Keys 2 Victory at 49ers

Posted Jan 2, 2016

Insider Myles Simmons identifies three keys to victory as the Rams wrap up their season at San Francisco.

NAPA, Calif. -- Winners of their last three games, the Rams have a chance to finish 8-8 for the first time since 2006 with a victory over the 49ers on Sunday. Here are three keys for St. Louis to end the season on a high note.

1) Stop the run

San Francisco’s offensive identity starts with its ability to run the ball, and that’s what St. Louis has keyed in on this week. Though there have been a series of injuries to their running backs, the Niners inserted DuJuan Harris, formerly of the Seahawks, and he rushed 11 times for 73 yards against Detroit last week. San Francisco also brought back former Australian rugby star Jarryd Hayne, and he was effective running the ball last week, too.

But quarterback Blaine Gabbert may be an underrates aspect of the 49ers ground game. Multiple players said this week he can be plenty effective scrambling, and that’s where the Rams will have to maintain their rush integrity to ensure there are no easy outlets to pick up first downs.

2) Stay efficient on offense

As of late, the Rams have made the most of their opportunities offensively, led by quarterback Case Keenum. Since returning to the starting role against Detroit, Keenum has completed 67.7 percent of his passes for 461 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. His rating in that span is 98.9 and he’s averaging 7.44 yards per attempt.

That efficiency has come with a strong ground game, though that aspect of the offense could be affected if running back Todd Gurley is not available to play. With Gurley listed as doubtful with a foot injury, Tre Mason would be in line to start if Gurley can’t go. Mason, Benny Cunningham, and recently promoted Malcolm Brown will need to be productive running the football against the San Francisco defense to open up some more throwing lanes for Keenum.

3) Get more takeaways

St. Louis did a nice job of forcing turnovers last week at Seattle, and they often came at key times. Mark Barron’s forced fumble that Akeem Ayers returned for a touchdown was a key early boost for the club, as it put the Rams up 10-0. Then Trumaine Johnson halted a drive with his seventh interception of the season -- and fourth in his last four games -- and Eugene Sims stopped a late Seahawks drive in the red zone with a forced fumble on Russell Wilson. Defensive end Chris Long said the unit was opportunistic against Seattle, and it will need to be so once again to get stops once again against the Niners.