The 49ers enjoyed their most lopsided victory of the year, and the first under the direction of Mike Singletary, when they bested the Rams 35-16 at Candlestick Park back in mid-November.
Since then, the 49ers have split their games at 2-2, while the Rams have lost all of their four last games, including a 23-20 defeat by the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
Similar to the 49ers, the Rams have an interim head coach at the helm in Jim Haslett, who sounded a lot like Singletary in his Monday press conference.
"I will be honest with you," said Haslett. "I am just going to kind of worry about what's going to happen the next two games and worry about the coaches and players. The speculation, the newspaper articles, all the Internet stuff, I am going to let that up to you guys. Really, I am just really going to try to take care of business to really try to give our team the best chance to win games. That's all I can do."
Haslett's chances of getting a win are improved for Sunday's rematch as the Rams have back their money maker in Steven Jackson, who finished Sunday's game against Seattle with 24 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown.
|**Total Offense**||**22**||**Total Offense**||**27**|
|**Passing Offense**||**14**||**Passing Offense**||**27**|
|**Rushing Offense**||**24**||**Rushing Offense**||**28**|
|**Total Defense**||**18**||**Total Defense**||**24**|
|**Run Defense**||**13**||**Run Defense**||**29**|
|**Pass Defense**||**25**||**Pass Defense**||**24**|
|**KOR Average**||**13**||**KOR Average**||**24**|
|**PR Average**||**14**||**PR Average**||**23**|
|**KO Coverage**||**14**||**KO Coverage**||**31**|
|**PR Coverage**||**20**||**PR Coverage**||**24**|
However, the 49ers defense has handled the run extremely well in recent weeks, clamping down on Thomas Jones, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.
And even in the first go-around, Jackson's absence wasn't the cause of the Rams struggles as backup Antonio Pittman enjoyed a few long runs early on to loosen up the 49ers defense, en route to a career-high 95-yard rushing day. Kenneth Darby has since moved ahead of Pittman on the depth chart.
The Rams problems on offense from the first contest stemmed primarily from ball security as Rams quarterback Marc Bulger threw two interceptions and bobbled a snap exchange.
Bulger's struggles have continued as the former Pro Bowl quarterback has thrown four interceptions and two touchdowns since playing the 49ers. His highest quarterback rating in the last few games came on Sunday against Seattle when he completed 19 of 32 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown.
He's gotten some help back to his front line of protection as Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Pace and starting right guard Richie Incognito have returned to action after leaving the first contest with the 49ers in the first half. His starting center, Nick Leckey, has been lost for the year however due to injury, and has been replaced by fifth-year veteran Brett Romberg.
The group has allowed only two sacks in the last three games, including a shut out against Miami.
The Rams also cut fullback Dan Kreider at the end of November and have been using tight end Daniel Fells to fill that role since.
The receiving corps is similar to what the 49ers saw before with Torry Holt leading the team with 54 catches for 651 yards, followed by rookie Donnie Avery, who has 43 catches for 578 yards. Avery led the Rams in receiving yardage in the first of the two-game series with 9 catches for 93 yards, including a long ball of 29 yards.
The Rams defense has seen some tweaks in terms of personnel since the last time these two teams battled as well. Veteran Chris Draft has recovered from his injury and returned to his starting spot at middle linebacker, with the Rams also making some changes in the starting lineup.
For starters, Leonard Little is no longer a starter with defensive end Victor Adeyanju taking his spot.
Last year's first-round pick Adam Carriker was slowed early on with an ankle injury and although he's now healthy, he's been rotating in as a backup with three technique La'Roi Glover and nose tackle Clifton Ryan.
James Hall is used on passing situations out at end and leads the Rams in sacks with 6, one ahead of Little. Starting defensive end Chris Long is the team's next most productive pass rusher with four sacks.
Weakside linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa is the team's leading tackler, while strongside linebacker Will Witherspoon is third on the team. Witherspoon has been spelled some lately by second-year player Quinton Culberson.
Frank Gore gave this defensive front fits in the earlier game, reaching the 100-yard mark early in the fourth quarter, and then put on his ball cap and cheered on his teammates from the sideline.
It's too early to know if Gore will get a chance to gain his needed 22 yards to reach a 1,000-yards rushing or not. If his ankle isn't ready to hold up yet, he could be stuck in a cheering role for this entire rematch.
Quarterback Shaun Hill had his highest QB Rating of the year in the first matchup against St. Louis with a 142.3 QB Rating, but he will have some different players to deal with this week.
Veteran safety Corey Chavous has been replaced by Todd Johnson. Oshiomogho Aotgwe, who popped the ball out from Frank Gore at the end of a 37-yard run, has moved from free safety to strong now that Johnson is in the lineup for Chavous.
Rounding out the Rams secondary are their two starting cornerbacks in Ron Bartell and Fakhir Brown. Bartell is back in action after suffering a torn meniscus in the 49ers game.
Hill's go to guy as of late is 49ers wide receiver Isaac Bruce, who set numerous records while playing fourteen seasons with St. Louis. Bruce once again has a chance to make history in St. Louis. He now has 14,875 yards and needs 60 yards to move past Tim Brown (14,934) into second place on the NFL's all-time receiving list. He also has 994 career receptions and needs just six more to become the fifth player in NFL history with 1,000 career receptions.
But whether it's been the changes in personnel or just better execution, the Rams defense has showed marked improvement in keeping teams out of the end zone. The Rams rank 31st in the NFL when it comes to points scored against them, but St. Louis has allowed just four touchdowns in the past three games.
However, it was a 45-yard Seneca Wallace pass to Deion Branch in the final minutes that allowed the Seahawks to come from behind and hand the Rams their eight straight loss.
The Rams may have swiped Seattle's kicker Josh Brown in free agency, but Seattle got the last laugh as Branch's explosive catch allowed their new kicker in Olindo Mare to boot a 27-yarder as time expired to win the game.
In addition to the sting of the loss, the Rams were forced to find new returners as receiver Derek Stanley blew out his knee in the game.
Darby is expected to handle the kick return duties, while Dane Looker will now be responsible for punt returns.
While St. Louis looks to snap a lengthy losing streak, San Francisco is looking to build a winning foundation for 2009 with a strong finish in these last two weeks of play.
Tune in to see who finishes on top this week on Fox. Kickoff is at 10AM PST.