Our 49ers.com writers are back to break down four pressing topics in the San Francisco 49ers divisional home game against the Los Angeles Rams.
Here's an outlook on the 49ers Week 7 matchup in our weekly "Four Downs" series.
First Down: What is the key stat of the game?
Joe Fann: Red zone efficiency
The Rams boast the No. 1 offense in total yards and the No. 3 scoring offense. Suffice to say, Los Angeles is going to move the football on Sunday. The key for San Francisco will be holding the Rams to field goals. The ability to bend but not break will keep the 49ers in the game as long as the offense can do its part and keep up. So conversely, it's imperative that C.J. Beathard and Co. turn red-zone opportunitites into touchdowns.
Keiana Martin: Turnover differential
There’s not much to say here besides the fact that the 49ers cannot afford to give the ball away on Sunday. San Francisco has struggled in generating turnovers with just three takeaways through six weeks compared to 14 turnovers. Ball security is an absolute must if the 49ers want to change the narrative of their season.
Second Down: What is a position group that needs to play well?
Joe Fann: Offensive line
You could easily argue that San Francisco's offensive line has been the most consistent position group all season long. They've powered the 49ers third-ranked rushing attack to a healthy 5.1 yards per carry average through six games. The Rams defense is talented, but if it has one deficiency, it's stopping the run. Los Angeles is allowing 4.8 yards per carry, which ranks 28th in the NFL. The best defense is often a good offense. Establishing a consistent run game once again will help keep Jared Goff and the Rams offense on the sideline. It also goes without saying that the o-line will have its hands full with Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh in pass protection as well.
Keiana Martin: Cornerbacks
The 49ers have allowed 1,674 yards so far this season, seventh-most in the league. Of those yards, Richard Sherman has allowed just 28. It is up Ahkello Witherspoon, Greg Mabin and Tarvarius Moore to step up against the Rams talented crop of wideouts. Last week, San Francisco allowed three 100-plus yard receivers against the Packers. With Jimmie Ward doubtful for Sunday, the 49ers aforementioned corners will need to make significant strides against the Rams high-powered offense.
Third Down: Which Rams player is the most important to contain?
Joe Fann: Brandin Cooks
The 49ers secondary has had a few costly busts in each game this season. Richard Sherman called some of the recent miscues "Day 1 mistakes." Cleaning up communication will be imperative against Los Angeles' high-octane offense. A blown assignment against a home-run hitter like Cooks will result in a Rams touchdown. Keeping up with Cooks downfield provides enough of a challenge, so the 49ers will need to make sure they don't beat themselves with self-inflicted wounds.
Keiana Martin: Todd Gurley
Gurley put on a clinic last week against the Denver Broncos. The Rams running back rushed for a career high 208 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. The 49ers have been solid against the run, ranking 13th in total yards and 10th in yards per carry allowed. In addition, San Francisco has allowed just a single 100-yard rusher so far this season (Melvin Gordon - 104 yards). Reuben Foster will face off against Gurley for the first time in his career and will play a key role in the 49ers efforts to slow down the superstar running back.
Fourth Down: Who will score the 49ers first touchdown?
Joe Fann: Kyle Juszczyk
Here's the situation: The 49ers are on the goal line and in I-formation. Shanahan dials up a play-action pass, and Juszczyk releases into the right flat. C.J. Beathard rolls with him and tosses an easy touchdown pass. That's what I'm calling. Don't ask me why.
Keiana Martin: Matt Breida
Breida currently ranks fourth in the NFL with 430 rushing yards to go along with his three total scores this season. In his last meeting against the Rams, Breida put up 104 scrimmage yards as the 49ers backup ball carrier (72 rushing, 32 receiving). I foresee the 49ers calling their Breida's number in the red zone against a Rams defense that’s averaging just under 100 yards per game to opposing running backs.