San Francisco 49ers: 3 Keys to victory vs. Rams in Week 16


The San Francisco 49ers need a win over the rival Rams in Week 16 on Saturday night as the NFC West race is heating up and going to the wire.

At 11-3, the San Francisco 49ers are looking up at the Seattle Seahawks, who currently hold the NFC West lead and the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Though both teams have clinched a playoff berth and have the same record, the Week 10 matchup in which the Seahawks came away with a 27-24 victory over the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium is making all the difference in the standings as we approach Week 16.

After a disastrous loss to the Atlanta Falcons on a late overturned call that put the Falcons on top last week, the 49ers now look on to their meeting with the Los Angeles Rams at home on Saturday. The 49ers will meet with their 8-6 rival from southern California as the team they are trying to catch takes on the 4-9-1 Arizona Cardinals up north in Seattle.

The 49ers are hoping to make their fans cheer at their last regular-season home game with a big win that will at least keep them even with the Seahawks going into a Week 17 rematch with Seattle that should decide the NFC West and likely who will get a Wild Card Round bye.

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But before worrying how to handle with Russell Wilson in Seattle, the 49ers must get around the Rams and pick up their 12th win to keep hopes for the division title alive. These are the three keys to the 49ers triumph on Saturday against the Rams to help kick off Week 16.

Win the rushing battle

The 49ers are going to need some strong performances from their running stars Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida. With the pressure defensive players such as Aaron Donald and Clay Matthews can bring, Jimmy Garoppolo may not have too much time in the pocket. San Francisco will need to make an impact rushing the ball to move the offense downfield, control the clock and keep the offense on the field.

The Rams defense ranks 19th in the NFL against the run as we just saw them allow 263 rushing yards in their Week 15 loss to the Cowboys. If the 49ers can put together similar numbers among their three key running backs, Garoppolo won’t have to worry about a late fourth-quarter drive and will enjoy settling things in victory formation.

On the other side of the ball, the 49ers defense will need to slam the door on Todd Gurley and the Rams run game. San Francisco’s run defense ranks third in the league and will want to keep the Los Angeles offense in third and long scenarios to keep the offense on the field. Gurley will be looking for a redemption week after only 20 rushing yards at an average of 1.8 per carry in Week 15.

Protect the rock

Ball protection will also be critical to the Niners’ success as one of the main reasons the Falcons were able to keep it close in a game they were predicted to lose by 11 points was fumbles and turnovers. The 49ers fumbled the ball four times last week, something that can’t happen if they want to oust the Rams from the playoff mix.

Turnovers will be a big factor in this game on both sides of the ball, too. Though Richard Sherman is presumed to return for the 49ers, the Rams have their own set of players known to force turnovers. Eric Weddle and Jalen Ramsey are definite threats to bring an offensive drive to a halt and turn the momentum in a game around.

San Francisco will need to be careful with the ball and make sure the turnover differential is in their favor.

Keep pressure on Jared Goff

Keeping the pressure on the quarterback is normally something I wouldn’t worry about the 49ers consistently doing well. They have 47 sacks on the season, but only brought Matt Ryan down for a loss twice in Week 15.

The 49ers want to make sure Jared Goff remains under pressure and doesn’t have the time to find one of his many reliable targets. Though Week 15 led to a loss, Goff still found three of his receivers for more than 40 yards each, including tight end Tyler Higbee for 111 receiving yards.

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San Francisco will call for Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead, who have a combined total of 19 sacks on the season, to continue playing like Pro Bowlers. Bosa was earned a nod on the Pro Bowl roster, while Armstead got snubbed and was selected as an alternate.

A lot of pressure and sacks will lead to turnovers and get Garoppolo and the offense back out to wrap it up sooner. On a one-day shorter week’s rest, I expect a good number of points in this game. But the 49ers honing in on these keys will be the recipe for success and move them one win away from claiming the NFC West.