By Jerrell Richardson
St. Louis Rams (4-6-1)
Head Coach: Jeff Fisher
When the St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers played to a tie in Week 10, it was an upset to say the least. At the time San Francisco was at the top for the NFC with the Rams at the bottom looking up, and nobody gave the Rams a chance. The game was in San Francisco and if anything it figured to be a rout. Things did not go quite as planned, with Alex Smith getting hurt and the defense sputtering out of the gate. This game should be very different, at least on one side of the ball. While the Rams will send out the same team to see who wins the season series, San Francisco will have a new look and new feel on offense, so the outcome should be far different then the last time the two teams met, as St. Louis has the 49ers attention.
When the Rams Have the Ball: Advantage 49ers
The Rams put up 24 points against San Francisco a few weeks ago, but that was after the Rams played as well as they can for the first 15 minutes. Once the defense settled in they limited St. Louis to 10 points the rest of the way and except for a few drives were able to shut down their opponent. The defense has spent all week preparing, knowing that they must make amends for their uncharacteristic performance the last time. The team is playing its best defense of the year as of late, and will be out to prove that the 24 points scored was a fluke. To do so this they will need to do a better job stopping Sam Bradford and Stephen Jackson.
Bradford finished with over 250 yards passing and Jackson cracked the 100 yard mark; it’s unusual for San Francisco to give up so many yards in both areas. The Rams quarterback and running back will be hard pressed to duplicate their performance this time around, despite being at home. After shutting down one of the best offenses in the league (New Orleans) just last week in the Superdome, San Francisco has shown that they are deadly when on artificial turf as they can easily match the speed of the Rams play makers. Jackson will have to deal with Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, and Bradford will have to worry about a pass rush that is taking no prisoners recently, led by Justin and Aldon Smith. Look for the 49ers to physically dominate St. Louis across the board when the Rams are on offense as they look to send a message in this NFC West match-up.
When the 49es Have the Ball: Advantage 49ers
Colin Kaepernick will start again, and since taking over the team, the offense has taken on a new look. Kaepernick is not that much different from Smith as the both are athletic, pocket passers, but Kaepernick brings the big play ability that Smith lacks, and he seems to do everything a little better. With his arms or legs, Kaepernick is a threat on every down to hurt the opposition, and he will only get better as he gets more experience. He played in the second half in the last time the teams faced, but he is not the same player who was thrown into the fire in Week 10. With a few games under his belt and a full week to prepare St. Louis will see the best he has to offer, so they should be concerned.
The flip side is that Kaepernick is also going to face a team that finally has some film on him, so it will be interesting to see how he fares. Like they always do, the 49ers will look for Frank Gore and the rushing game to take control of the game and prevent San Francisco from falling behind by multiple possessions, as that can spell doom for San Francisco and its new quarterback. Kaepernick will need to keep an eye on the roaming Cortland Finnegan, who leads St. Louis in interceptions, and the entire team will need to neutralize the Rams tackling machine James Laurinaitis to open up room for Gore.
No Tie This Time
Nobody gave the Rams a chance in the first meeting, and nothing has really changed since then. In fact, some would say that the 49ers are a better team as they are going with the “hotter” of the two quarterbacks and can assume their starting quarterback will finish the game. St. Louis played about as well as they could and were lucky to escape with a tie. If San Francisco executes and Kaepernick does not implode, then the game will be the blow-out that the first meeting was suppose to be.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.