3 Key Matchups: St Louis Rams vs San Francisco 49ers


After the disappointed of last week’s failed comeback attempt on the road in Philadelphia, the St Louis Rams return to the Edward Jones Dome for Monday Night Football hoping to record their second win of the season against the San Francisco 49ers. For the Rams to rekindle their hopes of reaching the playoffs, accumulating wins against divisional opponents is a must. RamblinFan takes its weekly look at some of the key one-on-one battles to watch out for.


Listed as probable to face the Rams after an issue with his ankle, the 49ers rejuvenated safety Bethea is graded a team-leading +5.2 in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus in 206 snaps where he has dropped back into coverage. With a forced fumble and an interception to his name as well already this season, the long-time Indianapolis Colt has been one of the stand-outs for the San Francisco defence in the early weeks of the season. Hoping to put a dent in his numbers will be breakout wide receiver for the Rams, Brian Quick. The third year receiver has drawn praise from many observers for his play this year having achieved, after only a quarter of the season, 322 yards and 3 touchdowns, overtaking his previous season-high tallies in both areas. If Quick can continue in this path, he looks set to become the Rams first 1000+ yard receiver on the season. Brian Quick has a 4” height advantage over Bethea. One of the few criticisms of quarterback Austin Davis this year has been his lack of arm strength, and his tendencies to float passes up rather than drive them into his targets. Where a receiver / defensive back height mismatch exists as it does here, this may not be a bad thing. Davis likely to look for Quick often on Monday as his number one receiver, and if Quick can beat Bethea one-on-one more often than not, it will be a key factor in the Rams’ offense achieving success.


One of the biggest headaches for Rams fans so far this year has been the below-par play of the offensive line. Unfortunately for free agent addition Davin Joseph, he has stood out thus far as particularly poor both in pass protection and run blocking, graded overall by Pro Football Focus at -8.3, ranking 68 out of 74 guards in the league and the lowest Ram by some margin. We can expect to see San Francisco looking to exploit this weak link by applying pressure through leading defensive lineman, Justin Smith. The 14-year veteran has had a great start to 2014, already totalling 10 solo tackles, a forced fumble and recovery, and three sacks. The Rams cannot afford to double-team Smith, as with the likes of Jake Long and Chris Wells also disappointing, there will be plenty of other opportunities for the 49ers to get at Austin Davis. This battle must be won in the trenches with every member of the line doing their job, meaning Joseph has to step-up in a big way. If he can do so and prevent Smith getting at Davis, it could prove vital in keeping drives alive. If Joseph continues to struggle, Austin Davis may find himself considerably better acquainted with the turf under the dome.


After a disappointing second season with St Louis, Janoris Jenkins has improved in 2014. From being the junior partner in the backfield to veteran Cortland Finnegan in his first two seasons, Jenkins now finds his role somewhat reversed, being the more experienced presence alongside the highly promising rookie EJ Gaines. Going from an overall grading by Pro Football Focus of -0.8 in 2013 to +2.0 through the first four games of the current season, Jenkins has looked much sharper in coverage, the highlight being the pick-six against Tony Romo in week three. Unfortunately for Jenkins, it was against his single coverage that Riley Cooper scored a second-quarter touchdown last weekend. San Francisco will hope that Michael Crabtree can achieve the same on Monday night. While Anquan Boldin is the 49ers go-to guy in long third down situations where they need to pick up the tough yards, Crabtree has been more of a red zone threat, picking up both his touchdowns within opponents 20-yard line. If Jenkins can shut Crabtree down, keep the 49ers out of the end zone and restrict them to fieldgoals it will take a lot of the pressure off the Rams offense.