Gary Plummer played 12 NFL seasons, including four years with the San Francisco 49ers. The former linebacker was also a member of the 49ers Super Bowl XXIX championship team, and has been the team's radio color analyst since 1998. 49ers.com will catch up with Plummer every week this season to find out what he believes will be the keys to the 49ers upcoming game. Enjoy his most recent "Points of the Game" column in which breaks down the keys to the 49ers Week 16 matchup against the St. Louis Rams.** 49ers Offense vs. Rams DefenseWith Troy Smith getting another opportunity to start at quarterback, I think he needs to take advantage of the check-down pass. He's going to stretch the field vertically and St. Louis should be well aware of that. If that's the case, it'll open up things underneath.
Smith can't go for the deep ball as much today because you have to be able to sustain drives; otherwise you're going to wear your defense out. Even when Smith has played well, the offense hasn't sustained drives because he's not completing the short ones. It's a tough league to complete 40-yard passes all game long. The last time against the Rams, he tossed eight passes that went for more than 23 yards. This league is about making adjustments, Smith will have to make one himself and look to complete shorter passes as well as the deep ball.
49ers Defense vs. Rams OffenseSam Bradford has struggled in recent weeks. The rookie quarterback played really well against the 49ers in the first meeting. But I think the same thing that's happened game after game that's troubled the 49ers defense is giving up big plays. Whether its assignment errors or getting beat physically, the 49ers can't allow big plays to St. Louis.
I'm not talking only about the secondary. It's the linebackers and the pass rush. The entire team has a hand in the big plays that have gone against them. The unit will need to limit them and make Bradford and running back Steven Jackson work for everything they get.
Key to 49ers Special TeamsIt's a shame that Ted Ginn Jr.'s kickoff return for a touchdown was negated by a face-mask penalty on fullback Moran Norris last week in San Diego. If you look at the replay, there was great blocking all over the field. The penalty on Norris was an inadvertent face mask. Norris is one of the best blockers out there and the play happened at hyper-speed.
I think the 49ers should use that blocking scheme again. Do it the exact same way. Know that you're that close and have been very close this year to making a big return. The 49ers need to continue on the path their on – that big-time return is coming soon.
Players to Watch
I've had my eye on Anthony Davis previously in my columns and I think this week is no different. I'd like to see how he does against Rams defensive end Chris Long, who is playing hurt in this game with a banged up quad.
Long got the best of their matchup in San Francisco. But Davis has been playing better football as the season has gone along. That'll be an interesting matchup to see because Davis knows he lost that matchup and wants to get back at Long this time around with a strong performance.
Coaching Point of the GameWhen you play an opponent for the second time in a year, you want to fix the little things that didn't go well the first time. The tiny errors, even in a win, show up on film. There's no such thing as a perfect game in the NFL.
You have to fix errors, but you have to build on the things you had success with. For the 49ers, it was the play-action passing game that worked very well the first time around. They ended up running the ball later because of the success down the field. I'd like to see the 49ers run the ball effectively against St. Louis. They're 16th in the NFL in rushing defense, and that bodes well for the 49ers in my opinion.
Parting ShotThis game is important for the players. Everyone seems to be mocking the NFC West and how the division could be won at 7-9. But guess what? If in fact the 49ers win out and the Seahawks lose one game, they'll be in the playoffs. And that's great experience for the players. The 49ers Faithful should be happy, there's an opportunity for their players to get playoff experience. There's no substitute for experience. In that regard, if you're a fan of the team, you should want the team to win out so they can get that playoff experience they'll need in future years.
To hear more from Plummer, tune in to the 49ers pregame radio coverage on 107.7 KSAN/FM "The Bone" starting at 7:00 a.m. with kick-off beginning at 10:00 a.m.