I usually try to look for something unique to discuss in the preview. However, the game plan this week is so obvious; I am just going to go with it. Nothing set forth below will guarantee a Rams win, but I believe the numbers support the argument that you have to do this to have a chance to win.
1. 35+ RUNS
San Francisco has the second best defense in the NFL. They are 5th against the run allowing a measly 87.4 yards a game. They are 2nd against the pass allowing a paltry 184 yards a game. Looking at those stats might cause you to conclude that you can’t have success against the 49ers by focusing on the pass or the run. However, those stats do not tell the full story.
The 49ers have lost two games this year. In the first loss, the Vikings ran the ball 41 times for 137 yards. Adrian Peterson had 25 rushes for 86 yards with a long of 20. If you take away the 20 yard run, AP averaged 2.75 yards a carry. Typically, if you are averaging less than 3 yards a carry, you stop running. The Vikings went with their strength and kept running.
In the 49ers second loss, the Giants ran the ball 37 times for 149 yards. Ahmad Bradshaw, in particular, had 27 rushes for 116 yards with a long of 23. David Wilson ran seven times for 35 yards.
The 49ers have won 3 games by 20 or more points. In those 3 games, the teams ran the ball 9 times (Cardinals), 17 times (Jets) and 19 times (Bills). The remaining three games were against Packers, Lions and Seahawks. The Lions and Seahawks ran the ball more than 20 times and had success in those runs. Both the Lions and Seahawks kept the game close. The packers ran the ball 9 times and still kept the game close, but they have Aaron Rodgers.
There is a chicken and egg story here. Did the teams that beat the 49ers have success in the run because they were winning or did those teams win because they focused on the run? I believe it is the latter. San Francisco is a strong physical defense. You have two choices against them. You either take a beating or try to take the battle to them. Literally this means you attack their strength by encouraging violent collisions. In fact, you initiate violent collisions.
I want the Rams to use Steven Jackson as a battering Ram. Send him up the middle, send him left and send him right. If he can gain positive yards on most of those carries, he will inflict punishment on the D-lineman and linebackers. More importantly, Patrick Willis will be occupied. We can bring in Richardson and Pead from time to time to continue the attack and occasionally try to gain the edge and break one. In the past, this battering Ram strategy has allowed Jackson to have success in the 2nd half. Patience is the key.
This does not mean that Sam Bradford is minimized in the game. In fact, he becomes even more important because sustained drives will only occur if Bradford can complete 3rd down passes for 1st downs.
2. SPECIAL TEAMS AND TURNOVERS
Given the rather boring game offensive game plan above, (which is focused more on inflicting punishment than gaining yards), I think the Rams need something special from their special teams to win this game. I also think we need to a 2 to 1 advantage in turnovers.
3. REBOUND ON DEFENSE
We are not facing Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady in this game. I do not want to see a repeat in the defensive performance from those games. We are facing Alex Smith and we need to act like it. He cannot and will not even try to beat us on his own. Dare him to beat you and focus on stopping the run. I am not that impressed with the 49ers wide receivers. Moss is old and has always been a one trick pony. Crabtree was a high draft pick, but has always been a disappointment. I like Mario Manningham, but I think Fletcher can handle him. We need diversity on D, but as our base I want to see 1 deep safety, and single pressing coverage on the wide receivers.
P.S. It would be nice to get a few turnovers in this game, please.