Former 49ers linebacker and KNBR analysis and color commentator Gary Plummer is back again this year with his Points of the Game, a weekly online column that previews the upcoming opponent. Check out some of his views on Sunday's road game against the St. Louis Rams.**
The St. Louis Rams have won two games on the season and are dead least in the NFL in terms of points scored. They're also the second worst team in the league in terms of points allowed, and they turn the ball over a lot.
When you watch their game tape, some guys are still playing hard, but I think there are some who aren't, and that's the worst thing you could possibly say about an NFL team.
That's a direct contrast to the 49ers.
People around the NFL are so excited about the way 49ers have played since Mike Singletary has taken over, but what angers me about that is that's the way you should always play. Kudos to Singletary. It's great that he's been able to get more out of this team, but let's be honest. These guys are getting paid. They owe that to the fans. They're supposed to do this.
All over the defensive side of the ball, the Rams have made changes. We've seen Corey Chavous benched and now Todd Johnson is starting for him. Johnson's a younger guy, and is a tough guy, but he's not as experienced as Chavous. So, it hurts the Rams in the secondary in terms of their adjustments.
Two of the bright spots on the Rams defense have been OJ Atogwe and Ron Bartell. Both of those guys on defense have played very well, especially Atogwe. He's got four interceptions, five forced fumbles, including one he returned 75 yards to help beat the Redskins earlier this year. The other guy, Bartell, leads the team in passes defended and has generally played well.
Linebacker Will Witherspoon is struggling. He leads their team in tackles and was their MVP last year, but he's not playing up to his usual standards, and they have been relying more and more on Quinton Culberson. Last year's first-round pick Adam Carriker has also been relegated to backup duty.
They aren't as physical on the defensive front as most of the teams the 49ers have played. They're more of an active, athletic group that has had problems stopping the run.
Chris Long, the second overall pick in the draft is not a big guy. But he's very active and has good technique for a young guy. He plays hard like his father. But he's still got a lot to learn. It will be a good matchup watching him go against Joe Staley. I think Staley has had a very good year, especially making that transition from right tackle to left tackle. And I truly believe the sky is the limit for Staley. This is a great opportunity for Staley to establish his dominance over a rookie.
Last year, being a rookie himself, Staley was just getting familiar with the position, and understanding the difference between college and pro. This year, it's a whole other world from right tackle to left tackle. I think that learning curve is big, and he's learned well. He's played each week against the best opposing pass-rusher. Not to say this is going to be an easy battle, but this is one Staley should be able to lock down.
I think the 49ers can be successful against St. Louis if they start fast and take care of business.
I think that Mike Martz is a guy who we've seen call all types of different game plans, and that the 49ers are capable of moving the ball early in games. The 49ers offense has been able to run the football and have a lot of success doing it, but Martz is never going to abandon the pass, as we saw last week in Miami with 22 consecutive passes to end the game, something that you probably won't see happen against St. Louis.In this case, you have a defense that's not been able to stop the run, and you have to take advantage of that.
I think DeShaun Foster showed himself to be much more effective than anyone thought. He came into last week's game averaging 2.1 yards per carry, but he ran hard, he moved the pile, and that can happen this week easily.
The 49ers offensive line has really done a great job of re-establishing the line of scrimmage in the last month or so. The way to do that against a team that is athletic, but undersized in its front seven, is to pound the ball inside. I can see the 49ers running between the tackles much more this week with either Foster or Frank Gore.
Now that there's a lot of game tape on Shaun Hill, I think it obviously gives you some tendencies to look at, but one of the best things that Hill has done is to spread the ball around. Even last week, when he didn't throw a touchdown pass, he hit eight different receivers. I think he's averaged throwing the ball to eight different receivers a game since he's become a starter. That ability to get the ball to the open guy has really made Hill an effective quarterback.
This game is going to be an emotional game for Isaac Bruce. There's truly a love affair between the fans in St. Louis and Bruce. Often times a player will return to their former teams and might receive boos, but any that you hear this week will be out of respect and admiration. It's truly going to a "Bruuuuce" every time he makes a catch. The fact that he can pass 1,000 receptions and move past Tim Brown for second all time, those are phenomenal statistics. It's so fitting that he's going to get those – and he will get them – in St. Louis.
On defense, priority number one for the 49ers should be stopping Steven Jackson. The St. Louis media and fans have been very critical of Jackson because he's missed so many games this year. But when he's in the game, they average 129 yards per game rushing. In the last two years when they've played without him, they average 70 yards. You're talking about almost 60 yards per game rushing difference without Jackson. So, he obviously means a lot.
Marc Bulger has been beaten up this year like a piñata, although the sack numbers are down over the last few weeks. Orlando Pace is back at left tackle after leaving the first game against the 49ers in the first half. The same goes for Richie Incognito.He had three penalties in his last game. That's been his MO his whole career. He's a fighter. He's a scrapper. Those are good things, butnot when it hurts his team. Brett Romberg in there at center, and he's a stopgap player who I think will have a tough time working against Aubrayo Franklin.
The 49ers sacked Bulger three times in the last meeting, and got a fourth on Dane Looker on a gadget play. The Rams have given up only two sacks in the last three games, but I think the 49ers defense line can have some success disrupting Bulger's timing.
Bulger had his most success in Mike Martz's system when he had two reliable receivers in Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. It was just automatic. Now he's dealing with an aging Holt, who's learning a new offense, and a rookie in Avery who's missed an awful lot of blitz adjustments. However, Avery can be very dynamic. He's got great speed and he can get downfield.
I also think the fact that they don't have a tight end that can be an offensive threat in the passing attack has hurt them as well.
Although the Rams have played better in recent weeks, I think it's less because of what the Rams have done, and more so because teams are kind of being lulled into sleep against them. The 49ers can't let that happen. They can't go in there thinking St. Louis is a bad team because the 49ers aren't good enough to overlook anybody.
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