The St. Louis Rams haven’t been able to win this season at home, and their division game against the San Francisco 49ers will probably prove to be another very difficult attempt at turning things around, especially against a team that seems superior in almost every possible way.
The Rams have just one win over the 49ers since 2011 and enter this encounter with a third string quarterback, Austin Davis. On an individual level, Davis has probably been doing better than expected, with a 96.8 passer rating so far, throwing for 1128 yards and six touchdown passes while getting intercepted three times. But the Rams are struggling in the running game, don’t have receivers that are exactly warranting double coverage, and there’s no wonder they’re 1-3 right now.
The Rams have been finding it very difficult to stop the run, ranked 29th in the NFL against the ground game. Unfortunately for them, the San Francisco 49ers are third in the NFL behind the Dallas Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks with 145 rushing yards per game. Frank Gore isn’t slowing down despite his age with 365 yards on 77 carries so far this season, and he’s getting plenty of help from Colin Kaepernick with 205 yards on 43 carries and Carlos Hyde, who should be used a bit more (34 carries in five games).
The 49ers, despite their superiority, the three consecutive conference championship game streak, the talent on both sides of the ball and the excellent head coach, are just 3-2 so far this season. They seem to have gotten over their problem in the second half of games. Colin Kaepernick has settled down behind a shaky offensive line. The balance on offense seems to be in the right place, and it’s close to impossible to run against them, holding teams to just 77 yards per game on the ground.
So what is their weakness? Discipline-wise they’re doing better, but this isn’t a calm, mature, cool-as-ice team. The 49ers have a fire breathing dragon on the sidelines which sometimes brings too much of an edge to his players who can lose their heads if too many things start to pile up against them. We’ve seen them implode more than once this season, but the last couple of games might be a hint that those days are behind them.
One thing the Rams should try and do is not blitz Kaepernick too much. Kaepernick is good and maybe excellent at a lot of things, but he’s not too solid when it comes to checking down passing options while standing in the pocket without scrambling and looking for an opening to run through. Four-man pass rushes do better against him than all-out blitzes, and that isn’t just because of how badly the 49ers offensive line is performing this season.
On the surface, this Monday Night Football Game doesn’t look like an even early matchup. But the Rams have given the 49ers trouble in recent years, especially if their front line, which has been struggling getting to the quarterback this season, asserts its dominance early on in games. If the 49ers get a lead in this game and start plowing the ground, it’s hard to see the Rams managing to flip the score.