Rams vs 49ers: How the Niners Will Win


The St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers are set to hash out their differences in a showdown at Levi’s Stadium tomorrow afternoon.

There’s no love lost between these teams. Let’s put it this way: They don’t send each other Christmas cards.

They’ve battled well over 100 times in their storied history, with the 49ers having the slight edge in head-to-head play with a 64-62-3 record.

At 2-5, the Rams are struggling. The injury bug has decimated their roster. Every team battles through injury, but the Rams have been particularly unlucky this season, already placing six players on Injured Reserve with another seven that are either out or questionable for Sunday’s game.

The 49ers – a team that is finally reaching health after surviving their own rash of injuries – view this game as a potential launching point for a second half run. The Bay Bombers have improved since their 31-17 victory over the Rams in Week 6, and will look to show their refinement with a resounding home victory.

Let’s examine what the 49ers must do to push their record to 5-3 with a win on Sunday.

Next: 49ers Gunning for Big Second Half

1.) Weather the Storm

The Rams – an average football team with many holes – have excellent leadership. Head Coach Jeff Fisher cooks up a game plan better than most coaches in the league.

In their 28-26 win over Seattle, the Rams used trickery on special teams and a barrage of blitzes to manufacture an early lead.

After gaining the lead, they were tepid over the remainder of the game and did just enough to secure the win. It wasn’t their best football of the year, but it was enough. That’s all that matters in the NFL.

Preparation and composure is key. If the 49ers study the tape and expect the unexpected, they should have no problem winning this game.

2.) Three-and-Out

When you strip the Rams of their unique play-calling, you’re left with a team that labors for points, and for multiple reasons.

They’re 30th in the NFL in average starting field position (24.31) and often find themselves pinned against their goal line. Pair this inefficiency with an inept run game (20th in the NFL), and you have a recipe for offensive disaster.

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The 49ers have re-dedicated themselves to stopping the run, and should put the Rams and Austin Davis in tough third-and-distance settings throughout the game. Davis is talented, but without a quality backfield, he will need to be perfect through the air in order to pierce the 49ers’ defense.

The Rams allowed seven sacks in last week’s 34-7 drubbing by the Kansas City Chiefs. If the 49ers even approach that total, then this game could get out of hand. The Rams lost Jake Long for the season and replaced him with a young and raw Greg Robinson. The Niners are still without Aldon Smith, but with the bevy of issues up front for the Rams, I don’t envision many clean pockets for Davis.

3.) A Balanced Offensive Attack

If the Rams have a strength, it’s their run defense. They lead the league in stuff percentage (percentage of runs stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage) at 28%. They hold their opposition to under three-yards per rush. They’re a tough bunch up front.

Aaron Donald – the Rams’ talented rookie defensive tackle – is the key to their success. As of now, Donald is questionable for Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury. Marcus Martin is the 49ers starting center  now that Daniel Kilgore‘s season has ended, and will be tested by Donald in his NFL debut. Donald  will likely suit-up, but if he doesn’t, I won’t complain. 

Even with this knowledge, the 49ers will not shy away from the run.

In 16 games against the Rams, Frank Gore has totaled 15 touchdowns and over 1,200-yards rushing. In these games, the 49ers have an overall record of 12-3-1. Gore will get the ball, and history shows the 49ers will find success in doing so.

Once the 49ers establish the run, the offense should operate without impediment. The Rams’ secondary has been their Achilles’ heel this season, as Janoris Jenkins, E.J. Gaines, and Marcus Roberson have all toiled in mediocrity.

The Rams addressed their woeful secondary by trading for safety Mark Barron earlier this week, but Barron has been a disappointment since being drafted seventh overall in 2012 and will have a minor role on Sunday as he learns the defense.

The Niners don’t need gadgetry to score points against the Rams. Stick to your guns by emphasizing the run, then find Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin, and Michael Crabtree when the opportunities present themselves. There is no reason to force the action in this game, as mistakes are one of the few things that can keep this game competitive for the Rams.

Prediction: 49ers 28, Rams 10