There are three unexplored themes heading into the 49ers’ road game Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams with a playoff berth up for grabs:
1. The most important quarterback won’t be Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance or Matthew Stafford
That distinction belongs to Matt Ryan of Atlanta, who will be more than 2,200 miles away when the Falcons host the New Orleans Saints in a game that kicks off at the same time as 49ers-Rams.
If Ryan can carve up a solid Saints defense and the Falcons win, both teams finish 8-9 and the 49ers are in the playoffs no matter what happens against the Rams.
It’s a shame for the 49ers that Saints-Falcons isn’t in an early time slot. That way, coach Kyle Shanahan could have adjusted on the fly in the event of a Saints loss. Now he’s got to play it as do-or-die with regard to Garoppolo and Lance as well as left tackle Trent Williams, who could have used another week to rehab his injured elbow for the Wild Card weekend.
The good news? Ryan was somewhere near his MVP form of 2016 (when his offensive coordinator was Shanahan) on Nov. 7 when Atlanta beat the Saints 27-25 in New Orleans. He was 23 of 30 for 343 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions. The yardage figure was his highest of the season, as was his 135.8 passer rating.
2. Trent Williams’ elbow, and not Garoppolo’s thumb, is the most serious injury issue
Williams isn’t just any left tackle. He’s a Hall of Fame talent having a Hall of Fame year.
“You always want the best tackle in the league out there, so you don’t feel as good if he can’t go out there, Shanahan said Friday. “But Jaylon Moore’s got some opportunities this year, he’s played some good football. And we also have Colton McKivitz, who hasn’t got a chance this year, but last year he got a start at guard versus the Rams, so he’d be an option also.”
A serious elbow injury for a tackle is a big deal. It lessens the ability to strike with authority as well as engage in pass blocking sets.
No offense to Moore or McKivitz, but the dropoff from Williams to either one is more dramatic than Garoppolo to Lance or just about any other position on the field — especially considering the opposition. Gone would be the comfort level of knowing Williams can handle anyone one-on-one, and the ripple effect across the line would be considerable.
Williams’ absence would affect the 49ers’ ability to run, which they want to do against the Rams as often as possible. And if the 49ers are forced to the air 35 or more times, it gets even more problematic.
The Rams have 47 sacks, second in the NFL to Pittsburgh, and are led by Aaron Donald, who has 12 1/2 sacks and is to defensive linemen what Williams is to offensive linemen, There’s also Leonard Floyd (9 1/2 sacks), Greg Gaines (4 1/2) and Von Miller, who was acquired in the days leading up to the first Rams game and is looking comfortable and formidable.
One clear difference between Garoppolo and Lance is the former’s quick release and ability to get the ball out on time. Lance, as impressive as he was in the second half against Houston, takes longer to get rid of the ball. It’s one reason why Shanahan has been so clear regarding his hopes that Garoppolo can play.
3. All the adversity is not necessarily a good thing
Tight end George Kittle believes the 49ers’ ups and downs have produced a team that will be at its best when it matters against the Rams.
“We’ve lost games in crazy ways, we’ve won games in crazy ways,” Kittle said. “I think we’ve looked ourselves in the mirror multiple times and figured out what the problems have been or what things are going right.
“We’ve had guys get hurt and other guys step up. We’ve had our best players play their best games. We’ve had our best players not play their best games. I think this team has kind of been through everything, and when there’s a little adversity, it brings us together.”
As a competitor and one of the NFL’s best players at his position, Kittle is supposed to think that way. h2 data-curated-ids="" data-relation-type="automatic-primary-section"">
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But take a step back and the 49ers haven’t been a model of consistency — hence the 9-7 record.
The 49ers simply can’t afford to have their best players not play their best game on Sunday. They can’t afford to have a goal-line stand like they did against Seattle, drive the length of the field, and fail to score. Laying an egg as the 49ers did against Indianapolis is unacceptable.
Those things are part of the 49ers 2021 DNA, and it can’t stay that way now that it’s 2022.
The 49ers have seen their margin for error disappear, and they can’t depend on having won the last five straight against the Rams to bail them out.
Unless, of course, Matt Ryan comes through for Atlanta.
Source : https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2022/01/08/mcdonald-why-the-most-important-qb-sunday-isnt-garoppolo-lance-or-stafford/?src=rss1370