Game Preview: Rams welcome undefeated 49ers to Coliseum

The Rams (3-2) host the 49ers (4-0) in the second divisional matchup of the 2019 season for L.A and first for San Francisco. Kickoff from Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is set for 1:05 p.m. pacific time.

Sunday's game marks the first time since the 2001 season that both teams with a winning (above .500) record, and there's plenty at stake with the 49ers in first place in the NFC West and the Rams still seeking their divisional win this year.

To get you ready for the contest, theRams.com compiled a quick preview featuring who to watch, what to watch for on offense and defense for both the Rams and the 49ers and three keys to victory for L.A.

Five players to watch

  • Rams RT Rob Havenstein: For the second straight week, he's likely to draw the opposing team's top pass rusher. This week, it's DE Dee Ford, who registered a career-best 13 sacks last season with the Chiefs and already has three with the 49ers this season.
  • Rams LB Cory Littleton: Overall, Littleton has graded out as L.A.'s best tackler and defensive player in coverage per Pro Football Focus, and that will be important trying to contain 49ers TE George Kittle.
  • Kittle: San Francisco capitalizes on his athleticism in a variety of ways, from jet sweeps to targeting him deep downfield. He should be priority No. 1 for the Los Angeles secondary, with L.A.'s linebackers paying close attention as well. Though Kittle is listed as questionable for Sunday's game, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters on Friday that he expects him to play.
  • 49ers DE Nick Bosa: The No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft shares the team lead in sacks with Ford and was a disruptive force against the Browns on Monday Night Football.
  • Rams DT Aaron Donald: Besides creating pass rush pressure, he will also be instrumental in attempting to stop the league's top rushing offense.

The 49ers chose five key matchups to watch for this game, which you can read about here.

What to watch for…

On offense for the Rams

The status of RB Todd Gurley, and if he's unable to play, the impact his absence has on the offense.

Malcolm Brown would take over as the starter, and he's shown he can produce when given the opportunities: He had 11 carries for 53 yards and two touchdowns in Los Angeles' season-opening win at Carolina.

However, the bigger unknown is rookie Darrell Henderson Jr. and what he'll provide, since he would also likely be in line for a bigger role with Gurley out. Brown on Friday praised Henderson for his speed, but so far he hasn't gotten many chances to show it aside from getting one touch against Carolina.

Against a stout 49ers defensive line, Henderson's pass-catching abilities – he posted 63 receptions for 758 yards and eight touchdowns in three collegiate seasons at Memphis – could play a pivotal role in countering that pressure.

On offense for the 49ers

With starting tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey both out, pay close attention to the offensive line.

Through four games, San Francisco has the No. 1 rushing offense in the NFL at 200 yards per game and averages the fourth-most total yards of offense at 427.2. That's in part a credit to the offensive line, which grades out as the third-best run-blocking unit and sixth-best pass-blocking unit according to scouting service Pro Football Focus' evaluations.

Ten-year veteran Sam Young is expected to fill in for McGlinchey at right tackle based on the 49ers' depth chart, while rookie Justin Skule – a sixth-round draft pick this spring – projects to continue filling in for Staley.

On defense for the Rams

Troy Hill will be asked to fill in for Aqib Talib at cornerback opposite Marcus Peters, so there will likely be a lot of focus toward his direction. Hill has played 48 career games across four-plus seasons.

Additionally, it will be worth watching Samson Ebukam, expected to start in place of the injured Clay Matthews at outside linebacker, and how many snaps Natrez Patrick and Obo Okoronkwo end up seeing.

On defense for the 49ers

The duo of Ford and Bosa, who share the team lead with three sacks each. Bosa especially, though, as he's coming off a monster game against the Browns on Monday Night Football.

Three keys to victory

  1. Minimize takeaways: The 49ers' defense has created 11 turnovers – seven interceptions plus four of seven forced fumbles recovered – tied with the Packers for third-most in the league.
  2. Limit the San Francisco's rushing attack: An effective rushing attack contributes to the ability to open up play action, and Kittle has the ability to make teams pay on those.
  3. Capitalize on special teams: The 49ers' net average of 44.7 yards per punt is second-lowest in the NFL through the first five weeks, a potential opportunity to create good field position.

For insight on how the 49ers are approaching this week's game, check out their game preview here.

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