Tale Of The Tape: St. Louis Rams At San Francisco 49ers
- QuarterbackThe Rams know that Kellen Clemens is not going to win games with his deep throws or his velocity, but he understands just what offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer wants to do with the offense. Clemens is a decent short- and medium-range passer, and most importantly, he has kept his interceptions to a minimum. He has thrown just two this season.The 49ers are no longer playing for the NFC West title or homefield advantage in the playoffs. Instead, they are just trying to survive the regular season so they can compete in the playoffs. The Niners need Colin Kaepernick to play decisive football down the stretch. He has been hesitant with both his passing and his running this season, and that’s one of the reasons the Niners are struggling.
- OffenseThe Rams had to change their gameplan once Sam Bradford’s season ended. They needed to become a running team, and that’s just what they have done over the past few weeks. While Zac Stacy had to leave the Week 12 victory over the Bears with a second-quarter head injury, Benny Cunningham ran hard in his place. Tavon Austin is an explosive playmaker with the speed to expose any defense.While the 49ers have not had the passing game that they were expecting at the start of the year, Frank Gore has been a consistently productive back who punishes opposing tacklers. He can wear down a defense with his punishing style. Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis are both key playmakers, and Mario Manningham (knee) could be ready for a more productive effort.
- DefenseThe Rams are not as effective on defense as the 49ers, but they are improving. Even though they are ranked 18th in yards allowed, they could cause their hosts a lot of problems. Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis is the team’s leading tackler with 82 stops and he will make plays sideline to sideline. Robert Quinn has 13.0 sacks and is one of the best pass rushers in the league.San Francisco has a high-powered and athletic defense that is capable of shutting the Rams down. They rank ninth overall and eighth against the run. Linebacker NaVorro Bowman is the team’s leading tackler. Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks can get around the corner and flatten out. He leads the team in sacks. Defensive back Tramaine Brock has excellent hands and he can take the ball away...
- Special TeamsAustin’s speed makes him a prime threat to return any punt for a touchdown. The Rams punt and kickoff coverage has been excellent. Second-year placekicker Greg Zuerlein has had a solid year, making 17-of-19 FG attempts. Johnny Hekker is averaging 45.7 yards per punt.The 49ers have been decent in their punt and kickoff coverage, but they have not gotten much help from their own return teams. Placekicker Phil Dawson has been in much better form after a slow star. Andy Lee has a strong leg and does a good job of flipping field position.
The Niners are coming off an East Coast Monday night game, so it may be difficult to prepare fully for the Rams. The Rams have played back-to-back excellent games against the Colts and Bears, and they could cause problems for San Francisco.