The 3 Keys to the 49ers sweeping the Rams in Week 8

The 49ers have plenty at stake in their Week 8 clash with the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium.

Following back-to-back defeats, the Niners have gone from first to third in the NFC West at 3-4.

But, should they prevail and sweep the Rams, the 49ers will have a 3-0 record in the division and the tiebreaker over Los Angeles, a potentially crucial point in their favor in what looks set to be a tight division race.

Lose and drop to 3-5, and the Niners will be facing an uphill battle after the bye to secure a spot in the playoffs.

San Francisco will have to try to beat the Rams without the injured Deebo Samuel, the All-Pro wide receiver the headliner among a host of absentees. Here we look at the keys to the 49ers claiming triumph despite the loss of their best offensive player.

Don't let the Rams defense get comfortable

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With the 49ers missing the versatile threat of Samuel, the Rams will anticipate the barrage of runs that will likely come their way as San Francisco looks to make the most of its new addition Christian McCaffrey after his first full week of practice.

Expect loaded boxes and bear fronts from the Rams early and often in an attempt to take away the run as they did successfully in last season’s NFC Championship Game, but they can only sit in such looks if they are allowed to get comfortable.

The 49ers must not allow Los Angeles to get into such a mindset. They will need to use McCaffrey’s diverse skill set and their remaining skill-position weapons to stretch the Ram defense and spread it out to ensure they have mismatches to engineer the pass-game success that will open more enticing run-game looks.

San Francisco has rarely been one-dimensional against the Rams but, if the run game does not work and they are forced to pass, then the Niners must make life easier on their quarterback.

Giving Garoppolo easy wins

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Much of the debate in the week following the loss to the Chiefs surrounded Jimmy Garoppolo’s costly red-zone interception at the end of the first half.

Kyle Shanahan indicated it was not possible for Garoppolo to get to his checkdown – in that case Jeff Wilson Jr. – before he tossed a dreadful backfoot throw in the direction of George Kittle that was picked off by Joshua Williams.

Garoppolo should not have attempted to force the ball to Kittle, but what that play illustrated is that he needs better solutions when he comes under pressure from aggressive defenses like that of Kansas City.

McCaffrey can offer such a solution with what he can do in the passing game and, against a Rams defense that will not hesitate to send the blitz if the game is put on Garoppolo’s arm, it will be crucial for the Niners to give Garoppolo quick and effective answers that temper such aggression.

Samuel has long since represented the 49ers’ best easy button, but the 49ers are not short of them even in his absence. Between McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle, the Niners still have the armory to simplify things for Garoppolo and make the Rams more reluctant to send extra rushers against an offense that hasn’t given defenses reasons to fear them in 2022 as regularly as expected.

Be disciplined against motion

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For the second successive week, the 49er defense struggled mightily against an opponent’s motion game as the Chiefs used it to devastating effect, and you can bet the Rams will have taken note.

The Rams are already on of the league’s most prolific exponents of pre-snap and at-the-snap motion. While they do not have a ball-carrier as dynamic as Mecole Hardman, they will surely look to set up motion hand-offs and jet sweeps to Cooper Kupp to test a 49er defense missing two of its best three linebackers in Dre Greenlaw and Azeez Al-Shaair and perhaps spark a running game that has been largely non-existent this season.

With Greenlaw out, safety Talanoa Hufanga may spend a lot of time as a de-facto extra linebacker lined up next to Fred Warner, but it is not just on those at the second level of the defense who will be tasked with mitigating the impact of such rushes.

The defensive ends will need to avoid getting too far upfield and getting duped by fake chip blocks from tight ends as they were against the Chiefs, who consistently used the aggression of Nick Bosa and Samson Ebukam against them.

San Francisco throttled the Rams in Week 4 because Los Angeles did not have a changeup. The Rams might have identified one while watching the Niners’ recent defensive struggles and it is up to DeMeco Ryans’ group to take it away.

Story originally appeared on Niners Wire