Defense Braces Against San Francisco’s Physical Line Play

Rams coach Sean McVay (left) and 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan shake hands after San Francisco won 31,14 last season at SoFi Stadium. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Breaking down how the Rams and the San Francisco 49ers match up heading into their game at 1:05 p.m. PDT Sunday at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. The game will be televised by Fox.

When Rams have the ball

Rams receiver Tutu Atwell falls to the turf after making a reception against the Seattle Seahawks.
Rams receiver Tutu Atwell falls to the turf after making a reception against the Seattle Seahawks. He finished with a career-high 119 yards receiving. (Lindsey Wasson / Associated Press)

The Rams look to continue their season-opening prowess, despite the absence of star wide receiver Cooper Kupp. Quarterback Matthew Stafford appeared to be in prime form in a 30-13 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, passing for 334 yards and making excellent use of receivers Puca Nacua and Tutu Atwell. Nacua, a rookie, was targeted 15 times and caught 10 passes for 119 yards. He is listed as questionable because of an oblique injury but is expected to play. Atwell, a third-year pro, caught six passes for 119 yards. Tight end Tyler Higbee has been a reliable weapon for Stafford. With Cam Akers and Kyren Williams combining for 37 carries, and the line not allowing a sack, the Rams offense sustained drives and gave the defense a chance to rest between series. They must continue to excel against perhaps the most physical defense in the NFL. Defensive end Nick Bosa, who signed the richest contract for a defensive player in NFL history, anchors a unit that recorded five sacks in a 30-7 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, three by end Drake Jackson. Linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw have given the Rams fits for years.

When 49ers have the ball

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy kept his poise against safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy kept his poise against safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Matt Freed / Associated Press)

Brock Purdy appears fully recovered from the elbow injury he suffered in the NFC championship game against the Philadelphia Eagles last season. The second-year pro passed for 220 yards and two touchdowns against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Purdy has an array of playmakers. Running back Christian McCaffrey rushed for 152 yards and scored on a 65-yard touchdown run against the Steelers. Deebo Samuel has hurt the Rams in the past as a runner, receiver and even passer. Tight end George Kittle is among the NFL’s best at his position, and receiver Brandon Aiyuk caught eight passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns in the opener. The Rams will try to pressure Purdy with a front that includes seven-time All-Pro lineman Aaron Donald and edge rusher Michael Hoecht, who combined for a sack against the Seahawks. Rookie edge rusher Byron Young and rookie tackle Kobie Turner also combined for a sack. The Rams secondary played well against Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith, but 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan knows how to scheme against the Rams, who have not defeated the 49ers in the regular season since 2018.

When they kick

In his debut in a Rams uniform, kicker Brett Maher had a 57-yard attempt blocked and then missed a 56-yard attempt. The veteran kept his poise, however, and responded with field goals from 38, 54 and 45 yards. Rookie Jake Moody, who succeeded Robbie Gould as kicker for the 49ers, made all three of his field-goal attempts against the Steelers.

Read more: Rams’ Tutu Atwell, Puka Nacua catch 49ers’ eyes ahead of NFC West battle

By the numbers

Per-game averages except for sacks, turnovers. NFL rank in parentheses:

Gary Klein’s prediction

The Rams showed against the Seattle Seahawks that they have enough talent to beat an NFC West team other than the Arizona Cardinals. However, the star-studded San Francisco 49ers are a different story. 49ERS 27, RAMS 20

Read more: NFL Week 2 picks: Can Rams upset 49ers? Chargers or Titans, who will remain winless?

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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