It was a long night for the St. Louis Rams, figuratively and literally. In a game that lasted 3:32, a San Fran beat-down was long and drawn out. Things looked promising for Jeff Fisher’s squad when they jumped out to a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter but after that they had to endure a barrage of 49er touchdowns.
Frank Gore had himself a game (20 carries, 153 yards, and 1 touchdown). In fact, the entire San Francisco team had a good day running the ball. They came at St. Louis with some power football with pulling guards and lead blockers. In other words, they got back to doing what they do best and that is feeding the rock to a tailback and letting them slam it up in between the tackles. Remember, the Cowboys had a lot of success running the ball at the Rams’ front seven, so I’m sure that Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman took not of that and tried to exploit that weakness.
Colin Kaepernick was pretty cautious with the ball in this game. Save two near-picks courtesy of James Laurinaitis, he was good about keeping the ball away from the defenders. Once again, he found a rhythm and was able to hook up with Anquan Boldin five times for 90 yards and a touchdown (in which the wide-out sold out for the right pylon). The return of Vernon Davis to the lineup didn’t have a huge impact, but he was targeted four times and came away with two catches. On the defensive side of the ball the 49ers were pretty depleted. On a short week they had to travel on the road and win this game without all-pro middle linebacker Patrick Willis. Also, Aldon Smith did not play due to his rehabilitation practices. Nnamdi Asomugha sat this game out as well so as you can see the Niners did not have their full compliment of star players on defense. What they did have, though, was a force in the middle named NaVorro Bowman. He was filling the gaps and laying hits on the St. Louis running backs with great frequency. He also racked up two sacks and forced a fumble (which was recovered by San Fran and lead to a 28-3 lead). The coverage on the back end held up well as the Rams’ receivers found very little separation. There was an instance in the first quarter where wide receiver Austin Pettis was wide open and would have had a touchdown, but Sam Bradford missed him because of the pressure that was in his lap.
It is clear to see that the 49ers dominated this game, but how come St. Louis was unable to mount any kind of offense? Well, for starters they failed to get a running game going again this week. The team combined for 19 carries for 18 yards which is atrocious. Sam Bradford was forced to throw it 41 times in this game and let’s face it, the Rams are not going to win a lot of games if they have to rely on their quarterback to throw out his arm every week. They need to find a balance with their running game. This is the third straight week in which he’s attempted over 40 passes and you have to go back to Week 16 of last year to find the last game where he did not throw the ball over 30 times. If this team is going to be successful, I think that they need to find a happy balance between the run and the pass. Another thing that St. Louis struggled to do was get Tavon Austin involved. This kid is a dynamic player and they are failing to get him the ball. What they should do is set up specific plays such as bubble screens or wide receiver sweeps to get the ball in his hands. Austin had two receptions for six yards in this game which is nowhere near good enough. When the Rams take on the Jaguars next week I want to see the rookie have more of an impact in the game.
This wasn’t the prettiest of games (I feel like I’ve said that about all three of the Thursday night games so far), but it ended marvelously for the 49ers. Now that they are back on track they can play with more confidence. Next week the Niners will head home to take on Houston and they have to feel good about the fact that they were finally able to run the ball. Through the first three games, San Francisco struggled in this area so it is good to see that they have gotten their mojo back. Again, the Rams will stay home to take on the Jaguars in Week 5. They really need to try and get their running game going against a team that may be limping into town at 0-4.