By Michael Rushton, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) – The St. Louis Rams head to San Francisco this Sunday
looking to recover from a blowout loss that kicked off a three-game road trip.
The 49ers have had some extra time to analyze their own disappointing loss and
will try to get on track out of their bye week against the Rams in a matchup
at Levi’s Stadium.
San Francisco has been out of action since a 42-17 loss to the Broncos on Oct.
19, a Sunday night match in Denver that saw Peyton Manning set the all-time
record for touchdown passes.
Manning broke Brett Favre’s former mark of 508 by firing touchdown passes on
three of his first four drives.
The Niners were outgained by the Broncos 419-310 and Colin Kaepernick was
sacked six times while completing 24-of-39 pass attempts for 263 yards. He
threw a touchdown pass to Stevie Johnson, who ended with 79 yards receiving on
five catches, but was also picked off once.
“In all phases the Broncos were on their game, especially Peyton,” said Niners
head coach Jim Harbaugh.
San Francisco, which had won two straight, now comes out of its bye tied with
fellow 4-3 Seattle for second place in the NFC West, with both clubs training
St. Louis is bringing up the rear at 2-5 and opened up its three-week span of
road contests with a 34-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday. It
marked the Rams’ fifth loss in its past six road games dating back to last
St. Louis opened up the scoring with a one-yard touchdown pass by Austin Davis
to tight end Lance Kendricks, but it was all Kansas City from there.
The Rams couldn’t build off last week’s emotional home win over Seattle. Davis
went just 15-of-25 passing for 160 yards with a touchdown and an interception,
and the Rams’ rushing unit was limited to just 84 yards.
Kansas City totaled seven sacks in the victory.
“We clearly got out played the second half of this game, in all three phases,”
Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “We started fast but we didn’t finish.”
The Rams have lost three straight to the 49ers, including a 31-17 setback at
home on Oct. 13. Again, St. Louis got off to a fast start, going up 14-0 in
the first quarter on Benny Cunningham’s short scoring run and Kendricks’ TD
However, the Niners responded with 24 straight points, including a momentum-
changing 80-yard touchdown catch by Brandon Lloyd with 14 seconds left in the
Kaepernick threw for 343 yards and three touchdown passes, while Anquan Boldin
caught seven passes for 94 yards with a score.
Davis was sacked five times, with 49ers linebackers Ahmad Brooks and Dan Skuta
getting him twice each.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
San Francisco is close to getting healthy — nose tackle Glenn Dorsey, running
back Marcus Lattimore and linebacker NaVarro Bowman should all return in the
near future — and the bye week allowed a number of players who missed the
Denver game recover.
Left guard Mike Iupati (concussion) and cornerback Chris Culliver (hamstring)
practiced in full on Monday, while linebacker Patrick Willis (toe) and safety
Jimmie Ward (quadriceps) were limited.
However, cornerback Chris Cook and starting center Daniel Kilgore were both
lost to season-ending injuries suffered versus the Broncos.
Cook suffered a torn hamstring, robbing the Niners of some depth in the
secondary, while Kilgore sustained a fractured left leg.
Rookie Marcus Martin, a third-round pick out of USC, will get the first shot
at replacing Kilgore, though he got off to a late start this season due to a
left knee injury suffered during the preseason that held him out of practice
until earlier this month.
“I think he’s a very bright guy. He’s very mature,” Harbaugh said of Martin.
“He’s champing at the bit to play and he’s shown that through the anxiousness
to get back on the field and study habits. So, it’s been good. I’m excited for
him to compete.”
How Martin and Iupati play could dictate how much success running back Frank
Gore can have against the Rams. Gore has racked up 1,229 rushing yards and 15
touchdowns in 16 games versus the Rams.
San Francisco ranks 10th in rushing offense at 125.1 yards per game, while the
Rams are giving up 144.7 yards on the ground per game to sit 31st in the
Kaepernick also has been efficient in this series, posting a 117.6 passer
rating over the three-game series winning streak. He has six touchdown passes
and zero interceptions over the run.
Even with the injuries and suspension to linebacker Aldon Smith, the Niners
still boast the league’s second-ranked defense, which is giving up just 306.0
yards per game overall and just 84.9 YPG on the ground.
San Francisco padded its sack total versus St. Louis and has 12 on the season,
while the Rams have managed just an NFL-low six sacks on the year.
However, St. Louis is getting hot up front. Defensive end Robert Quinn has
three sacks in his last two games after getting none over his first five
games, while rookie defensive tackle Aaron Donald has 11 tackles for a loss.
The Rams rank 26th in points per game (19.4) and are 22nd in total offense at
336.4 yards per game, so the recent losses of tackle Jake Long and wide
receiver Brian Quick were especially uninvited.
Both will miss the rest of the season after getting hurt versus the Chiefs.
Long torn the ACL in his knee for the second time in less than a year, while
Quick has “significant damage” to his shoulder according to Fisher.
Wide receivers Stedman BGailey and Chris Givens will see a bigger role due to
the loss of Quick, who had 25 catches for 375 yards and three touchdowns in
seven games this season.
Long, a former No. 1 draft pick, had started 22 games for the Rams since they
signed him prior to last season. He tore both the anterior and medial
collateral ligaments in his right knee in Week 16 last year.
With Long out, rookie first-round pick Greg Robinson will move from left guard
to the left tackle spot and Mike Person is in line to make his first career
start at left guard if Rodger Saffold’s shoulder prevents him from playing.
Fisher thought Robinson was fine in switching positions versus the Chiefs
after Long got hurt.
“He had some issues, they had outstanding rushers, but he was strong and
stout,” noted Fisher. “That’s what he does. He’ll have a week to work on the
footwork and things like that this week. He went out there and knew what to do
and came out of the stack on a screen and executed a block. You can see his
athletic ability when he made the tackle on the interception. At the tackle
position, he’ll be fine.”
Kendricks, meanwhile, has a TD catch in three straight games and could be the
first Ram with a scoring grab over four consecutive games since Torry Holt in
St. Louis made a trade prior to the deadline this week, getting third-year
safety Mark Barron from Tampa Bay for two draft picks in 2015.
Barron, the seventh overall pick of the 2012 draft, has recorded 49 tackles in
seven games this year after totaling 88 each of his first two seasons. The
Alabama product has recorded three career interceptions.
Consistency has escaped the Niners this season, but not the Rams, who seem to
struggle late in games week in and week out.
All signs seem to favor San Francisco this weekend. The 49ers are home, fresh
off a bye and taking on a Rams team missing several key contributors to
injury. Hitting the road doesn’t favor St. Louis at all.
The 49ers had no issues overcoming a fast Rams start a few weeks ago and
should come out of the gate firing this Sunday.
Sports Network predicted outcome: 49ers 27, Rams 13