San Francisco 49ers @ St. Louis Rams Week 4 Preview

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Division foes, the San Francisco 49ers, visit the Edward Jones Dome Thursday night. Their mission: To actually beat the St. Louis Rams. That’s something the defending NFC champion 49ers weren’t able to do in 2012.

They tied 24-24 (OT) in week 10 in San Francisco and lost to the Rams in week 13 by the score of 16-13 (also OT) on a 54-yard game winning field goal by Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein. (Click here to relive the overtime victory.)

Yada, yada, yada…

Toss out most of what you held on to from last year.

4-1-1 is so 2012. They are a new group of Rams as are the 49ers. This is a different ball game.

The Rams’ 2012 division record means nothing in 2013. What we know right now is that both teams are 1-2 and limping their way into week four. Both teams are coming off of head-shaking losses and both teams will be desperate for a win. The winner will leave with the 2-2 record with hope for the rest of the season. The loser goes falls to 1-3 looking from the bottom up in the NFC West.

A short turnaround forced the Rams to push the Cowboys debacle into the past. I’m all for a failing short-term memory when it comes to bad games. Question is did they learn from their (repeated) mistakes in those few days to make a positive change for Thursday night.

I hate that I’m quoting The Hoody but this Belichickian keynote mantra rings true.

No. 1, do your job.

This applies to everyone from the coaching staff all the way down the line to the players.

Coaches need to put their players in schemes and situations where they can succeed.

There’s nothing worse than having the talent on your roster and not being able to utilize them properly. Obviously, I’m not an offensive coordinator but wide receiver Tavon Austin doing a round around in the back field isn’t my idea of being less vanilla.

Rams soft cushion defense

Soft cushion at its finest. (Courtesy @NoPlanB_)

 

On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Tim Walton needs to tweak the “bend but don’t break” soft defense. They’ve been bending beyond the breaking point and on pace to become the worst pass-defense ever as @Ramsherd points out in his post here.

Quarterback Sam Bradford said it best this morning on NFL AM.

There’s an importance in doing what you do well.

Could that Bradford with an ever-so-slight jab at offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer asking for a little more up-tempo play calling? To quote NFL Network’s Rich Eisen, “I’m not saying, I’m just saying.”

The offensive line holds the key

Left tackle Jake Long won’t be protecting Bradford’s blind side if he continues to find himself flat on his own backside. Guard Harvey Dahl needs to channel his best “That’s not effing holding!” anger and open up holes for the running backs. The line is banged up with Rodger Saffold not suiting up so Joe Barksdale will be getting another start at right tackle. It all ends and starts in the trenches. Win here and the other parts will fall into place.

No one fears the Rams running game and that’s a huge problem

The running back by committee has not worked so far but that doesn’t mean they should abandon the ground attack. Opposing defenses have no respect for Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead, Benny Cunningham, or Zac Stacy. The presence of Steven Jackson is most missed right here.

Richardson is banged up with a bum foot which could finally give Pead the chance to win back the “starting” running back position. Pead flashed signs of improvement in Dallas last week but we’ll have to see if he can ride that momentum into tonight.

Please someone step up and act like you want to be the starter.

Do what you do

This is not to be confused with Walton’s all-time doozy:

What we have to do is really about what we have to do.

The Rams defensive line, The Elite Eight, needs to get their swagger back. They’ll be the Elite Seven tonight though as defensive end William Hayes is out with a knee injury. The D-line will have their paws full trying to contain 49ers running back Frank Gore and mobile quarterback Colin Kaepernick but with San Francisco thin on receiving threats tonight (No Michael Crabtree, a questionable Vernon Davis and Kyle Williams) expect Robert Quinn to return to his quarterback sacking self and the rest of the line to stuff the run (unlike last week.)

See the ball. Catch the ball.

In my post-game rant I noted that the Rams receivers dropped SIX passes. What else is there to say. When Bradford does his damnedest to get the ball to you…

Catch the ball, fellas.

That said, Bradford needs to work on seeing the field better too. He’s missed wide open receivers downfield one too many for comfort.

The 49ers are banged up on both sides of the ball. Their defense took some injury hits as well and will be vulnerable (CB Nnamdi Asomugha, CB Carlos Rogers, LB Patrick Willis, DT Justin Smith, LB Navorro Bowman, et al.) to pass plays – or at least that’s the hope.

Clean up special teams penalties

When punt returner Tavon Austin does actually break one for a touchdown it gets called back because of a penalty. What have you done?! Stop placing an already struggling, single faceted offense in even worse starting field position.

Final thoughts

Honestly, I have no idea if the Rams will show up tonight. IF they can play a clean game, their kind of smash mouth game representative of a Jeff Fisher coached team, the Rams should be able to win this at home 21-20 in overtime. (Just kidding about the OT thing.)

Seriously though, No. 1, Do. Your. Job.

Thanks for reading, y’all.