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Week 8 Preview: 49ers at Chargers

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San Francisco 49ers (2-5) at St. Louis Rams (3-3)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis – TV: FOX

*TV announcers: Dick Stockton, David Diehl, Kristina Pink

*Keys to the game: Rams rookie Todd Gurley leads the NFL with 2.65 yards after contact per carry, and the running back has made a number of players look sluggish or silly in the open field when his line does plow a clear path. Using Gurley as a first option is a great crutch for QB Nick Foles, who has completed 66 percent of his passes in three home games, but his only touchdown pass at the dome came in Week 1 and on a play in which Seahawks S Dion Bailey fell down. San Francisco has been hit for 12 touchdown passes and the secondary is a weak link. The 49ers gave up 176 rushing yards to the Seahawks last week, so anchoring their hopes on shutting Gurley down would be unrealistic. Limiting his big plays is the Niners’ goal.

Greater is the concern for the offense to keep pace with the Rams on the scoreboard; the 49ers have just one touchdown in the past eight quarters. QB Colin Kaepernick has as many turnover as touchdowns (six), has been sacked 25 times and reports surfaced this week that he “isolated” himself from the rest of the locker room. Confidence and morale aren’t high. The way to turn that around is for Kaepernick to jolt the offense with his athletic ability, but he will need to pick the right route out of trouble facing this fearsome Rams front.

*Matchup to watch – Gurley vs. 49ers ILB NaVorro Bowman: Second in the NFL in tackles and tenacious in pursuit, Bowman is the heart of 49ers’ defense and key to the team limiting Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, Packers RB Eddie Lacy and Justin Forsett of the Ravens to a total of 184 yards.

*Player spotlight – Rams WLB Mark Barron: An all-state linebacker who switched to safety and was an All-American first-round pick out of Alabama, Barron looked like a natural at weak-side ‘backer last week with 19 tackles, two forced fumbles and two tackles for loss.

*Fast facts: Foles has gone 10 consecutive starts without completing 20 passes in a game. … The 49ers have 45 fourth-quarter points in 2015 and 58 total points in quarters 1-3.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

Todd Gurley and the Rams bust it open in the second half to turn a field-position game into a romp and further stirring questions about San Francisco’s direction.

*Our pick: Rams 27-14.


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