The San Francisco 49ers offensive line had an opportunity to show how much they had grown against the NFL’s elite on Sunday. The talent disparity was apparent as they ultimately lost to the Los Angeles Rams 39-10. The Rams defensive line proved to be too much for the 49ers.
Quarterback CJ Beathard was sacked seven times including four times by reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. The 49ers offensive line will have to rebound quickly if they hope to beat the Arizona Cardinals next Sunday.
Preview Versus The Arizona Cardinals
When the 49ers played the Cardinals three weeks ago, they gained an impressive 33 first downs on an astonishing 92 plays. The offensive line helped get first downs but could not consistently turn sustainable drives into touchdowns.
The Cardinals myriad of blitz packages kept the 49ers offensive line guessing all game and eventually proved to be the difference in a 28-18 loss. While the 49ers offensive line has found a rhythm in the ground game, the Cardinals have not changed much since their last meeting.
Arizona still relies on multiple fronts and blitz packages designed to cause bewilderment along the offensive line. Confusion has proven to be the 49ers offensive line’s weakness all season.
Since their previous meeting, defensive end Chandler Jones has been the Cardinals most consistent pass rusher. He has had at least one sack in his last five games, including one in that previous tilt in Santa Clara.
Defensive tackle Corey Peters has been inconsistent. He had two sacks two weeks ago against the Minnesota Vikings. Last week against the Denver Broncos he did not record a sack.
In the two games since their last meeting, the Cardinals have allowed a combined 326 yards rushing and four touchdowns. The 5.17 average yards per carry they have allowed can be fatal for any defense.
The 49ers have rushed for a combined 281 yards on 54 carries in their last two games. The 5.2 yards per carry is an improvement from their 4.2-yard average in their previous meeting with Arizona. The Cardinals tend to wear down over the course of the game with a steady run game and have given up multiple big gains on the ground. This could be the key factor in the game on Sunday.
Review Versus The Los Angeles Rams
The offensive line had a miserable day but they did show some life in the run game. In the middle of the first quarter, running back Raheem Mostert found room outside of left tackle Joe Staley. Mostert proceeded to run for an electrifying 15 yard gain.
The 49ers used some trickery on the following play. Beathard tossed a shovel pass to Mostert who then ran for 23 yards. This gain would not have been possible without the steady blocking of Staley who provided the decisive block for Mostert.
The Rams pass rush had their way with the 49ers offensive line but there were some brief flashes of success. In the middle of the second quarter, the offensive line created a pocket for Beathard. The pocket quickly collapsed and Beathard was forced to scramble. The offensive line gave him enough room to run for a 12 yard gain.
In the middle of the third quarter the 49ers offensive line showed their potential in the running game. Mostert found a large hole following left guard Laken Tomlinson and fullback Kyle Juszczyk and rumbled for a 16 yard gain. Staley was critical to the play’s success as well by blocking linebacker Mark Barron.
Donald is considered one of the best defensive players in the NFL. He showed exactly why he has earned that distinction early in the second quarter. The 49ers were facing 3rd-and-13 while trying to climb out of a 10-0 deficit. Donald overpowered center Weston Richburg pushing him back into Beathard for the sack.
On the first play of the second half Beathard tried to find an open receiver. Donald set the tone for the second half by getting the sack. While right tackle Mike McGlinchey tried his best to block Donald but it was in vain as Donald used his long arms to take Beathard down. The 49ers ultimately were forced to punt.
Late in the third quarter, the 49ers looked like they might score. Linebacker Cory Littleton had other plans. At the start of the play, he delayed his blitz before running up the middle.
The offensive line was preoccupied with other assignments and Juszczyk was facing the other direction while blocking a defender. Littleton jumped over Juszczyk and sacked Beathard ending the drive. While the 49ers did kick a field goal the next play, it was clear from this play forward that their offensive line could not match up to the athleticism of the Rams front seven.
Early in the fourth quarter the 49ers were in the middle of the field and facing 3rd-and-4. Donald bull rushed Richburg into Beathard again for another sack.
On the 49er first drive of the game, Beathard stepped back to pass and quickly faced the Rams fierce pass rush. Richburg and right guard Mike Person did not allow the pressure to sack Beathard. However, this forced Beathard to escape the pocket and he made a hasty decision to throw a desperation pass. As Beathard raised the ball to throw it, it was knocked out of his hand and the fumble was recovered by the defense.
In the middle of the second quarter McGlinchey faced a dilemma. He was trying to block defensive end John Franklin-Myers and quickly realized that no one was going to block the blitzing linebacker, Littleton. McGlinchey arrived too late and Littleton sacked Beathard which ended the drive.
Early in the fourth quarter, the 49ers were at their own 9-yard line with a 1st-and-10. Beathard took the snap from the shotgun formation and was immediately pressured from both sides of the line. McGlinchey was caught off balance and fell to his knees as Donald took Beathard down. Tomlinson was backed up into the play too and Beathard did not have a chance at letting the play develop.
Throughout the season the 49ers offensive line has played well one week and terrible the next. The Cardinals exposed their flaws in their first meeting. They played better against the Green Bay Packers the following week and nearly escaped with an upset victory. The Rams overwhelmed the unit the following week as Beathard was sacked seven times.
This game against the Cardinals will give them the chance to show some growth. The 49ers are still trying to find the right pieces for a to take the next step as a team and this would be the time for the offensive line to show its potential for the near future.