Game Preview: Rams close out road schedule at 49ers

The Rams (8-6) travel to San Francisco to take on the 49ers (11-3) at Levi's Stadium on Saturday to wrap up their 2019 regular season road schedule.

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.

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Five players to watch

  • Rams cornerback Darious Williams: With Troy Hill out, Williams is the next man up against a formidable 49ers receiving corps.
  • Rams safety Taylor Rapp: His skillset will be important trying to contain 49ers tight end George Kittle as well as their run game.
  • 49ers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders: He's been more productive statistically since joining San Francisco compared to his first half of the season with Denver.
  • 49ers tight end George Kittle: He's been targeted a team-high 92 times and is the favorite target of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
  • Rams running back Todd Gurley II: He missed the last game against the 49ers due to injury, so it will be interesting to see how, if at all, it changes the approach taken by the 49ers' defense.

What to watch for…

On offense for the Rams

The offensive line, mainly right tackle Rob Havenstein.

Havenstein carries no injury designation into this game, but it's unclear what his role will look like and how much, if at all, Los Angeles will alter the starting combination of left tackle Andrew Whitworth, left guard Austin Corbett, center Austin Blythe, right guard David Edwards and right tackle Bobby Evans which has been used over the last five games.

On offense for the 49ers

The approach at running back.

Through 14 games, San Francisco has three 500 yard rushers in a single season for only the third time in franchise history. Raheem Mostert has led the team in rushing attempts in each of the last three weeks, but Tevin Coleman led the way against the Packers in Week 12. Before getting hurt, Matt Breida handled lead duties.

On defense for the Rams

Two things: How they respond from last week's performance against the run and how they try to limit the contributions of Sanders and Kittle.

With the exception of the Ravens and Cowboys games, the Rams' run defense has performed like a top 10 unit in the NFL. And as the Cardinals and Seahawks games in between those ones showed, they're capable of responding against some of the league's best rushing offenses.

Sanders and Kittle, meanwhile, give Garopollo two different options for stretching the field. It's a tough assignment to cover each player one-on-one, but double-teaming one could allow the other to beat the defense deep with little resistance if unaccounted for.

On defense for the 49ers

The secondary and the defensive line.

Cornerback Richard Sherman is good to go Saturday after missing the last week's game against the Falcons with a hamstring injury. The return of starting nickel corner K'Waun Williams will also help re-stabilize things.

Meanwhile, the defensive line will be without starting defensive end Dee Ford for the fifth consecutive game. His absence will likely put more pressure on the rest of that group, whose depth is already strained with backup defensive tackle Jullian Taylor out with an elbow injury.

Three keys to victory

  1. Use Gurley: If there's one vulnerability in an otherwise stout 49ers defense, it's how they defend the run. San Francisco's 114.6 rushing yards allowed per game is 12th-most in the league.
  2. Don't allow big plays in the passing game: Much of the focus in this piece was on Sanders and Kittle, but the 49ers have a number of talented receivers capable of connecting with Garoppolo for explosive plays.
  3. Convert scoring chances: As the Saints game showed, the 49ers offense is capable of putting up lots of points. However, given the effectiveness of their run game, they could also just as easily capitalize on empty possessions by controlling the clock.

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