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Week 12 Preview: Rams look for redemption against the Niners

Photo credit: Tony Avelar/AP photographer.

After two hard-fought wins against high-powered offenses, the Los Angeles Rams (7-3, 1-1) have now earned their place among the NFC’s best. Their 27-24 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-4, 3-0) on Monday Night Football and last week’s 23-16 win over the Seattle Seahawks (7-3, 2-2) sent a clear message to the league that the Rams are resilient. L.A. has battled offensive inconsistency throughout the season, but quarterback Jared Goff has led well in several games while facing great adversity. Their win against the Bucs was no different and they were true to form on the defensive side of the ball.

Now the Rams face their most heated divisional rival. The San Francisco 49ers (4-6, 1-2) are coming off a bye week and right into SoFi Stadium. The Rams lost to the 49ers in their last meeting in Week 6, 24-16, and against a seemingly different team.

Since the loss, Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been on the injured reserve. In Week 8, he suffered another ankle injury against the Seahawks. It is identical to his Week 2 injury against the New York Jets. Quarterback Nick Mullens has started in his place since Week 9. Tight end George Kittle is also on IR with a fractured foot. Star defensive end Nick Bosa has been out for the season with a knee injury. Running back JaMycal Hasty is out for the season with a broken collarbone. Running backs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman may be available to play after being sidelined by injury in recent weeks.

San Francisco’s most recent game in Week 10 was a 27-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Mullens threw 24 of 38 passes for 247 yards and one touchdown, but was sacked twice and had two interceptions. He has 115 completions on 171 attempts for 1,390 yards and six touchdowns this season.

Running back Jerick McKinnon led in team rushing against the Saints with 18 carries for 33 yards. He is second in team rushing for the season under Mostert with 77 carries for 294 yards. He leads in rushing touchdowns with five.  Austin Walter was recently activated to the 53-man roster to give depth at the position.

49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk is in COVID-19 protocol, but pending a positive test, is not ruled out against the Rams. Aiyuk has 35 catches for 446 yards and three touchdowns. The rookie also has five carries for 61 yards and two touchdowns.  Against the Saints, Aiyuk led in receiving with seven catches for 75 yards. He also had the only touchdown of the game, which came on 4-yard pass from Mullens putting them on the board 7-0.

Tight end Jordan Reed has 17 catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns this year. He was second in team receptions against New Orleans with five catches for 62 yards. Reed replaces Kittle for now.

On defense, the Niners have several pass rushers that Goff will need to watch. Defensive end Kerry Hyder, Jr. leads with 5.5 sacks and seven tackles for a loss. Defensive tackles Javon Kinlaw and D.J. Jones have a combined 3.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss. Linebacker Dre Greenlaw led with 11 tackles against the Saints. He is second for the season with 54. Linebacker Fred Warner still leads in tackles with 79.

Cornerbacks Emmanuel Moseley and Jimmie Ward have a combined 88 tackles. Moseley leads the defense with eight passes defended. Corner Jamar Taylor and Warner lead the defense with two interceptions each.

The Rams have an answer to the Niners defense with their usual variety of weaponry. Against the Buccaneers, wide receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp had a field day. They made franchise history with both surpassing ten catches each in the same game, as well as, being only the fourth receiving duo to have at least 11 catches for 130 yards in the same game. Woods had 12 catches for 130 yards and one touchdown and Kupp had 11 catches for 145 yards.  Josh Reynolds had a decent showing with three catches for 32 yards. Kupp still leads all receivers with 64 receptions for 722 yards.

Tight end Gerald Everett had four catches for 27 yards. Tyler Higbee injured his elbow against the Bucs and is questionable to play against the Niners. Both tight ends have been equally targeted and have almost equal receptions.

The offensive line also held strong and Goff was not sacked. Offensive tackle Joseph Noteboom only allowed one quarterback pressure. He replaced starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth who suffered a knee injury last week and was placed on the IR. Goff passed for 39 of 51 passes for 376 yards and three touchdowns. He had two interceptions and no sacks.

Running backs Malcolm Brown and Cam Akers did not have huge numbers on the ground. Darrell Henderson had a surprising eight carries for five yards. Akers did record his first NFL touchdown on a 4-yard pass from Goff. Wide receiver and fellow rookie Van Jefferson also scored his first NFL touchdown on a 7-yard Goff pass.

On defense, the Rams will most likely be without inside linebacker Micah Kiser after he suffered a knee injury against Tampa Bay. Kenny Young will take his place and Troy Reeder is still ready to go. Obo Okoronkwo was also moved from the injured reserve and cleared to practice.

Samson Ebukam earned his first solo sack of the season bringing down Bucs quarterback Tom Brady. Unfortunately, defensive tackle Aaron Donald did not record a single tackle for a second game in row. The Buccaneers succeeded in isolating him, at times with multiple blockers. Defensive end Michael Brockers assisted in a tackle for a loss and the rest of the defensive line provided pressure up front to get to Brady quickly. They should have similar success against the 49ers.

The Rams defensive back corps continues to be the star of the show. Rookie safety Jordan Fuller had two interceptions on Brady and John Johnson had six tackles and one pass defended. Cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey, Troy Hill and Darious Williams had a combined 16 tackles. Williams had two passes defended. They succeeded in taking away the long ball from Brady. One mistake was the poor tackling on Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans, who bullied his way into the end zone. They will need to work on some of those fundamentals.

As for the kicking game, Matt Gay did well to get the winning field goal for the Rams. He did miss one of his three field goals earlier in the game but did make all his extra points. He was also able to kick off into the end zone for touchbacks. Veteran 49ers kicker Robbie Gould has only missed one extra point and a 50-plus-yard field goal this season.

If the Rams continue to play defense the way they played in the last two games, they should have minimal problems from San Francisco’s offense. They will expect a sharp running game from the Niners and be ready up front. Goff will also need to watch for Warner and Taylor in short and long coverage, respectively. The Rams will also need run the ball as much as possible to balance their stellar passing attack. L.A. is favored to win this one, but they cannot get lazy on any phase of the ball. The 49ers are hungry for a win after three losses in a row.

Kickoff is at 1:05 p.m., PT on Fox.

Sources: espn.comtheramswire.usatoday.comtherams.com, 49ers.comnfl.comespn.com

You can follow Erik Ho on Twitter @EHoinSDLVLA. Be sure to follow Rams Talk on Twitter @TalkRams.

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