A pair of rookie head coaches will square off for the first time when the San Francisco 49ers host the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday night in a matchup of longtime NFC West rivals. San Francisco has yet to find the end zone through its first two games, but has won three in a row in the series, including a season sweep against the Rams in 2016.
Although the 49ers acquitted themselves well in a three-point loss at Seattle last week, they have been limited to four field goals under coach Kyle Shanahan, marking the first time in franchise history they haven’t scored a touchdown in the opening two games. “I don’t think there are any moral victories in the NFL, especially with the way I played,” San Francisco quarterback Brian Hoyer said in the wake of the 12-9 defeat to the Seahawks. The Rams were denied a possible 2-0 start under coach Sean McVay after surrendering a late touchdown in a 27-20 setback to the Washington Redskins on Sunday. Los Angeles had the second-worst passing game in the league last season — behind only San Francisco — and averaged an NFL-low 14.0 points, but it has amassed 86 points during its 1-1 start.
TV: 8:25 p.m. ET, NFL Network. LINE: Rams -2. O/U: 40
ABOUT THE RAMS (1-1): The semblance of a passing game has provided a boost for third-year back Todd Gurley, who along with Kansas City rookie Kareem Hunt are the only players to amass more than 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving. Quarterback Jared Goff, the No. 1 overall pick a year ago, was not as sharp as his performance in the season opener but did rally Los Angeles from a pair of double-digit deficits to forge a fourth-quarter tie on Sunday. Sammy Watkins and rookie Cooper Kupp each have seven catches through the first two games to tie for the team lead. Stud defensive tackle Aaron Donald had a quiet debut after returning from a contract dispute but vowed to be better against San Francisco.
ABOUT THE 49ers (0-2): Running back Carlos Hyde is coming off a huge game in Seattle, rushing for 124 yards on only 15 carries while ripping off runs of 61 and 27 yards. Given the state of San Francisco’s passing game, expect Shanahan to lean heavily on Hyde, who rambled for 88 yards and a pair of touchdowns to carry the 49ers to a 28-0 rout of the Rams in the 2016 season opener. Journeyman Hoyer, playing with his fourth different team in four seasons, needs to rebound from a wretched performance in Seattle when he managed only 99 yards and an interception on 15-of-27 passing. Wideout Pierre Garcon has a team-leading nine receptions, but the 49ers are dealing with myriad injuries in their defensive backfield.
1. Hyde has scored six touchdowns in his last six games against NFC West foes.
2. Gurley has rushed for 247 yards and a pair of TDs in three meetings versus San Francisco.
3. 49ers S Eric Reid (knee) will miss several weeks while S Jaquiski Tartt (neck) is questionable for Thursday’s game.
PREDICTION: 49ers 20, Rams 17