The San Francisco 49ers will visit the St. Louis Rams for an NFC West prime time game on Thursday Night Football. This game will feature two teams that are 1-2 and coming off of disappointing performances. The NFC West will be a very competitive division so every game will be important. Nobody wants to go to Seattle and face the Seahawks in the playoffs.
The 49ers come into this game with some issues. First and foremost, they have lost one of their best defensive players for an indefinite amount of time. Aldon Smith has now checked into rehab and will be looking to get things in order off of the field. The franchise will need to support him both now and into the future. In the meantime, they are losing their best pass rushing option. It will be very difficult replacing him.
Corey Lemonier was not named as the starter at the position vacated by Aldon Smith. That honor will go to Dan Skuta. However, I believe that the 49ers will use a good amount of four linemen fronts in nickel situations. The Rams will spread things out with Jared Cook and Tavon Austin in the slot. Lemonier will hopefully get the chance to line up in a three point stance and rush the passer. Sam Bradford has more pass attempts than any other quarterback in the NFL.
Patrick Willis will not be playing in this game. That will hurt the 49ers because he is the emotional leader of the defense. Michael Wilhoite will have some big shoes to fill. Jeff Fisher, the Rams Head Coach has an identity which is running the football. He will look to do that against the struggling 49ers defense.
The Rams gave up a lot of yards rushing to Demarco Murray and the Dallas Cowboys last week. Murray rushed for 175 yards while the Cowboys as a whole had 193 yards and averaged 5.7 yards per carry. Once again, the table is set for Greg Roman to get back on course and run the football with their bell cow running back, Frank Gore.
The Cowboys were able to attack the right side of the Rams defense for most of their yardage. They established the running game early as Murray had a large amount of yards in the first two drives. The 49ers need to do the same. They need to allow Mike Iupati, Anthony Davis and company to get going with the running game.
Gore averaged 7.4 yards per carry last week against the Indianapolis Colts. The game was close and Roman seemed to abandon the run. The only touchdown that the 49ers scored featured the running game and strong blocking by rookie tight end Vance McDonald.
The Rams gave up a few long runs to Murray. One thing that allowed that was Tim McDonald Jr. using bad angles from the safety position. If Gore or Kendall Hunter can get to the second level of the defense, they have a chance for a big gain.
Carlos Rogers vs Tavon Austin Rogers is well aware of the speed and quickness that Austin possesses. He will look to get his hands on him to slow him down and redirect him at the line of scrimmage to disrupt the timing of the passing game. The Rams have been able to beat Rogers in the past from the slot with Danny Amendola. The match up vs Tavon Austin is one that many 49ers fans have been fearing.
Jared Cook vs Navorro Bowman The Rams like to line Cook up in the slot or flex him right outside of the tackle. They run a variety of routes with him to take advantage of his athletic ability. Bowman is a very good cover linebacker. The 49ers trust him in space against most tight ends, running backs and even some receivers. This assignment will take Bowman out of the box which will weaken the run defense but it will limit the effectiveness of Cook.
Anthony Davis vs Chris Long This match up is one that always seems to result in a few sacks for the Rams when these two teams play. Long is a very underrated pass rusher and does well against Davis.
Mike Iupati v Michael Brockers Brockers was constantly in the backfield the last time these two teams played. He was very disruptive against the run. It was hard for Iupati to get a push against Brockers. This time, he will need to move him out of the way to open up holes for the running backs. The Cowboys attacked Brockers, Robert Quinn and the right side of the defense. Maybe this will be an area where the 49ers can do the same.
Vernon Davis vs Alec Ogletree The ability to match up with Vernon Davis surely gave the Rams another reason to draft Ogletree with one of their first round picks. He brings a good amount of athleticism to the linebacker core. Davis is a match up nightmare for most linebackers when he is healthy.
Justin Smith vs Jake Long/Chris Williams Jake Long was one of the Rams high profile free agent signings. This is an area where the 49ers will need to hold their own in order to stop the running game. Smith is so stout against the run and is able to occupy two gaps. It will be important for him to get a push or at the least not give ground when the Rams run the ball.
The Rams gave Colin Kaepernick his first loss as a starter when these two teams played in St. Louis last year. This was after the teams first met in San Francisco, a game that ended in a tie.
Cortland Finegan and Frank Gore have a history going back to 2009. Finegan used his finger to gauge Gore in the eye while they were in the pile after a run by Gore. After the game, Gore’s eye was almost swollen shut.
The 49ers had a lot of interest in drafting Janoris Jenkins with their 31st overall pick as per his agent. They were in contact during the weeks leading up to the draft. It turns out they drafted a different Jenkins, A.J. with that pick instead.
Craig Dahl is a former Ram, now 49er that said the Rams got help in playing against the 49ers because they were able to read some things that tipped off what they were going to do. He mentioned this shortly after he signed as a 49er.
Finegan took offense to the comments. The two (Finegan,Dahl) have since worked it out.
Tim McDonald Jr. has a tie to the 49ers. His father, Tim McDonald Sr. was a member of the 49ers’ 1994 Super Bowl team after spending some years with the Cardinals.
Vernon Davis will be nursing a sore hamstring that he suffered vs Seattle. He did not play against the Colts and is a game time decision against the Rams.
Here is your injury report:
Joe Barksdale T Non Football Related Injury Did Not Practice Probable
Chris Givens WR Knee Full Practice Probable
William Hayes DE Knee Did Not Practice Out
James Laurinaitus LB Foot Full Practice
Jake Long LT Foot Full Practice Probable
TJ McDonald S Knee Full Practice
Mike McNeil TE Chest Full Practice Probable
Darryl Richardson RB Foot Full Practice Probable
Roger Saffold T Knee Did Not Practice Out
Chris Williams T Foot Full Practice Probable
Nnamdi Asomugha CB Knee Did Not Practice
Navorro Bowman LB Wrist Limited Practice Probable
Anthony Davis RT Shoulder Limited Practice Questionable
Vernon Davis TE Hamstring Limited Practice Questionable
Jonathan Goodwin C Elbow Limited Practice Probable
Ray McDonald DT Ankle Limited Practice Probable
Justin Smith DE Shoulder Limited Practice Probably
Bubba Ventrone SS Concussion Did Not Practice Questionable
Kyle Williams WR Ribs Limited Practice Questionable
Patrick Willis LB Groin Did Not Practice Questionable
This game is an NFC West game that will be a pivotal one for both teams. These two teams know each other very well and are well coached. The game will be a good chess match. The 49ers need to get back to their identity and control the trenches on both sides of the football.