Our staff writers break down the San Francisco 49ers Week 3 matchup, a home game against the Los Angeles Rams.
Let's dive into the keys to the game in this "Four Downs" preview of "Thursday Night Football", presented by SunPower.1st Down:Who scores the 49ers first touchdown?@Joe_Fann: Marquise Goodwin
I'd bet Goodwin is eager to take the field Thursday night. After being the star of training camp and scoring a preseason touchdown, Goodwin has had a few costly drops the last two weeks. Pierre Garçon has struggled, but Goodwin's miscues haven't helped. It's going to take a collective effort in order to get the passing game going against the Rams. Goodwin is overdue for a long catch. I think the Rams give the 49ers a look they like which will lead to a long touchdown from Hoyer to Goodwin on play action.
@KeianaMartinTV: Pierre Garçon
The 49ers offense has struggled to produce, which has limited the use of its No. 1 receiver. Pierre Garçon has totaled 107 yards on nine receptions and currently leads the team with 15 targets. From what we've seen through training camp, Brian Hoyer trusts Garçon. As San Francisco looks to establish their air attack, I can see Hoyer leaning on the experienced vet in the red zone on Thursday.2nd Down: What is the key statistic of the game?
@Joe_Fann: Third-down percentage
San Francisco converted just 2-of-12 third-down attempts in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks. Through two games, the 49ers rank dead last with just a 17 percent conversion rate. San Francisco has struggled on early downs as well, which has caused them to get behind the sticks. Penalties and negative plays have set up a number of 3rd-and-long situations. That will have to change if the 49ers are to win on Thursday
The 49ers will need to sustain drives if they have any hopes of finding the end zone. San Francisco's offense ranks last in time of possession, averaging 24 minutes through their first two games. Turnovers and lack of production have forced San Francisco to rely heavily on its defense. The 49ers offense will need to find their rhythm and control the pace of the game if they want to come out on top on Thursday.3rd Down: What is the 49ers must-win matchup?
@Joe_Fann: 49ers receivers vs. Rams corners
I don't have much to add here from my response on first down. It's up to Garçon, Trent Taylor and Goodwin to help make plays for Hoyer. For as good as Pierre Garçon was against the Seahawks, it's hard to sustain that kind of success without any assistance from the passing game. San Francisco's pass-catchers will have to win 1-on-1 matchups on Thursday night as the 49ers look for their first touchdown of the season.
The 49ers defense has made a drastic transformation from the years prior. A once last-ranked defense, the 49ers own a top 10 defense in both scoring and total yards through the two games. San Francisco has limited quarterbacks to under 200 yards since the start of the season. Rams quarterback Jared Goff is averaging 265 yards per game, including a 306-yard game in Week 1 against the Indianapolis Colts. Goff ranks 11th in the league with a 103.2 passer rating. San Francisco's defense ranks fifth in the league in opponent completion percentage (57.8). A key for San Francisco on Thursday is limiting Goff and the Rams high-scoring offense.4th Down: What is your bold prediction?
@Joe_Fann: 49ers defense gets a pick-six
I know that Jared Goff has improved from Year 1 to Year 2. He's averaging 265 passing yards through two games with two touchdowns and just one interception. John Lynch said Goff has done a complete 180 compared to his rookie season. Even so, I'm not buying that Goff is a world-beater just yet. San Francisco intercepted Goff twice in Week 16 last season. They should have more chances at a takeaway Thursday night.
@KeianaMartinTV:49ers put up 200 yards rushing
If we didn't already know what Carlos Hyde could do in the 49ers offense, he reaffirmed it on Sunday against the Seahawks. Hyde was the 49ers most productive player on offense. He totaled 124 yards on 15 carries against a defense that usually doesn't allow much in the running game. Last week against the Washington Redskins, the Rams allowed 229 yards on the ground, with three of Washington's running backs rushing for at least 67 yards. Hyde's 7.04 rushing average through two games ranks 2nd in the NFL. I anticipate both Hyde and Matt Breida running for a total of 200 yards against the Rams 30th-ranked run defense.