Beating the Rams: 3 keys

The 49ers taken on the Rams for the second time in their last three games. We break down three things to watch Sunday afternoon as San Francisco comes off its bye.

After a much-needed bye week last week, the San Francisco 49ers are looking to get back on track on Sunday against the St. Louis Rams. The last time these two teams met, the Rams started the game hot with a 14-0 lead, but ultimately the 49ers were able to control the game and ended up winning 31-17.

This time around, the stakes are a bit higher, as the 49ers begin their quest for a playoff berth in the second half of the season, and San Francisco will have to focus on few specific areas if they want to win the second game of this rivalry as well.

Colin Kaepernick against the blitz

The Rams defense, led by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, likes to blitz a lot. They utilize several different blitz packages, and according to Pro Football Focus, blitz on 39.6 percent of pass plays, compared to the NFL average of 29.1 percent. The good news for the 49ers is that quarterback Colin Kaepernick has dealt with blitzes well so far in his career, throwing 21 touchdowns to only three interceptions. If the Rams continue to blitz at such a high rate on pass plays this Sunday, look for Kaepernick to do his best and exploit the Rams defense with short, quick passes and also with play-action.

49ers wide receivers vs. Rams secondary

St. Louis’ secondary has struggled so far this season, and the Rams allow an average of 30 points per game, which is currently second to last in the entire NFL. Furthermore, Rams strong safety T.J. McDonald has struggled all season, particularly in pass coverage, and it’s likely that the 49ers will attack McDonald down the field with wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree. In order to attempt to fix the problems in the secondary, the Rams acquired safety Mark Barron from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the trade deadline. The Rams are hoping that Barron, who plays best when implemented as a box safety, can limit the big plays down the field, both through the air and on the ground. It will be interesting to see how the 49ers attack St. Louis’ secondary on Sunday.

49ers pass rush vs. Rams offensive line

On the offensive side of the ball, the Rams have had trouble putting points up on the board, and quarterback Austin Davis has been under heavy pressure in practically every game. Rams center Scott Wells is currently the lowest-graded center, per Pro Football Focus, and Wells has allowed 18 quarterback pressures so far this season. Moreover, veteran right guard Davin Joseph and rookie left tackle Greg Robinson have also been less than spectacular in pass protection. The 49ers should have no problem generating a pass rush on Sunday against an offensive line that has had pass blocking issues all season long. The key matchup here will be 49ers nose tackle Ian Williams against Wells, and if the 49ers can rattle the Rams’ second-year quarterback with pressure, they should be able to capitalize on defense.

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