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  1. #1
    MauiRam's Avatar
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    Rams Look to Play Spoiler in San Francisco ..

    By Nick Wagoner

    Entering this season, predictions about who would win the NFC West Division varied. All four teams seemed to get mention by the various pundits and so-called experts.

    Eleven games into the season, a clear frontrunner has emerged. In fact, with a win against the Rams this weekend, San Francisco has an opportunity to claim the division crown with nearly a full month left to go in the season.

    That’s what a win would do for the *****. So what would it do for the Rams, who sit at 2-9, well short of the expectations they once had for themselves?

    “We still want to compete,” running back Steven Jackson said. “We still all hope that one day we can be the NFC (West) divisional champs one day. Right now they’re playing the best football in the division and to get a win like this would give you something to build off of and the momentum over the next five weeks.”

    Indeed, there aren’t any teams in the division playing better football than San Francisco. In fact, based on record, you could make the argument that only Green Bay is playing better than the Niners in the entire league.

    At 9-2, San Francisco has emerged as a legitimate contender despite making only one big change in the offseason. That change came in the form of new head coach Jim Harbaugh.

    Harbaugh took over a talented but underachieving team from Mike Singletary and the results have been huge and immediate.

    “I knew they always had talent,” Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “We always felt that way. I just think that goes to show that before the first game of any NFL season, you don’t really know. And any team can beat anybody on any given Sunday. And they’ve found a way to do it nine times this year.”

    For the Rams to keep San Francisco from finding a way to do it for the 10th time this year at Candlestick Park on Sunday at 3:15, they’ll have to overcome some extremely difficult obstacles.

    Heading up that list is a Niners team that is acing the test when it comes to the single most decisive factor in determining the outcome of games: turnovers.

    San Francisco leads the league in turnover differential at plus-16, an astounding number that has directly translated to victories on Sunday.

    First and foremost, the Rams must find a way to protect the ball against a ball hawking group that has recorded 26 takeaways this year led by the five interceptions of cornerback Carlos Rogers and the penchant for forcing fumbles of inside linebacker Patrick Willis.
    “They’ve created a lot of turnovers,” Rams quarterback Sam Bradford said. “I think Coach had a stat today that they’re like plus 16 in turnover ratio. That’s unbelievable. I think that’s going to be big for us, not turning the ball over. It’s been a goal of the offense for the past couple of weeks now to play a turnover-free game and we’ve yet to do that. I think it would be big for us to do it this week.”

    The Rams haven’t been terribly turnover prone but when they’ve done it, they’ve been at bad times and costly enough to often result in a defensive touchdown.

    Bradford was limited in practice all week by a nagging ankle injury and his status for Sunday remains in doubt. Whether it’s Bradford or A.J. Feeley handling the signal calling duties, they’ll have to be extra cautious with the ball.

    San Francisco’s stout defense is predicated on stopping the run first but is so strong in the front seven that it rarely has to use an extra defender in the box to stop the run.

    “They’re a zone team,” Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “When you’re a zone team, you usually have seven guys staring at the quarterback and when we talked to our team on Wednesday morning, when you make a mistake against a zone team, usually they end up with the ball. Because everybody’s staring at the quarterback and there’s usually a lot of people close to the football in the passing game. They’ve got a great rush. They’re persistent. They don’t blitz a ton. This is one of the lower blitz percentages we’ve faced to date. It doesn’t mean they won’t pressure a lot against us, that’s just what they’ve done. So they play good, solid, sound defense and then they create turnovers that way in the passing game. And I think this is, they’ve got two or three of the best strip tacklers we’ve faced. (LB Patrick) Willis is probably the best one. When he gets to the ball a lot of times he’s just looking to get it out. So we’ve got to take care of the football at the end of the play and got to do a great job of making smart decisions in the passing game.”

    On the other side of the ball, the Niners aren’t giving opponents much of a chance to get turnovers, either as they’ve given it up just 10 times this year.

    That’s a function of the improved play of quarterback Alex Smith, who is thriving under Harbaugh and doing more than just manage the game.

    Smith is having the best season of his career, completing 62.4 percent of his passes in posting 13 touchdowns and just five interceptions for a rating of 91.2.

    Of course, the Niners offense still centers on running back Frank Gore. But Smith’s work based off the job Gore does has allowed the Niners to be a bit more explosive than they have been in years past.

    “I know people we’re very critical of the quarterback and I think he’s playing better than he did a year ago,” Rams defensive coordinator Ken Flajole said. “Certainly they’re helped by the fact that they’re plus 16 in the turnover margin. That’s a large part because of he’s taken better care of the football, but I think he has. I think Jim’s done probably a great job of bringing in a tough-guy mentality. He’s played in the league. They’re running the ball well; they get in a lot more unbalanced formations. I think they’ve utilized their tight ends very well. (Harbaugh’s) done a nice job probably utilizing the personnel that he has on his football team.”

    Like many of the Rams’ recent opponents, the Niners also boast a dangerous return man in Ted Ginn Jr. That’s another area in which the Rams will have to be better this week in order to come away with the victory.

    Still, as Jackson points out, the Niners aren’t much different in terms of personnel or scheme. It’s more a matter that San Francisco is simply doing what they’ve always done a whole lot better than they’ve done it in recent years.

    “Those guys over the years regardless of what their record reflected, they pretty much played good football their last five-six seasons,” Jackson said. “That was something they really only hung their hat on and kind of built the team around that, being a tough, hard-nosed defense with a good running game that they have with Frank Gore. This has actually been the staple of their team. With that, the quarterback is playing good now. They’re creating turnovers which has them in this position that they are in and that’s leading the NFC West.”


  2. #2
    THOLTFAN81's Avatar
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    Re: Rams Look to Play Spoiler in San Francisco ..

    Yeah....no

  3. #3
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    Re: Rams Look to Play Spoiler in San Francisco ..

    Screw the whiners.

  4. #4
    GROUND DOG 39's Avatar
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    Re: Rams Look to Play Spoiler in San Francisco ..

    I just do not like are chances, now Bradford has re injured the ankle.? I do not think the Rams can win if either QB plays now. But I'll still be interested to see how Feeley fares in this offense.

  5. #5
    MauiRam's Avatar
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    Re: Rams Look to Play Spoiler in San Francisco ..

    Quote Originally Posted by GROUND DOG 39 View Post
    I just do not like are chances, now Bradford has re injured the ankle.? I do not think the Rams can win if either QB plays now. But I'll still be interested to see how Feeley fares in this offense.
    No one thought we had a chance against New Orleans (including me I'll admit) and Feeley managed to hang in there for a win. You never really know for sure. That said, I'd rather the Rams sit Sam until he is really healed rather than risking even greater injury. If we were playoff bound maybe you risk it, but at this point there is no point IMO. Sure the real game reps help, but if Sam's mobility is restricted because of the ankle, there is even more of a chance he'll get the crap knocked out of him .. Sit him and let him heal ...

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    RAMarkable is offline Registered User
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    Re: Rams Look to Play Spoiler in San Francisco ..

    Piss on the Whiners...

    Go Rams!!

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