LA Rams vs. SF 49ers: 5 players to watch most on Sunday night

SF 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (84) Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
SF 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (84) Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /
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SF 49ers Raheem Mostert
SF 49ers running back Raheem Mostert (31) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

No. 4: SF 49ers RB Raheem Mostert

The 49ers running game has struggled to get rolling so far in 2020, and that has been especially true during the games missed by defacto starter Raheem Mostert.

In just three games, Mostert is still the top rusher for the SF 49ers on the season, racking up 238 yards on just 34 attempts, good for a gaudy 7.0 yards per attempt. The next best runner on the team through Week 5 is Jerick McKinnon, who has fewer yards than Mostert (193) on one more attempt.

Just from the eye test, it is easy to see why Mostert is successful in ways that McKinnon, Jeff Wilson, and Tevin Coleman have not this season. Each of those latter backs is a little more deliberate in choosing a running lane and then hitting the whole, leading to more runs ending in lost yards.

But with Mostert, the motto seems to be “see hole/hit hole,” which the running back does practically every time he touches the ball. And while his 79.3 yards per game are still far fewer than you’d want from a starting NFL running back, some of this has to do with the game situations he’s found himself in.

On Sunday against the Dolphins, for example, Mostert only carried the ball 11 times, and while he did pick up 90 yards on those carries, Miami’s massive first-half lead impacted Mostert’s second-half touches.

In an ideal world, the run/pass balance for the SF 49ers would be closer to a 50/50 split, maybe even leaning towards more rushing attempts if the game script called for it.

The good news is that the running game is the place where the Rams’ defense is most vulnerable. Yes, they still have All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald roaming the defensive line, but in spite of Donald’s presence, LA has still allowed the 11th most total rushing yards in the NFL and 4.71 yards per carry, just 23rd in the league.

Football Outsiders‘ DVOA metric doesn’t paint a much better picture for Rams fans, as LA ranks 24th in rushing defense at minus-1.1 percent.

The SF 49ers, for comparison’s sake, are sixth at minus-26.8 percent.

This means, in spite of trouble blocking along the offensive line, the SF 49ers will need to use Mostert to take advantage of an area where the Rams struggle. Doing so will also allow the Niners to dicate the game flow, which would also go a long way in slowing down the Rams offense.