Grant Cohn: Yes, 49ers can beat Rams — here's how
If the 49ers play as well as last week, they’ll still lose Sunday to the Los Angeles Rams.
But if the 49ers play just a little bit better, and finish the game strong, they can beat the Rams. They can beat anybody.
Here’s what the 49ers have to do to win Sunday.
1. Bring the same energy and confidence they had against the Packers.
Embarrassment fueled the 49ers’ Monday night performance. The embarrassment of losing by 10 points at home to the winless Arizona Cardinals the week before. That brought out the 49ers’ best eight days later against the Packers.
But the 49ers still lost to Green Bay. They gave up a game-ending field goal to Packers kicker Mason Crosby on the final play. Tough to come back from such an emotionally draining defeat.
Now, the 49ers’ record is 1-5, and they have to play the NFL’s only undefeated team — the Rams. And the Rams had an extra day to prepare. The 49ers have every reason to come out flat and get blown out. That’s what a bad team would do.
A good team won’t come out flat. A good team won’t need to feel embarrassed to play well. A good team won’t lie down and accept defeat against its main rival.
Let’s see the 49ers play like a good team.
2. Feature Kyle Juszczyk.
The 49ers made him the highest-paid fullback of all time, but they’re not committed to using him.
Juszczyk should never leave the field. He is the best blocker and receiver of all the running backs on the 49ers. He should be the fullback on first down and second down, and the exclusive back on third down.
And the 49ers should throw him more passes. Lots more. Dumping the ball to the fullback is a great way to move the chains and protect C.J. Beathard.
Through six games, the 49ers have targeted Juszczyk only 23 times. He has caught 73.9 percent of his targets, averaged 13.4 yards per reception and scored one touchdown. Fantastic numbers.
Compare those stats to Pierre Garcon. The 49ers have targeted him 39 times, and he has caught just 51.3 percent of his targets, averaged just 11.3 yards per catch and scored no touchdowns. Bad numbers.
Juszczyk is one of the three best weapons in the 49ers' passing game, along with wide receiver Marquise Goodwin and tight end George Kittle. Garcon should be an afterthought. He rarely has the advantage over a cornerback at this stage in his career. Juszczyk almost always has the advantage over a linebacker.
3. Block Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh.
C.J. Beathard is accurate when he stands in place and throws in rhythm.
Last week, he did those things and completed 70 percent of his passes. His pocket was clean.
This week, it may not be. The Rams have two of the best interior rushers in the NFL — Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. Combined, they have seven sacks this season.
Even if Donald and Suh don’t sack Beathard, they can collapse the pocket, push the offensive lineman into Beathard’s face and break up his rhythm. Force him to move. That’s when he’s inaccurate.
The 49ers can’t double-team both Donald and Suh. One guard, either Laken Tomlinson or Mike Person, can help center Weston Richburg block Suh. But the other guard will have to block Donald one on one. Tough matchup.