September 21, 2017

San Francisco 49ers
INSIDE SLANT

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  49ers still searching for first touchdown

Two games into the John Lynch/Kyle Shanahan regime, it's pretty clear what the San Francisco 49ers would like.

To start over.

Fortunately for the 49ers, that's exactly what they get Thursday night when the Los Angeles Rams visit Levi's Stadium.

But be careful what you wish for. Flopping a third consecutive time could result in a complete strikeout with 49ers fans.

You see, the new-look club had built-in excuses in its first two games. How in the world were they supposed to compete with veteran teams surrounding quarterbacks Cam Newton and Russell Wilson when they hardly knew the plays and the guys calling them?

But here come the Rams, whose defense gives the highly anticipated Shanahan offense a chance to shine, and whose offense provides a stationary target for the club's highly regarded pass rushers.

"You never want to give an excuse," 49ers quarterback Brian Hoyer said this week about the newness of the offense, before going on to use it as an excuse. "I think the one thing about offense is you can have a great play, and if one guy is off by just a fraction of an inch, it could be the difference. We all have to you know, especially starting with me just go out and execute a lot better."

Carlos Hyde was able to break a couple of long runs in last week's loss at Seattle. But 49ers fans have seen that before, and it hasn't gotten the team far in recent years.

The high-priced tickets at the 49ers' relatively new stadium were sold this year with the Atlanta Falcons' high-powered passing attack in mind. The one Shanahan helped mold last season.

So far, the excitement hasn't made the trip west.

Shanahan realizes the only thing worse than not having scored a touchdown in the first two weeks is the appearance the offense didn't even try to attack the Seahawks aggressively last week.

"We had a couple shots early and the protection didn't hold up," Shanahan gruffly responded when informed Hoyer hadn't even attempted a pass longer than 20 yards in the Seattle game. "If you sit back and try to make a living in Seattle versus that pass rush of dropping back deep and just trying to throw deep balls, they are going to lead to a lot more sacks and turnovers than you are deep plays.

"Our goal is to win the game. We tried to call a game and put a game plan together that gave us a chance to win the game at the end. We didn't think going deep all the time was the best way to do that. Depending on how they play is when you go deep. You just don't call plays that say go deep or go short. It depends on what you're going against."

The Rams' defense appears to afford that opportunity.

Jacoby Brissett came off the bench to complete a 50-yarder to Donte Moncrief among four Indianapolis Colts completions of more than 20 yards in the Rams' opener, before Kirk Cousins averaged 10.0 yards per completion for the Washington Redskins against the Rams last week, including 23- and 21-yarders.

Crowd-pleasing or not, Hoyer insisted the passing game plan this week will be basic.

"Move the chains," he said. "Our defense is doing a great job. Keep them off the field. Keep them fresh. For us, it would be great to just go out and sustain a drive."



SERIES HISTORY: 135th regular-season meeting. 49ers lead series, 67-64-3. The 49ers have won three in a row, including a 28-0 and 22-21 sweep in 2016 that accounted for the club's entire win total. The Rams' last win at San Francisco came in a 13-10 triumph on Nov. 2, 2014