Sean McVay

Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay share 'common knowledge' in 49ers vs. Rams

Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay share 'common knowledge' in 49ers vs. Rams

In last week’s 49ers game, Kyle Shanahan faced off with the man he worked under for two seasons in Atlanta where he was the offensive coordinator, Dan Quinn.

Week 16 brings together another pair of coaches with significant experience working together, as Shanahan will do battle with Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay.

McVay and Shanahan were both first on Jon Gruden’s staff in Tampa Bay with the Buccaneers, then McVay worked under Shanahan as the tight ends coach while Shanahan was the offensive coordinator in Washington. 

For two of the youngest head coaches in the NFL, Sunday’s 49ers-Rams game will be an important chess match with playoff seeding implications on the line.

“There’s a lot of common knowledge in this,” NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms said. “Can you foresee like ‘oh, we did this really well, so I think now they’re gonna do this to stop it’ and you gotta be prepared to have that next thing that ‘ok they’ve stopped that, what is that next thing gonna be.’”

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The first time around, the 49ers beat L.A. 20-7 at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum behind a dominant defensive performance, as San Francisco’s defense shut the Rams offense out over the final three quarters.

"It makes life hard when you play a team twice a year," Simms continued. "

Sunday’s game brings together two of the best minds in football, and McVay will be locked in to try and exact some revenge on his former colleague.

49ers could benefit if Rams' Greg Zuerlein misses game with quad strain

49ers could benefit if Rams' Greg Zuerlein misses game with quad strain

The 49ers likely need to defeat the Rams on Saturday to keep their hopes of being the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC alive. While San Francisco has several key players missing from the lineup, it appears Los Angeles might be shorthanded in Week 16 as well.

In speaking with reporters on Monday, Rams head coach Sean McVay detailed a few injuries suffered in their blowout loss to the Cowboys. His update on kicker Greg Zuerlein should be of particular interest to the 49ers.

A quad strain, huh? That should sound familiar to San Francisco, considering the team's own kicker, Robbie Gould, recently returned from a three-game absence due to the same injury.

Zuerlein has appeared in all 14 games for the Rams this season but has not been his typical self. He is 22-of-29 on field goals so far this season (perfect on extra points), which is his worst field-goal percentage since the team moved to Los Angeles. Perhaps most surprising, Greg "The Leg" has been particularly inaccurate from long distance, converting just 8-of-14 field-goal attempts from 40 yards or beyond.

With their playoff hopes hanging by a thread, the Rams better hope Saturday doesn't come down to a final kick, regardless of who is taking it.

In addition to Zuerlein, two other key Rams players came out of the Cowboys game with injuries.

Jared Goff will play, although that shouldn't necessarily concern San Francisco. In the 49ers' Week 6 win in LA, they held Goff to just 78 passing yards. In fact, San Francisco has limited the Cal product to the two lowest passing totals of his career.

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The last time the 49ers faced the Rams, LA was starting Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib at cornerback. Both players have since moved on, so if Troy Hill were to miss the Week 16 rematch, expect San Francisco to target his replacement in the passing attack.

How Seahawks' Russell Wilson beat 49ers' pass rush with play-action

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AP

How Seahawks' Russell Wilson beat 49ers' pass rush with play-action

The 49ers got to Russell Wilson in Monday night's 27-24 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Wilson was sacked a season-high five times at Levi's Stadium, posting his second-worst passer rating of 2019 (86.9) and a season-low 43.6 QBR. He also threw his second interception of the season and fumbled for the first time since Week 4. 

Yet Wilson did just enough to remain effective in spite of that pressure, showing why he is an MVP frontrunner when he led the Seahawks to their game-winning field-goal drive in overtime. Wilson also employed plenty of misdirection to keep the 49ers' dominant pass rush at bay, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. 

On the season, the 49ers have pressured QBs on 29.7 percent of dropbacks. That 17 percent pressure rate on play-action plays would be 30th-best in the NFL if extended over a full season, just behind the Cincinnati Bengals (17.1 percent) and just ahead of the Oakland Raiders (15.9 percent). 

For reference, those two teams have combined for five fewer sacks (30) than the 49ers have all season. 

Wilson's play-action success could give opposing teams something of a blueprint, and that could trip up the 49ers in their own division down the stretch. In addition to playing the Seahawks once more, the 49ers also will play the Los Angeles Rams in Week 16 at Levi's. Rams coach Sean McVay loves using play-action, and the Rams were far more efficient last season on play-action passes than traditional ones. The Rams have taken a step back this season and the 49ers kept LA's offense in check in Week 6, but play-action remains a big part of the Rams' offense and the 49ers will have to be ready for it.

[RELATED: 49ers ready to focus on Cardinals after tough Seahawks loss]

It doesn't stop with the Seahawks and Rams. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is known for his play-action abilities, too, while Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers also have been better in play-action this season. The 49ers play Green Bay and Arizona in each of the next two weeks. 

San Francisco has a difficult slate of QBs remaining on its schedule, including ones who succeed where Wilson did Monday night. That's one additional area the 49ers will have to shore up down the stretch.