49ers week 3 preview: Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan will be seeking the team's first touchdown and win tonight against the Rams.

The San Francisco 49ers put themselves in a position to emerge from Seattle victorious, but Brian Hoyer had arguably the worst game as a 49er QB since Jim Druckenmiller. The 49er defense, which limited the Seahawks to 12 points, was failed by a lamentable 15 for 27 day for 99 yards by Hoyer. In consecutive weeks, the Niners have been hindered by poor quarterbacking and an untimely drop from WR Marquise Goodwin. Brian Hoyer frequently killed the momentum with his inability to connect with receivers and, as he did last week, failed to spot the MLB dropping into coverage and threw an interception that would set the opposition up with great field position.

Hats off to Robert Saleh and his defense. In two weeks, they have played better than expected. Other than the defense putting points on the scoreboard, there hasn’t been much more that could be asked of the 49er defense. They have kept the team within striking distance, only to be failed by poor quarterbacking. The Niners have a short turnaround as they seek their first win on Thursday versus the Los Angeles Rams.

During the off-season, the Los Angeles Rams brought in Sean McVay as head coach to turn around the defunct franchise. Through two games, the Rams appear to have improved. Jared Goff is a serviceable QB and RB Todd Gurley III has made a resurgence. The division rivals face off again this Thursday at Levi’s Stadium at 5:45 p.m. and can be watched on the NFL Network.

Essentials to win the game

The Niners ability to run the ball was significantly jolted with the addition of LG Laken Tomlinson. Tomlinson and T Joe Staley opened up gaping holes that running backs Carlos Hyde and Matt Breida were able to exploit. Staley’s bookend, T Trent Brown, has been equally as dominant and impressive. Brown has been lauded throughout the off-season and it appears that the praise was well deserved. The line is going to have to equally as stout in the run game in order to alleviate pressure on the struggling QB Brian Hoyer.

The Niners secondary is going to have to play above its head in order to win. With a rash of injuries to the backend of the secondary, it is imperative that cornerbacks Dontae Johnson and Rashard Robinson contain the Rams receiving corps. Eric Reid has been deemed unavailable for the tilt and the availability of safeties Jimmy Ward and Jaquaski Tartt are in question. If Ward and Tartt are unable to play, it will leave the 49er secondary extremely vulnerable.

Possible downfalls to avoid

The 49ers have yet to show that they can score touchdowns. If the Rams jump out to an early lead and the 49ers are forced to abandon the run, are the Niners capable of clawing back into the game? Neither Brian Hoyer’s ability to make defenses fear him in the passing game nor Marquise Goodwin’s hands in a clutch situation have proven dependable.

If the game comes down to the 49ers ability to pass the ball — game over. There was much ballyhoo during the off-season about the synergy between the journeyman quarterback and head coach Kyle Shanahan. After two games, it looks like a former, unemployed, signal caller would have been better suited to lead.

Player spotlight

This game squarely sits on Brian Hoyer’s shoulders. The Niners will go as far as he leads the offense. Far too often the offense has sputtered due to poor play from the quarterback. Marquise Goodwin has not helped him out any with untimely drops, but the Niners are too talent deficient to make up for Hoyer’s inability to move the ball down the field.

Game Projection

There’s no way that the Niners start the season off 0-3, right? The defense has played respectably but has been let down in consecutive weeks by the offense. With Laken Tomlinson gaining another week of practice, look for the Niners to run the ball consistently to the left. The front five will be stout enough in pass protection to bide Brian Hoyer time to throw the ball. WR Pierre Garçon and TE George Kittle will be incorporated more into the passing game.

Although the Rams front four can be middling without All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Donald is expected back tonite and the Rams will be able to generate enough pressure to make the 49ers offense one dimensional. Brian Hoyer will need to manage the pressure without turning the ball over and if he is capable of doing so, the 49er defense will make Jared Goff’s day long.

Todd Gurley will fall just short of the 100 yard mark against the 49ers. The Rams offensive line will have their hands full stopping the behemoths. DEs Aaron Lynch and Tank Carradine will each notch a sack in a very disruptive day. Look for a combination of Arik Armstead and Deforest Buckner to collapse the Rams pocket and for rookie DT Solomon Thomas to have a coming out party.

The Rams currently sit as a 2 point favorite in this match up. Last week, the 49ers beat the spread against Seattle. Expect more of the same this week.The Niners notch their first victory of the season in a 17-21 game.

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