The San Francisco 49ers showed that they are still capable of being a smash mouth football team when they beat the Rams 35-11 in St. Louis. The formula for success was revisited when they stuck to running the ball. If they are able to run the ball effectively, the 49ers are a very difficult team to beat.
Frank Gore and the offensive line are the key to the offense’s success. Trent Baalke has put together a bulldozing group of offensive linemen. They get stronger as the game goes on and thrive on being able to go shoe to shoe and set the tone with back breaking blocks. This group is not built to drop back into pass protection 40 times per game. They need to establish balance by running the football.
The effective running game makes it easier to pass the ball with play action. It allowed Greg Roman to move the pocket by designing roll out plays that made reads easier for Colin Kaepernick. It cuts the field in half and allows him to make an esay high/low read. This is something that a lot of offensive coordinators do to simplify the game for a struggling quarterback that is able to threaten defenses by running the ball.
The 49ers didn’t take a lot of deep shots against the Rams. Instead, they played a more controlled style of offense that dominated the Rams. The result was a reduction in turnovers. The 2011 team that surprised the NFL by hosting the NFC Championship always won the turnover battle. It was no coincidence that the 49ers did the same thing last Thursday night when they beat the Rams.
Another thing that the 49ers got back to was a physical defense that dominated up front. They were winning at the point of attack. Navorro Bowman played like he was possessed as he tried to make up for the loss of Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis. The 49ers were able to get constant pressure on the quarterback thanks to rookie outside linebacker, Corey Lemonier.
The Rams could not run the ball against the 49ers defense. They could only accumulate 18 yards on the ground. The fact that an NFL offense could only get 18 yards rushing is both a statement to how bad the Rams offense is and how dominant the 49ers run defense can be. Ahmad Brooks is a very underrated player that is able to keep outside contain and funnel plays back into the interior part of the defense.
The running game was also a factor in how the defense played. If you noticed, the defense remained fresh as the game went on. This is unlike what happened over the last two weeks. The 49ers wore down and in the fourth quarter of both games, they game up the majority of the points. The running game is how the 49ers were able to orchestrate time consuming drives that gave the defense time to rest.
Resting is so important for the defense because most of the players on defense play all of the snaps. Vic Fangio doesn’t sub too often. Having to constantly go back onto the field with out getting rest will always hurt a team that doesn’t truly have a rotation.
The victory against the Rams was a return to basics. The formula for success with the 49ers is to run the ball with authority and limit the turnovers. They also need to be able to play stingy defense. The team is fueled by physical play in all facets of the game. If the 49ers can continue to play like they did against the Rams, they will be a tough team to beat.