Christian McCaffrey is key to 49ers ‘getting right’ vs. Rams

Christian McCaffrey #23 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Christian McCaffrey #23 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

4:25 p.m. ET. Sunday, Oct. 30. 51. 49ers -1.5. 3-4. 42. Fox. 3-3

The 49ers should rely heavily on Christian McCaffrey against the Rams in Week 8 to end what’s been an abysmal two-game losing streak.

It’s somewhat odd that the San Francisco 49ers seemingly wind up facing the Los Angeles Rams every time head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad needs a turnaround.

This was the case after a 3-5 start back in 2021, and the Niners ended up winning that NFC West showdown in a big way. Then, earlier this season after a 1-2 start, San Francisco pummeled LA under the bright lights of prime time once more.

Now, with back-to-back losses against the Atlanta Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs, Shanahan and Co. again look to knocking off Los Angeles to both get back to the .500 mark and to reestablish a lead within the division.

If the 49ers want to be successful here, they’ll want to deploy their recently acquired, shiny offensive weapon, All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey.

McCaffrey was held to 20 touches against the Chiefs, and that made sense in the wake of him only being acquired from the Carolina Panthers just days before. But, now armed with the full playbook and a likely increase in duties, Shanahan shouldn’t hesitate to turn McCaffrey loose this Sunday.

Christian McCaffrey will be key to 49ers defeating Rams in Week 8

The Rams boast a middle-of-the-pack run defense, allowing an average of 4.2 yards per carry, which isn’t terrible but also isn’t elite by any means.

Yet McCaffrey isn’t just a serviceable rusher who uses a combination of strength, speed and elusiveness to create pressure on opposing defenses. As a slot receiver, McCaffrey is a savvy route-runner, and LA might be suspect defending McCaffrey in this regard.

After all, one merely needs to look at what McCaffrey did against Los Angeles the week before he was trading, netting 69 yards rushing on 13 attempts (5.3 yards per carry) while adding 89 yards and seven receptions.

“When you add someone like Christian, it’s always a lot more fun,” head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters earlier this week.

Shanahan and the Niners should have fun deploying McCaffrey against the Rams on Sunday.

Another area in which Christian McCaffrey will help 49ers

San Francisco’s offense has been stagnant for much of the year, averaging only 20.7 points on the season, which ranks 20th in the NFL entering Week 8.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who has a much better reputation in a play-action scheme, has gotten away from this to a notable degree, and it would be wise for Shanahan to use McCaffrey as this sort of play-fake decoy, too.

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While fellow running back Jeff Wilson has had his share of solid moments, he’s not McCaffrey.

McCaffrey doesn’t always have to be getting touches in order to positively impact both Garoppolo and the rest of the 49ers offense. No, the All-Pro rusher merely has to be present to create the threat of delivering a big play.

An uptick in play action should allow Garoppolo more comfort on rollouts, giving his intended receivers the much-needed extra step if Los Angeles is forced to respect McCaffrey’s abilities.

That might be the necessary X-factor for Week 8 if the Niners want to get back into the win column, and McCaffrey could provide the difference.

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