Rams (6-0) at San Francisco (1-5)
When Rams have the ball
They scored only 23 points — about 12 below their average going into the game — but the Rams showed last week in frigid Denver that the offense will remain dynamic regardless of conditions. Running back Todd Gurley is coming off a career-best, 208-yard rushing effort that earned him NFL offensive player of the week recognition and kept him in the hunt for the league’s most valuable player award. The scary part for the 49ers defense: coach Sean McVay has not yet utilized Gurley in the screen game that helped the back become the league offensive player of the year in 2017. Receiver Cooper Kupp is sidelined because of a knee sprain, but the 49ers still will need to slow down Gurley, quarterback Jared Goff and receivers Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks and Josh Reynolds, who fills Kupp’s spot. San Francisco cornerback Richard Sherman is questionable because of a calf injury. Goff said this week that he still must improve his efficiency inside the 20-yard line, where opponents have intercepted three passes. The Rams offensive line, which gave up only six sacks in the first five games, gave up five against the Broncos. Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner has 4½ sacks for a 49ers defense that also features lineman Arik Armstead and linebacker Reuben Foster.
When 49ers have the ball
With C.J. Beathard at quarterback, the 49ers probably cannot keep pace with the Rams’ league-leading offense. So look for Kyle Shanahan to rely on a rushing attack that ranks third in the NFL, averaging 142.5 yards a game. Running back Matt Brieda averages 6.8 yards per carry. The Rams performed poorly against the run two weeks ago against the Seattle Seahawks — they gave up 190 yards rushing — but rebounded last week and limited the Broncos to 60 yards rushing. Middle linebacker Cory Littleton has been a force against the run and also in coverage. Beathard, who has passed for six touchdowns, with five interceptions, will be under pressure from Rams linemen Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Michael Brockers. Beathard will be working against a secondary that has not produced consistently strong cornerback play since Aqib Talib suffered an ankle injury in Week 3. Replacement Troy Hill gave up several long passes against the Broncos, but Rams coach Sean McVay and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips publicly expressed confidence in Hill. The Rams will try to contain receivers Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garcon, tight end George Kittle, and fullback Kyle Juszczyk.
When they kick
Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein is set to return after sitting out five games because of a groin injury. The Rams released Cairo Santos, who kicked what proved to be game-winning field goals in each of the last two games, to make room for Zuerlein, the NFL’s leading scorer in 2017. Robbie Gould has made 13 of 14 field-goal attempts for the 49ers. D.J. Reed of the 49ers is averaging 30.2 yards per kickoff return, which ranks second in the NFL. The Rams’ Blake Countess averages 25.9 yards per return, which ranks seventh.
Gary Klein’s prediction
Beathard’s done an admirable job in place of injured Jimmy Garoppolo, but the 49ers are not going to get over the hump and slow down a Rams team that has demonstrated the ability to win with offense, defense and special teams.
RAMS 35, 49ERS 13