With both teams coming off humiliating losses against their week 3 opponents, the St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers are looking to pick up where they left off last year.
In 2012, the Rams were San Francisco’s kryptonite, tying the first game and winning the second at home in overtime. This year’s first meeting between the two could have the same intense finish as the Niners come into St. Louis with a depleted team. The Rams will need to take advantage of San Francisco while they’re down if they want to get ahead of them in the NFC West standings.
Colin Kaepernick has not been able to recapture the magic he played with last season outside of their week one victory against the Green Bay Packers. He lost star wide receiver Michael Crabtree due to injury during the offseason and Mario Manningham is still out recovering from last season’s ACL and PCL tears. Reports coming out of San Francisco are that Kaepernick may get one of his weapons back in Vernon Davis, but it will be a game time decision.
The 49ers are not only suffering on the offensive side of the ball, but also come in limping on defense. The status for their two star defensive players in Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis is unknown. Willis suffered a groin injury in the Sunday’s loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Meanwhile Smith is heading to a rehab facility to help address his substance abuse issues.
The St. Louis Rams’ defense is particularly built to succeed in the NFC West. They have a front four that will put pressure on the quarterback all day long. Defensive end Robert Quinn started the season off with a bang and leads the team with 4 sacks. You can also look for Chris Long to get going after a slow start this season. The Rams don’t need much help at getting the quarterback as their front four can collapse the pocket on their own.
Pressuring the quarterback can be a gamble as Kaepernick is most successful when he is on the run, but this is why the speedy outside linebacker Alec Ogletree was brought in. Ogletree is already making an impact on defense as he leads the team in tackles with 21. If Kaepernick is without Davis on Thursday, you can be certain the Rams will have more players in the box than out covering.
The defense can be a big factor in containing the 49ers offense, but if the Rams want to come out on top they will need Sam Bradford and the offense to get going. The Rams have stumbled coming out of the gate in all three games. They will need to get out ahead early and not let up on the gas. The Rams may not have big names like the Niners do on offense, but they do have talented young receivers. Brian Quick is starting to be more involved in the offense and will need to prove he was worth the high second round pick. Although he has not picked up a lot of yards, he has seen big play balls thrown his way, he just needs to deliver.
Tavon Austin and Jared Cook, the Rams’ two big offseason acquisitions, also need to get going. Cook had a coming out party in the first game of the season, but has been missing ever since. He signed a big contract this past offseason and needs to continue to play as he did in week one to prove his worth. Austin was supposed to be like a Swiss army knife and line up all over the field, but has put up dismal numbers. He hasn’t done much on punt returns and is struggling to make a catch when the ball comes his way.
Bradford should have a lot of time in the pocket this week with both Willis and Smith possibly being out. The Rams do have a slight advantage on both sides of the ball and will need to get going early in the game. It is a short turn around, but both teams will look to come out hungry as they were held to seven points in their week 3 losses. It should be a close game as these two bitter rivals will look to take possession of second place in the standings. A 2-2 record for the Rams could be encouraging for them moving forward and a 1-3 record for the 49ers could hurt their confidence. The St. Louis Rams need this game much more than the 49ers.