If the 49ers' game against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday isn't considered a must-win, it's as close as it gets. At 2-3 (including 0-3 at home and 0-1 in the division), another loss to an NFC West foe could sink San Francisco's playoff hopes before the midway point of the season.
The Rams (4-1) present a considerable challenge, as they have the second-best point differential (plus-46) of any NFC team, and have allowed the fewest points against (90) of any team in the conference. In order to get a desperately-needed win, NBC Sports' Chris Simms believes the 49ers will have to do their best to contain the leader of LA's defense.
"Not let Aaron Donald get a touchdown, or be a part of a touchdown where he gets a strip-sack fumble and gives Jared Goff the ball at the 5-yard line going in to score," Simms told NBC Sports Bay Area when describing the one thing San Francisco absolutely must do to have a chance at victory. "They can't afford to give them any easy scores or something like that. Not right now, not with the state of the football team overall."
Simms was overflowing with deserved praise for Donald, and explained that the 49ers will need to throw extra attention his way.
"Forget about best defensive player in football right now -- that's a given," Simms continued. "Aaron Donald has reached a stratosphere where he's one of the greatest defensive players we've ever seen in the history of the sport. He's in the (Lawrence Taylor), Ray Lewis ... he's that type of guy. That's where he is.
"But (the 49ers) gotta make sure they have a plan to where they don't let Ben Garland or (Daniel Brunskill) be one-on-one with Aaron Donald, because if that's the case, he is going to ruin the game. And that's the one thing I'd say, 'We're already a little handicapped as a football team, the 49ers, we can't be giving them Aaron Donald cheapies here and think we're going to win the football game against a very good Rams defensive football team altogether.'
"If they can just handle that, that'll give them a fighting chance."
Donald is as tough of a test as they come. If the 49ers are going to get back in the win column, they'll have to beat the best.