Kaepernick just one of many Rams' worries vs. *****

23 hours ago • By Jim Thomas jthomas@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8197

A week before the rest of the nation caught onto the Colin Kaepernick phenomenon, the Rams saw firsthand what the new San Francisco starting quarterback is capable of doing on a football field.

Like many of the Rams, defensive end Chris Long was tired and frustrated after the Rams let leads of 14-0, 17-7 and 24-21 slip away in a 24-24 tie against the *****. And like just about everyone else on defense that Nov. 11 afternoon, he was a little numb over the scrambling and playmaking ability shown by Kaepernick.

“I mean, Kaepernick really played well,” Long said in a quiet Rams locker room after that game. “He’s a good young quarterback. He might be a backup on this team, but I think he can start for some teams in the NFL, I really do.”

Lo and behold, Kaepernick comes to town for today’s rematch in the Edward Jones Dome as the *****’ starter even though veteran Alex Smith — who suffered a concussion in that Nov. 11 game — is now healthy.

“I called it first,” Long said, chuckling, on Wednesday.

Maybe Long has a career in scouting once his playing days are over. For now, the challenge is finding a way to keep Kaepernick in the pocket, and then making him as uncomfortable as possible in that pocket. No one has figured out a way to do that just yet.

In his two starts since coming on in relief in the first Rams-***** matchup, Kaepernick has led the San Francisco to double-digit victories over Chicago and New Orleans. He scored a rushing touchdown against the Saints, but has had success throwing the ball the past two games, including more downfield passes than usually are seen with Smith as quarterback.

At least the Rams now have two games of film on Kaepernick.

“It certainly does help,” Long said. “We saw him first-hand, but obviously for him to come out these last two weeks and put a lot of film out there, it does help us out. There’s a lot to prepare for (against) this offense no matter who’s at quarterback.”

While it may be a stretch to say Kaepernick is the least of their problems, he’s far from the only problem posed by San Francisco (8-2-1).

“It’s about their whole team,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “Obviously, they’re getting excellent quarterback play out of Kaepernick. But their run game — as we said three weeks ago, there’s nobody in the league that’s as creative and executes better in the run game than the *****. And of course they’re very difficult to run against because of the talent they have across the board on defense.”

The Rams moved the football against the ***** unlike any other team this season, both running and passing. And the ‘Niners have faced some high-powered offenses, including those of Green Bay, the New York Giants and New Orleans’

In the first meeting, the *****’ coaching staff might have underestimated the quickness and speed of wide receiver Danny Amendola, who even after subtracting an 80-yard reception called back because of a penalty, still logged 102 yards on 11 catches.

How much — or even if — Amendola plays today because of his foot/heel injury remains to be seen. He’s listed as doubtful again, but the fact that he wasn’t in a walking boot while watching Friday’s practice could be viewed as a hopeful sign.

But even if Amendola is on the field for just a handful of plays, as was the case last week in Arizona, the ***** almost certainly will give him extra attention.

The ***** also will see three Rams starters that weren’t on the field three weeks ago — wide receiver Chris Givens, cornerback Janoris Jenkins and center Scott Wells. Givens and Jenkins were suspended for the Nov. 11 contest for violating team rules; Wells wasn’t back yet from his fractured foot.

Playing a team twice in such a short period of time (21 days) presents it’s own unique set of challenges. How much do you change in the game plan? Will they adjust and be able to neutralize what you did well last time?

For example, it’s likely the ***** will be ready for the fake punt this time around after getting burned twice by Johnny Hekker on passing plays.

“Experience kind of suggests that when you play games three weeks or four weeks apart, the second game is usually completely different than the first game,” Fisher said. “They don’t mirror each other at all.

“That’s just the way it is. We’ve got to take the same approach —the same physical approach — as they will into the game, and then just make plays. We had a productive day against them on offense. They’re very, very talented on defense. We expect it to be a little bit harder this time around.”

The Rams came out of that tie game brimming with confidence, only to fall flat on their faces the following Sunday against the New York Jets.

For a young team, it was a stinging reality check, a remainder that the NFL is a week-to-week proposition.

After the Jets game, Fisher drove home the point to his players about the importance of consistency. From play-to-play, quarter-to-quarter, and even game-to-game. After a rare road victory last week in Arizona, if the Rams want to really make a statement about hanging with one of the NFL’s big boys they can do so by springing an upset today.

“I think from that (first) game we learned a lot about ourselves as a team,” Rams tight end Lance Kendricks said. “That we can keep fighting and overcome different adversities. We went through a lot of different things in that game. It was nice to kind of see the identity of the team coming out a little bit.”

If the Rams (4-6-1) are successful today, as strange as it may sound they will find themselves in conversation, however muted, for a wild-card playoff berth.

Playoffs?

Entering this week’s play, there were six teams bunched at 6-5 or 5-6 for the second NFC wild-card spot. One of those six, New Orleans, already has fallen to 5-7 with a Thursday night loss to Atlanta. A lot of the other contenders are either playing each other, or playing teams with better records this week.

But the Rams aren’t thinking big picture at this point, and they shouldn’t considering the mettle of their foe today, as well as their own ups and downs.

“What we basically are thinking on, is taking it week-to-week so we can get a string (of victories),” left tackle Rodger Saffold said. “If we’re able to get a string and keep the momentum going, it’ll be good. But if we already assume that we have a chance of getting into the playoffs, that’s where we end up making mistakes. We have a tougher schedule these last five weeks, so it’s gotta be week to week.”