THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — With or without running back Todd Gurley, the L.A. Rams have a tough task ahead in trying to get their running game going against the 49ers stout defense.
The Rams head into Sunday’s match up uncertain if Gurley will suit up as a result of a quad contusion sustained in their Week 5 match up with the Seahawks. He has yet to practice since the game but reports that he has been improving as the week progressed.
The Rams have struggled to get their run game to flourish since Week 1 when they were able to rack up 166 yards facing the Panthers. In the last three games combined, they have only rushed for 200 yards. They have been much more productive through the air averaging over 317 passing yards per game.
Rams coach Sean McVay spoke about how effective the 49ers defense has been especially in regard to their speed and ability to create pressure with only a four-man rush.
“There’s a very clear cut philosophy,” McVay said. “Anytime you can consistently apply as much pressure as they’ve done with four man rushes, now you’re able to play seven guys in coverage behind it. It’s a great system.”
Gurley has noticed the improved defense of the 49ers as well. Instead of focusing on the defensive line like most, Gurley keyed in on players like Richard Sherman, Kwon Alexander and Jaquiski Tartt.
“They’ve got everything clicking for them right now,” Gurley said. “They’ve got some good linebackers. Obviously the new addition of Kwon Alexander. He’s been playing great ball right now. Sherman is Sherman, he’s going to keep doing his thing. They have Tartt and they have a solid defensive front too. Just a good defense right now and everything is going pretty well for them.”
The 49ers, who had a league-low of seven takeaways over the entire 2018 season, have already surpassed that total with 11 in four games. McVay made note of the improvement and spoke about the technique he has seen.
“I think they are opportunistic,” McVay said. “But they create their opportunities in terms of taking the ball away. There’s an intentional approach that they take to attacking it. When they’ve got guys stood up, guys are jabbing at the football, ripping at it.
“They’ve got guys with ball skills. I mean look at Richard Sherman. Look at his ball production is second to none over the last few years.”
Gurley noted that the 49ers' defense seems to be firing on all cylinders with momentum on their side. He added that they appear to have a new identity from what he has seen in the past.
“They’re doing good,” Gurley said. “They have something to play for. They are undefeated right now. In the past couple of years, things haven’t gone well for them. So their sense of urgency is definitely up and it’s just a whole new team. It’s not whatever happens last year or the year before that. It’s a whole new team and they’ve been able to get on the right track.”