SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The 49ers took on a talented defensive front Sunday that was likely to test rookie center Marcus Martin in a significant way.
After all, Martin, 20, was playing in his first NFL regular season game, and got his first action since the preseason when he suffered a dislocated knee cap that kept him inactive for the 49ers' first seven games.
Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams decided he was going to blitz the 49ers early and often to see how well San Francisco's rookie center would adapt. It's the center that is responsible for getting the right protections called.
It led to eight sacks, the most Colin Kaepernick had ever taken in his four-year NFL career. One of those sacks led to St. Louis' only touchdown of the game. It was Robert Quinn's strip-sack in the second quarter his that gave his team the ball at the 49ers' 36-yard line at the two-minute warning.
Three players later, wideout Kenny Britt scored from 21 yards out, helping the Rams come away with Sunday’s 13-10 win.
How did the 49ers try to counteract Williams' blitz-heavy approach? Spread the offense out and get rid of the ball quickly.
The problem? The ball was not coming out fast enough and Kaepernick was dealing with pressure for the majority of the game.
"We got all the talent in the world. We were doing some dumb stuff and they took advantage of it," left tackle Joe Staley said.
"Dumb blocks. Dumb techniques. Dumb schemes."
Instead of keeping more blockers around Kaepernick to deal with the blitz, offensive coordinator Greg Roman continued to dial up passing plays that left Kaepernick vulnerable to pressure behind his struggling offensive line.
Perhaps that's what Staley meant when he called the schemes "dumb." The 49ers could have used tight ends and running backs more in pass protection allowing the receivers to get one-on-one match ups against the Rams' banged up secondary.
Unprovoked, running back Frank Gore came to Roman's defense after the game, answering an innocuous question about the offense being out of sorts by bringing up his coordinator.
"We just got to make our mind up and do what we feel we good at and just go do it," Gore said. "I still think we got a great coordinator. I believe in our coordinator. He been successful since he been here. We just got to, as players, look ourselves in the mirror. Whenever he make a call. We got to go and do it. I’m being real. I don’t just want to put it on him. It’s on us because we’re out here playing. I feel that he put us in good situations. We’re too up and down so far."
Ultimately, the 49ers lost the game because they didn't score on their final possession when Kaepernick fumbled a quarterback sneak in the end zone in the final seconds.
But considering how disjointed and enigmatic Roman's offense has been all season, Staley and Gore's words could carry more weight as the season goes on if the offense doesn't turn things around.
"That was a tough loss," Jim Harbaugh said. "We got to play better football, coach better football, better habits, play better.”
Coach better football, indeed.
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