By Bruce Macgowan
Special to The Examiner
Well that certainly was ugly. If you watched this past Sunday’s fiasco at Levi’s Stadium where the undermanned Cardinals torched San Francisco, it was plain to see that this just isn’t the 49ers’ season.
Fumbles, missed tackles, untimely penalties and turnovers destroyed any chances to win. It’s hard to fathom that an Arizona team that was missing four of its top stars would play like one of the NFL’s great teams.
Will it get any easier this coming Monday night when the 7-2 Rams come to Santa Clara? It seems highly unlikely.
Injuries for the Niners continue to pile up with the most recent one being the loss of reliable young veteran right tackle Mike McGlinchey. The former Notre Dame star tore a quadriceps muscle early in the game last Sunday and is gone for the year. Veteran Tom Compton, who normally fills in at guard, has the unenviable task of trying to protect Jimmy Garoppolo Monday night. He’s got to find a way to slow down people such as perennial All-Pro Aaron Donald and future Hall of Fame sack specialist Von Miller. Another Ram defender to keep an eye on is the dangerous Leonard Floyd, a roaming linebacker who has already chalked up 7½ sacks.
Meanwhile, the shabby play of young veteran right guard Daniel Brunskill is also a major area of concern. Brunskill looked lost against the Cardinals, as he was repeatedly beaten at the line and allowed Cardinal defenders to swarm over Garoppolo for three of their five sacks. A couple of years ago, it appeared that Brunskill was a diamond in the rough when he filled in capably on the line. But now we’re seeing reasons why this guy was undrafted and played the 2019 season in the minor leagues.
It all starts with the offensive line, so it’s pretty simple what the Niners need to do against the Rams. Former Raiders’ coach John Madden once told me in an interview that if you’re weak in one area, opposing teams will attack that spot again and again until they get the results they want. You can be certain that the Rams will pour the pressure on Garoppolo’s right side with two journeymen filling in.
The Rams defense has been mostly terrific because they know how to beat other teams to the punch. Bill Walsh, who in addition to his splendid coaching career was a terrific amateur fighter in his youth, compared the “war in the trenches” to a boxing match.
“It’s just a matter of getting to your opponent with that first punch before he hits you,” said Walsh. “Hit him in the mouth quickly. The difference can be a matter of inches or seconds. That’s something I learned very early in boxing.”
Will the 49ers find a way to punch the Rams in the mouth early on the way to a huge upset? They’ve had pretty good success against L.A. in recent years but this game is likely to be another loss that could push their season over the cliff.
Bruce Macgowan is a freelance contributor to The Examiner.