The 49ers come home on a short week to face off their toughest opponent yet, the undefeated Los Angeles Rams. The Rams are one of the NFL’s scariest teams this season, and they rely on their talented running back to set the tone for the rest of the offense.
Todd Gurley has lived up to his expectations, developing into the league’s most complete running back over the last few years. The defending NFL Offensive Player of the Year can do it all from the running back position. Whether he is asked to run the ball, catch the ball, or stay back and pass block, Gurley can shine in all aspects of the Los Angeles offense. The 49ers will have a tough time keeping him in check, but will need to prevent him from making big plays in order to stay in the game.
The Rams love to run a lot of play-action, and for good reason. They have the league’s best running back in their backfield, and he can break big runs at any given moment. That explosiveness is enough to keep defenses on their heels and allow quarterback Jared Goff to look downfield for big plays.
In this play, Gurley faked the handoff and was asked to block. Keep an eye on the Broncos’ blitzing defender highlighted by the arrow at the beginning of the play. Gurley neutralizes the blitz by forcing the defender outside with a nice block. That allows Rob Havenstein (#79) to come off his assignment and help inside. Gurley’s hard work while pass blocking allows Goff (#16) enough time to find a receiver downfield.
The Rams can be really aggressive with their play calling because of Gurley. On this play, the Rams chose to line up on 4th-and-1. Normally, teams will try and get the opponent to jump offsides and pick up a first down, but the Rams handed the ball off to Gurley and let him go to work. The play was blocked well, and he turned it into a 9-yard rushing touchdown.
Even if the 49ers load the box up in an attempt to limit Gurley’s yardage, he can still tear them apart with a swift cut to the outside like on this next play. Gurley took the inside handoff and noticed that the gap in front of him was stuffed, so he took the play outside. Once he broke the tackle, he took the ball upfield and almost scored on the play.
Gurley is also an exceptional route runner out of the backfield. On the next play, Gurley goes out on a seam route. He had Vikings’ Pro Bowl linebacker Anthony Barr (#55) covering him, but gained separation with a slight hesitation move. That gave Gurley enough space to come down with the catch for a touchdown.
The 49ers have another hard matchup against Gurley and the Rams, but they have found ways to limit the opposing team’s running backs. That’s the key to this week’s game. Put the ball in Goff’s hands and make him put the offense on his back. There isn’t an unbeatable team in the NFL, and the Rams showed that they aren’t perfect in their Week 5 win against the Seahawks. Now it’s up to the 49ers defense to replicate the Seahawks’ successes and give their offense a chance to keep the team in the game.
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