The San Francisco 49ers are days away from their second-straight primetime matchup with the Los Angeles Rams coming to town for "Monday Night Football." The team is looking to bounce back from a narrow loss to the Denver Broncos in Week 3 that was also accompanied by some significant injuries to the team. Among these personnel losses was All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams, who is expected to be out four to six weeks with a high ankle sprain.
Colton McKivitz Gets the Nod at Left Tackle
Per head coach Kyle Shanahan, McKivitz will get the start at left tackle versus the Rams in Williams' absence. While replacing a high-caliber talent like that of Williams is no easy task, McKivitz has proven he can handle the job in the past. The third-year offensive lineman stepped in for Williams in the 49ers 2021 regular season finale versus Los Angeles with a playoff berth on the line.
"That was such a big game, and we were really hoping we were going to have Trent, obviously," Shanahan said. "I just remember when we told Colton he was up, and it was no big deal to him. He went out there and he performed. It was a huge challenge going against those two edge players they (the Rams) had, and he just battles all game. Whether he gets beat or not, he's going to be there every play and that always gives you a chance."
49ers run game coordinator Chris Foerster echoed the sentiment when asked about his confidence in McKivitz headed into Monday night's game.
"When he played in that last game of the season, in the 17th game against the Rams, he got beat with two minutes left in the game," Foerster said. "That was the last time anybody got near the quarterback on him. It's not easy in a game of that magnitude, to step in, make your block, get beat at the most critical time of the game… He's the right kind of guy and has really worked hard for us."
More recently, McKivitz split reps at left tackle with sophomore offensive lineman Jaylon Moore following Williams' early departure from the game against the Broncos. Had McKivitz not been dealing with an ankle injury of his own, Shanahan noted that No. 68 would have likely served as the main backup for Williams in that contest.
"He got banged up during the week," Shanahan said on Sunday night following the team's loss to Denver. "We just gave all the reps on the right side, left side and stuck with it."
A strong performance from McKivitz and the offensive line as whole will be crucial in jumpstarting the 49ers offense on Monday night. In Week 3, the offensive unit struggled to find a rhythm, going one-of-ten on third down conversations, and was unable to get the ground game going, rushing for a total of just 88 yards in Denver. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was also sacked four times, creating long down and distance situations that were difficult for the offensive unit to overcome.
It All Feels Familiar
The 49ers and Rams had the opportunity to compete against each other three times during the 2021 season, and it was the first meeting between these two teams that helped San Francisco turn their season around after a 3-5 start.
The 49ers welcomed in the Rams for a Monday night showdown in Week 9, and with the help of a solid run game and a couple interceptions, San Francisco defeated LA in resounding fashion. The 49ers went on to win seven of their last nine games and fight their way back into playoff contention. Shanahan is less focused on starting a playoff run at this point in the season, and instead, zeroing in on locking down a victory that can help the team make its way back to .500 on the year.
"I feel like a win's important," Shanahan said. "I would love to get a win, and then we'll see how we play the next week."
The season is in much less of a precarious situation headed into this Monday night contest with fourteen games to go compared to the team's two games in 2021, but the familiarity between these opponents always makes for exciting matchup.
"We know them inside and out, and they know us inside and out," Garoppolo said. "At the end of the day, it's going to be man-on-man. You've got to win your battles and let the rest take care of itself, but we've got to come in with the right mindset and be ready to play."