The St. Louis Rams are finally ready for their rematch against the San Francisco 49ers, following an embarrassing showing at the start of the season. Dating back to last year, the head-to-head record is currently sitting at 1-1-1, with each team marked with one win, one loss, and one tie. However, this week could mean much more than merely breaking the tie among rivals. With the NFC playoff picture still clustered in the middle of the pack, the Rams and 49ers both likely “need” this win if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive. So, where are the key matchups that will likely determine the outcome of the game on Sunday?
Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin vs. Trumaine Johnson and Janoris Jenkins
Even without Michael Crabtree, the San Francisco 49ers still found a way to dominate the St. Louis Rams defense. More specifically, Anquan Boldin was able to snag five catches for 90 yards and a touchdown, despite being, essentially, the only receiver on the field. Now…
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) November 30, 2013
Luckily, Cortland Finnegan will not be attempting to play with a “broken eye” this week, something that likely played a role in the 42-yard touchdown reception by Boldin that iced the game in Week 4. However, the other cornerbacks were as “shutdown” as you could possibly ask for… Janoris Jenkins allowed only one catch for seven yards against Boldin, while Trumaine Johnson allowed two total catches for 19 yards during the game.
Tim Walton has drastically evolved in his defensive play-calling since the earlier portion of the season. We’ll see just how much it has improved this weekend…
Rams’ Run Defense vs. Frank Gore
Watching the Week 4 matchup, you would have thought that Frank Gore was in his mid-20s, playing at the peak of his running career. Gore, combined with Kendall Hunter, rumbled for 202 yards on 31 carries, including two touchdowns. However, since the loss of Sam Bradford, the Rams’ defense has radically “changed,” dominating against both the run and pass, all while creating a myriad of turnovers. Aside from a poor game against the Tennessee Titans, the Rams defense has allowed only one running back to eclipse 25 rushing yards, including holding Marshawn Lynch to 23 total on the day.
Meanwhile, Frank Gore has not been so successful as of late, managing over 4.0 yards per carry in only one of his last five games. Both the San Francisco 49ers and the St. Louis Rams are completely different teams than they were back in Week 4. This battle could very well be the key to the game on Sunday, so let’s hope the Rams can continue to dominate on defense…
Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham vs. 49ers’ Run Defense
Despite leaving a couple of games early this season and missing the first four game of the year, Zac Stacy is still ranked among the top running backs in the league in nearly every statistical category. He is averaging a genuine 4.4 yards per carry, 2.5 yards after contact, and has forced 22 missed tackles this season. Now, Benny Cunningham has emerged as a potential “1a” type of player, taking the reins from Stacy at halftime of the Chicago game and rumbling for 100+ yards and a touchdown.
The San Francisco 49ers are ranked 10th in rushing yards allowed, with opposing teams barely scraping out 100 yards per game. However, they have yet to see Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham in action; two running backs who are both drastically different than Daryl Richardson, the man they faced in Week 4. The key to the Rams success on offense is a dominating run game. Without it, the game will be heaped on the arm of Kellen Clemens… and no one wants to see that.