3 things SF 49ers must improve in Week 12 matchup vs. Rams

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) against the San Francisco 49ers Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) against the San Francisco 49ers Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

The SF 49ers need some necessary improvements during their Week 12 NFC West game against the LA Rams.

For the last three games, we have witnessed the world’s greatest disappearing act: the SF 49ers running game! For a team that heavily relies on the ground game, it’s mind-boggling to see them struggle just to crack 100 yards. In each of their three games before the Week 11 bye, all losses, the Niners failed to crack even 60 yards.

Injuries have significantly altered the rotation and forced a few playmakers out of the lineup.  However, opposing teams will not show any sympathy, and every player on an NFL roster is expected to pick up the slack for their fallen comrades while keeping the ship afloat.

It’s been a very tumultuous transition which has led to sloppy, inconsistent play on offense.  The SF 49ers have had to rotate interior linemen throughout the season and no running back has started for more than three consecutive games.

That’s just one problem the 4-6 Niners will need to ensure is fixed heading into their critical Week 12 matchup against the NFC West-leading Los Angeles Rams.

Despite all of those overwhelming odds stacked against them, San Francisco still had an opportunity to beat the New Orleans Saints during a Week 10 matchup. Again, sloppy play combined with inconsistent execution on offense, led to another deflating defeat.

I truly believe the bye week came at a pivotal time for the Niners, as they try to scratch and claw their way into playoff contention. Honestly speaking, though, unless they recaptured their groove during the bye, there’s a good chance San Francisco will be down this year.

Another problematic area that was exposed during the Saints game is special teams. This unit is just as vital if not, more important than offense and/or defense. The battle for momentum usually hinges on one, maybe two specific plays from special teams. After the 49ers jumped out to an early 10-0 lead on the Saints, the excitement of being ahead as an underdog in a road game was short-lived.

As the second quarter got underway, San Francisco was set to kick off and get back to work on defense. The ensuing kick was received by Saints return specialist Deonte Harris, who muffed an earlier punt that led to a kicker Robbie Gould field goal. This time around was a little different for Harris as he had redemption on his mind. Once Harris got the ball, he was able to maneuver through enough traffic and continue his angry scamper down the sideline for a 75-yard return.

This was huge for New Orleans because they were able to salvage three points off of great field position, but more importantly, the Saints completely snatched all momentum from that point in the game.  Holding the Niners to only three points for the remainder of the contest while adding an additional 24 to their total, speaks to the lack of firepower for San Francisco.

It makes for an interesting debate because, is it truly a lack of firepower or the unwillingness from coaches to make weekly in-game adjustments?

I would like to refrain from using the latter as a main reason for the team’s current struggles, but the evidence is hard to ignore. Case in point, during this same game San Francisco kept getting edge pressure from Saints defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, and it failed to adjust accordingly. As a result, Johnson nearly single-handedly disrupted the entire offensive game plan because of his nose for the ball and presence at the line of scrimmage. He blitzed five times and had three quarterback hits, two tackles for loss, one sack and finished with 12 combined tackles.

If the Niners are serious about postseason contention, now would be a good time to implement “on the fly” strategies to negate opposing game wreckers.

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San Francisco still has a legit chance of sneaking into the playoffs while continuing to fly under the radar, provided it can knock off the Rams. Health and execution are still trouble areas for the Niners, but if they can whether the storm long enough for reinforcements to arrive, then anything is possible, my friends.