Los Angeles Rams: Three key matchups vs. San Francisco

by Skyler Carlin
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A statement win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 11 now puts the Los Angeles Rams in first place in the NFC West and second place in the entire NFC. Following their impressive victory over the Buccaneers, the Rams have to turn their attention toward not overlooking the injury-riddled San Francisco 49ers.

The last time these two teams met back in Week 6, the 49ers dominated in every facet of the game. San Francisco quickly grabbed the momentum in the last meeting while Sean McVay’s offense was unable to get anything going — especially through the air.

Also, it’s important to note that both George Kittle and Deebo Samuel presented a ton of problems for the Rams in Week 6, with Jimmy Garoppolo playing a nearly flawless game. However, while Samuel is set to return for the 49ers in Week 12, Kittle and Garoppolo won’t be active for Kyle Shanahan’s squad.

Despite the injuries that the 49ers are dealing with, they’ve seemingly had the Rams’ number in recent meetings, winning the last three games between the NFC West rivals. Provided that, Los Angeles can’t overlook San Francisco as they hope to hold onto the No. 1 spot in the division.

Ahead of the upcoming bout between the Rams and 49ers, here are a few matchups to pay attention to on Sunday.

Leonard Floyd vs. Mike McGlinchey

As mentioned above, the 49ers won’t have Garoppolo available under center against the Rams. Instead, they’ll lean on Nick Mullens as their starting quarterback, who will face a defense in Los Angeles that is hitting their stride.

Brandon Staley’s defense is rolling and is tied for the fourth-most sacks in the NFL with 32 of them in 10 games. And while Aaron Donald has been his dominant self — recording nine sacks thus far — Leonard Floyd has evolved into a much-needed edge presence for the Rams.

Floyd is second on the team with seven sacks and 15 tackles for loss, giving Los Angeles some firepower off of the edge. The former first-round pick of the Chicago Bears will face a stiff test in Mike McGlinchey this week.

McGlinchey has performed well for the 49ers this season, allowing just one sack on 671 offensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus. The last time these two teams faced one another, Garoppolo wasn’t sacked once and rarely saw pressure in his face. If the Rams want to get revenge on their divisional foes, then Floyd will need to induce pressure on the inexperienced quarterback in Mullens.

Rams’ LBs vs. 49ers’ RBs

When we saw these teams earlier in the season, Shanahan tested the linebackers of the Rams to run sideline-to-sideline, running outside-zone runs for the majority of the game. Whether it was Raheem Mostert on a handoff to the outside or a jet sweep to Deebo Samuel, Los Angeles could not make the needed stops in the run game.

This time around, expect Shanahan to do more of the same, especially with Micah Kiser being placed on injured reserve this week. Troy Reeder will take his place at linebacker, making Reeder and Kenny Young two players the 49ers are going to test early and often.

There’s a chance that Mostert returns from injured reserve on Sunday and it’s already known that Samuel will be active after being out since Week 7. Along with Mostert and Samuel, the Rams also have to be concerned with slowing down Jerick McKinnon in the backfield.

It’s no secret that the weakest link on Los Angeles’ defense is the play of their linebackers. To avoid being swept by San Francisco this season, the linebackers of the Rams will need to prevent the 49ers from getting into a rhythm on the ground.

Cooper Kupp vs. Jamar Taylor

Jared Goff was ineffective throwing the ball in San Francisco’s 24-16 victory in Week 6. In the last meeting, Goff completed just 19 of his 38 attempts for 198 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. His completion percentage of 50 percent and his 198 passing yards were both the lowest marks of the season for the former No. 1 overall pick.

At the same time, Cooper Kupp had a quiet showing in Week 6, catching only three passes for 11 yards on a whopping nine targets. Kupp mostly saw Jamar Taylor in coverage the last time around and it will probably be the same matchup with K’Waun Williams still out for the 49ers with a high-ankle sprain.

During the Rams’ narrow win over the Buccaneers last week, Kupp caught 11 passes for 145 yards on 13 targets. Robert Woods also exploded for 12 receptions for 130 yards and a touchdown against Tampa Bay.

Taylor is conceding a 76.5 completion percentage but a passer rating of only 69.1 when targeted this season, per Pro Football Reference. After being unable to have success in the aerial attack in Week 6, expect Kupp to take advantage of his matchup with Taylor in Week 12.

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