St Louis Rams v San Francisco 49ers: What I Liked, What I Didn’t Like


Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

After a few days reflection on the Rams’ latest loss – a 31-17 defeat to the San Francisco 49ers – it is the right time to consider the highs and lows of this latest performance. The Rams now drop to 1-4 for the season, and are already 2 games behind for third place in the NFC West. Oh joy.

What I Liked

The Strong Start      Last week the Rams finished strong; this week, they went back to their performance against Dallas with a strong start. An 14-0 first-quarter lead gave cause for optimism, with both Benny Cunningham and Lance Kendricks scoring touchdowns. Quarterback Austin Davis was throwing well and the offense was clicking, while the defense was succeeding in keeping the 49ers at bay. Seasoned Rams fans, however, knew different, and the writing was on the wall when the Niners scored ten points to close the first half, leading to an inevitable change of momentum that resulted in yet another loss. St Louis is showing that they are capable of playing well for periods of time; they now need to do so for longer.

The Rookies             Aaron Donald and E. J. Gaines have so far emerged as the gemstones of this year’s rookie class, with the others largely underwhelming. This was the class’ strongest game, though, with Greg Robinson finally gaining a start on the offensive line, and Tre Mason getting some carries after not suiting up for the first five games. Donald continues to be a force on the defensive line, and while Gaines had a quieter game, Lamarcus Joyner looked sharper. Robinson received the highest grade on the O-line, and Mason’s first run showed what he is capable of doing when given the ball, averaging eight yards per carry. With Zac Stacy clearly not the elite back Rams Nation was hoping he was, Mason could play a valuable role as a three (or four!) headed running monster. With the Rams seemingly heading for another losing season, it was important for Coach Fisher to start getting the rookies more involved, and the youngsters rewarded his trust in them.

The Run Defense     If there is a player who must look forward to face the Rams, this must be San Francisco’s Frank Gore. Gore has gashed the Rams repeatedly over the years and must have been licking his chops in anticipation. Luckily, the front seven held strong, with Gore averaging 2.4 yard per carry. The defense was not as successful in containing Colin Kaepernick, but, even so, the 49ers’ performance on the ground was poor. However, as is normally the case, one unit’s high tends to lead to another’s low, with the secondary playing considerably worse than it has for a while, giving up big plays to the 49ers’ talented receivers.

What I Didn’t Like 

The Pass Protection           Even with their substantial injury list, the 49ers were always going to be a defensive threat. It did not help that the offensive line did not live up to the challenge. While the Rams outgained their opponents on fewer attempts on the ground, Austin Davis was sacked five times. This breakdown in protection clearly affected the quarterback, although, at times, he was to blame for hanging on to the ball too long. Rattled, Davis could not maintain his strong start, and soon he was looking jittery behind center, forcing some ill-advised throws. Jake Long was particularly guilty of poor pass protection. Long is not having a good year, and the Rams cannot afford yet another marquee free agent acquisition to not live up to his reputation.

Janoris Jenkins        Jenkins is having an unusual season. While he has shown flashes of his rookie self and has had some strong games, this was definitely not one of them. Veteran Brandon Lloyd took him to school on a move that saw Jenkins’ eagerness to make the risky big play backfire, resulting in an 80-yard touchdown. This single play shifted the momentum firmly in San Francisco’s favor and represented the breakdown in coverage that has already taken center stage on a number of plays. Jenkins has incredible ability, but is often reckless in coverage. He needs to put this game behind him and make some big plays as some Rams fans are already calling for him to be benched when Trumaine Johnson returns to the team.

Austin Davis             Warner. Bulger. Bradford. Rams Nation is very familiar with inconsistent quarterbacks who can put up incredible numbers (especially Warner) but can struggle to sustain this. Davis seems to be the latest on this list. In good form, Davis can be the most dynamic quarterback since Warner’s day, and shows a hunger and poise that both Bulger and Bradford lacked. On the other hand, he can be clumsy, nervous and tends to hold the ball for too long. This is the first game that one could say Davis lost because of sub-par play (particularly in the first half) and, unless he shows an ability to remain consistent throughout the game, his time as starter could be short-lived.

Other thoughts and observations…

The lack of production in the pass-rush is beyond a joke now…Jared Cook had a good game, but Brian Quick was blanked out…is Brockers’ starting spot on the team in danger?…Tavon Austin is getting more involved in the offense – is it a matter of time before he breaks out?…Rodger Saffold picked up a knock – no-one is surprised…