uncovered for a completion near the 10 yard-line. Woods caught a 56-yard touchdown bomb from Goff. He had four catches for 71 yards. Kupp had five catches for 66 yards with a long of 49. Receiver Josh Reynolds had two catches for 46 yards.
The keys to a Rams win against the 49ers is to keep up the balanced offensive attack and control the ground. The Rams have utilized every running back and receiver to see what they can bring. The defense played almost flawlessly but will face a burned Niners offense that is eager to prove they still have what it takes to stay NFC champions.
Kickoff is at 5:20 pm Pacific Time on NBC.