KEY MATCHUPS LEADING INTO THURSDAY NIGHTS GAME VS THE RAMS

Football is is a game of matchups and one on one battles, and this week’s 49ers/Rams game will give fans plenty to watch.

Fans tend to follow the ball or their favorite player during the game. Below are matchups to look for and where you can find them.

CARLOS HYDE AND THE RUN GAME VS RAMS FRONT SEVEN.

This looks like a mismatch made in heaven.

Carlos Hyde just rushed for 124 yards vs the Seahawks vaunted defence, while the Rams gave up 229 yards along the ground, at almost 6 yards per rush to the Redskins.

The 49ers might be catching the Wade Phillips run defense at the right time, as it appears the Ram’s transformation from a 4-3 base front to a 3-4 base will take longer than a few weeks.

Speaking of transformations, the 49ers offensive line have added a key piece up front. Newley acquired Laken Tomlinson did a nice job filling in at both guard spots and seems to be quick study. Tomlinson’s presence seemed to improve the 49ers interior line play in both the run and pass game.

This matchup feeds into Kyle Shanahan’s run first / play action style offense perfectly.

Hyde might have 20 plus attempts tomorrow night.

BRIAN HOYER AND HIS RECEIVING CORPS VS THE RAMS BACK END.

The Rams struggle in defending the run in the first two games should mean more one on one battles in man coverage, and more zone coverage in the passing game. They’ll need an extra man in the box to slow Carlos down. This should open things up for Garçon and Co. and give them numerous big play opportunities.

Hoyer hasn’t had a HOF career by any stretch, but he has shown he can be a capable starter. He has to be accurate with the ball and take advantage of those coverages.

Garçon, Goodwin, Taylor and Kittle have the ability to get open vs man coverage, and this game should give them a opportunity to prove it.

I see a big play from Goodwin this game ( a 40 yard + receiving touchdown ) making up for crucial drops in back to back contests.

AARON DONALD VS GUARD / TACKLE / TIGHT END COMBOS.

Aaron Donald is arguably the best defensive lineman in the NFL and can be a game-wrecker if he’s not accounted for. He will likely line up in both the 3 and 5 techniques (outside shade of the offensive guard and tackle), depending on the situation. Part of Hoyer’s struggles have been his inability to step into throws due to inside pressure, so slowing Donald down is a must. Look here early…it might help determine what kind of a night it’s going to be on offense for the 49ers.

49ERS OFFENSE VS THIRD DOWN MONSTER

Four for twenty-three. To say that’s not good is an understatement. Throw out the “they faced tough defences” excuse. Four for twenty-three is horrendous. Converting third downs is a team effort and everyone has to be better.

The team is dead last in yardage in the NFL and it starts with third down conversions. It’s hard to gain yards while your offense is routinely jogging off the field.

Converting on third downs starts with winning on first and second down. 3rd and 3 is a lot more manageable than the 3rd and long’s Hoyer and the offense have been facing the first two games of the season.

Can they flip the script this week and slay the monster? We’ll find out soon enough.

Now to the dominant defensive side of the ball. Okay….a bit premature to call them dominant, but fans sure like the early results from the Robert Saleh coached defense.

TYLER GURLEY VS THE 49ERS FRONT SEVEN.

This may appear to be lazy journalism but just as important as it is for the Rams to contain Carlos Hyde, it’s equally important for the 49ers to do the same to Gurley.

Gurley has not only shown up on a mission in the run game, but he’s loving his new role as a pass catcher. (sure beats banging his head against a wall every play)

His balanced 100+ yards in both the run and pass game surely has Saleh’s attention. In order to put the Rams young QB in third and long situations, it’s imperative that the 49ers front seven be dominant in early downs. That starts and ends with #30.

RAMS OFFENSIVE LINE VS 49ERS DEFENSIVE FRONT

The 49ers’ “twin towers” of Arik Armstead and Deforest Buckner are starting to look like they belong. Now it’s time for them to take the next step.

With help from edge setter Tank Carridine, they have to continually dominate their matchups and slow down Todd Gurley and their run game. In order for the defense to be successful, they have to make Jared Goff, an unproven second year quarterback, beat them. That’s starts with shutting down the run game.

If the team can be predictably successful in defending the run, then the all-important pass rush now takes over. After being shut out in the sack department in Week One, the 49ers pass rushers notched their first three sacks of the season last week against the Seahawks. Armstead, Carradine, and Aaron Lynch all put Russell Wilson on the ground, leading to Seattle punts. I’m predicting more of the same this week as the front seven gets acclimated to their new system. Maybe a Solomon Thomas sighting perhaps?

COOPER KUPP VS K’WAUN WILLIAMS

If the pass rush doesn’t get there than Williams will have the responsibility to slow down Goff’s favourite target, slot receiver Cooper Kupp.

Kupp is leading the Rams receiver in targets and catches and is expected by many to have a productive first year. Tayvon Austin and Sammy Watkins have been non factors to start the season, so slowing down the young slot receiver will be the key to getting off the field. Let’s see if K’waun is up to the task.

Run the ball successfully and stop the run. Keep the chains moving and get off the field on third down. Easy right? Ask Kyle how easy he thinks it’s been the first two weeks of the season, then run for cover.

Keep an eye on the matchups above to see how easy it is for the 49ers tomorrow night.

I know what matchups I’ll be watching tomorrow night.

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