Overview from Game Day Blog

Losing veteran center Andy McCollum to a season-ending knee injury was a tough blow for the Rams.

And when all-pro left tackle Orlando Pace went down, too – suffering a serious concussion Sunday afternoon in San Francisco – the Rams offense couldn’t function well.

The ***** blitzed the Rams early and often while pounding out a 20-13 victory.

In the third quarter, San Francisco broke a couple of big plays against the Rams defense: Frank Gore’s 32-yard touchdown run (after Maurice Hicks’ 59-yard kickoff return) and Alex Smith’s 72-yard TD pass to Antonio Bryant.

With their offensive line depleted, the Rams couldn’t respond once the ***** gained the lead. Quarterback Marc Bulger got took a beating while trying to evade onrushing Niners or throw over the top of them.

He was sacked six times, losing 38 yards and one very costly fumble.

So coach Scott Linehan has plenty to work on this week. He and his staff must take a long look at the offensive line, which started Todd Steussie at left guard and moved left guard Richie Incognito over to center to replace McCollumn.

When Pace went down, Steussie had to slide over to his natural tackle spot. In came Adam Goldberg to fill in at left guard.

This makeshift unit did OK against the regular Niners defensive fronts. They opened up running room for Steven Jackson, who delivered another 100-yard game.

But on passing downs, the Rams were flummoxed by stunts and blitzes again and again.

The Rams offense did score a touchdown in this game, on a Bulger-to-Torry Holt pass, but 31 points in two games isn’t nearly good enough. One touchdown in eight quarters isn’t good enough.

Defensively, the Rams pounced on a red zone turnover and earned numerous stops. But with the offense sputtering, those two big ***** plays were too much to overcome.

Another negative defensive note: Linebacker Pisa Tinosamoa suffered a sprained elbow during the game, which compromised the Rams rush defense.

Now the Rams, 1-1, have some serious work to do before facing old friend Kurt Warner and the Gridbirds.

“We’ve got to get a lot better,” Linehan said after the game. “We have to score more points, become more effective.”
On Pace

He was hospitalized, which is not a good sign.

He had a pretty solid game behind a makeshift line. You had three of the five guys starting out of position -- and it's tough to say hpw well Steussie and Goldberg will play even when they get acclimated.
Prospects of the season

I still like the "D", despite the big plays allowed. There were a lot of stops in there, although a few sacks would have been nice. But the offensive line could become quite an adventure if Pace can't make a hasty return. The simultaneous loss of him and McCollumn would be difficult to overcome.

There were a couple of opportunities missed, like the would-be TD pass to Torry Holt that Bulger simply overthrew, He also hung a ball to Holt, negatiing the half-step he had on the defender on a "go" pattern. So some of that is still timing.

But, hey, the Rams DID complete a pass to the tight end.

Opponents will get a good look at how the Niners baffled the Rams with blitzes and go right after the makeshift line. Let's see how the coaching staff responds to this potential crisis.

Personally, I would give Turner another shot at center, after a week of work, and get Incognito back to guard -- where he could star.

Stephen Davis ran the ball pretty well during his cameo appearance. He should help the Rams simply the offense (read: run more) as Linehan works around the injuries.
The kickoff return

That WAS a killer. The Niners basically made three plays -- that return, the Gore TD run and the 72-yard bomb. But those are the sorts of plays the Rams made back in the old "Greatest Show on Turf" days.
More on Jackson

He ran for 103 yards on 22 carries, and caught a couple of passes for 21 yards. So his running style is the least of this team's concerns right now.

He certainly hasn't been great. He isn't totally comfortable in the offense. Having said that, though, I'm not sure many QBs would excel in the face of so many unblocked blitzers. The Rams are fortunate he didn't turn the ball over more than he did.

The Rams need to fix their pass blocking first and foremost.

But he has also hit seven field goals. Today's miss came from a ways out in a tricky stadium. Nothing to worry about yet.
"Scoring" zone offense

The Rams actually had some nice runs in the red zone and scoring zone (inside the 40). But, again, the offensive line was totally vulnerable to the blitz, When the Niners needed to make a stop, they were able to get somebody into the backfield on a straight line to the ball. Beating the blitz is a function of team blocking and a passing game counter-attack. At their best, the Rams dared teams to blitz them.

Suffice it to say they would make no such dare today.
The fourth down pass to Holt

That is the sort of play Bulger can make within this offense. It is an option he has at the line of scrimmage. The old offense didn't allow for such things.

Short yardage running

To get where the Rams need to get on third-and-two, third-and-three rushing, I believe they'll need to get Incognito back to guard and coach up Turner to play center. Richie is a power blocker.

WR screens

You saw a lot of them today because you saw a lot of blitzing -- and Bulger saw that as a way to get the ball out. But sometimes the Niners showed blitz and stayed put -- making those quick passes ineffectively.

Martz had a lot of quick passes in his offense, And if they catch the opponent in the right defense, the receivers have a little room and one tackler to beat.

Long passes

The Rams called a number of very deep passes, but, no, they didn't connect. if you can't hit those plays, then you can't create more yards-after-catch room for the receivers on the short passes, If you don't back off the corners, those little passe become very risky, for the obvious reasons.

"Niners week"

Well, more emotional emphasis was placed on the games last season, perhaps, but the Rams lost them both. They knew the stakes. This loss was the combination of three really big plays allowed, in short order, and a systematic offensive breakdown caused by offensive line injuries.

I believe this defense will be fine this season if it gets some help from the offense. Once the Niners turned the game, the Rams O did almost nothing to swing to the game back. There was one sustained drive for a field goal, but that was it.