We know that the LA Rams have tried, and failed, to defeat the San Francisco 49ers for the past seven consecutive contests. And we know that the NFC West Division is not exactly the cream of the NFL this season. So it’s becoming clear that invitations to the NFL Playoffs will require the Rams to win the division. Now, you can ask the most obvious question: How can the Rams get past the 49ers?
Seven games, seven losses. That’s not random. That’s not luck. That’s a deficiency in coaching decisions. So let’s shine a candle on some of the basic stats of the LA Rams’ past seven contests with the 49ers.
Score Runs Rams Passes Runs 49ers Passes
7-20 22-109-1 13/24-78-0-0 41-99-12 24/33-243-1-1
31-34 24-72-2 27/46-323-2-1 23-119-2 16/27-248-1-2
16-24 19-113-0 19/38-198-2-1 37-122-0 23/33-268-3-0
20-23 28-126-1 19/31-198-0-2 33-112-1 24/35-252-0-1
10-31 10-52-0 27/42-226-1-2 44-156-1 15/19-182-2-0
24-27OT 27-64-0 21/32-201-3-2 31-135-1 24/33-314-2-2
9-24 18-57-0 32/48-200-0-1 22-88-1 16/27-239-1-0
On all but one occasion, the 49ers rushed far more frequently, and the Rams made more mistakes by tossing more interceptions. In those games in which the victory was decided by three points, the Rams rushed the football at least 24 times. But in short, the pattern is consistent. The 49ers rushed more frequently but were more efficient in passing (10 TDs, 6 INTs). The Rams passed the football much more frequently but found that relying on the pass hurt their performance significantly (8 TDs, 9 INTs).
Okay, so the Rams lean heavily into the pass, and the 49ers are ready for them. But that was not the case for the Atlanta Falcons. So how did the Falcons win in that game?
Breaking down how the Falcons beat the 49ers
If you look at the box stats from the Atlanta Falcons victory over the San Francisco 49ers, there really is not much to gather from a quick and dirty review. The 49ers clearly had more offense on the afternoon, and Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota threw just 13 of 14 passes for 129 yards. So what was the difference maker?
Score Runs Falcons Passes Runs 49ers Passes
28-14 40-168-1 13/14-129-2-0 16-50-0 29/41-296-2-2
The Falcons ran the football 40 times, with just a 4.2 yards per run average. From the starting running backs, the Falcons rushed 31 times for 110 yards. That works out to an average of just 3.56 yards per run. And yet, the final score in that one was:
Since the next opponent that the Rams face after a badly needed BYE week is the San Francisco 49ers, perhaps the Rams should take a moment to study how the Falcons were able to do something in one attempt that the LA Rams have failed to do in the past seven regular-season attempts. That is, beat the Niners.
The LA Rams must run to win
In three 49ers’ losses this year, the common factor was an opponent rushing 33+ times. In three victories, the 49ers’ opponents rushed the football 18 times or less. Is it that simple? In a word, yes.
The Chicago Bears averaged just 2.7 yards per rush. The Denver Broncos averaged just 3.1 yards per rush. The LA Rams averaged 3.2 yards per rush, which clearly is good enough to defeat the 49ers. That was in Week 4, long after the LA Rams offensive line was riddled with injuries. Despite the answer of so many that the LA Rams cannot run the football because the offensive line is not good enough, I respectfully disagree.
Offensive lines that are lacking cohesion struggle to pass protect, but run blocking is fine, as each lineman knows where the play is designed to go and can freehand a bit to get the job done. Of course, the LA Rams need to get healthy, and that process begins over the Rams’ BYE week. After the BYE, the Rams will have one more shot at beating the 49ers.
The Falcons, Broncos, and Bears have given the NFL the template of how to do so. Now, the LA Rams simply have to trust their defense and running offense enough to do so.