Game snapshot: 49ers vs. Rams

KICKOFF: 5:30 p.m. Pacific</p> SURFACE: Grass</p> TV: ESPN, Pat Summerall, Mike Patrick, Joe Theismann, Suzy Kolber</p> SERIES: 109th meeting. Rams lead, 56-50-2. After the Rams won six straight from 1999-2001, the teams have split the two-game set the last two years, with the 49ers winning handily both games in S.F.</p> 2004 RANKINGS: Rams: offense 8th (25th rush, 5th pass); defense 30th (30th rush, 18th pass). 49ers: offense 21st (17th rush, 19th pass); defense 13th (5th rush, 19th pass).

KEYS TO THE GAME: The 49ers don't have much margin for error, and their minus-seven turnover margin has been a major factor in their record. QB Tim Rattay will start for the first time since the season opener, but the key for the 49ers is getting RB Kevan Barlow untracked. He is coming off a 22-yard performance, his worst production as a starter. San Francisco's defense is struggling, so the offense must sustain drives and keep the game close. Rams QB Marc Bulger is prone to making poor throws, but that won't happen if the 49ers can't improve their paltry pass rush. St. Louis should be able to beat the 49ers deep a few times, but coach Mike Martz needs to make a more concerted effort to get RB Marshall Faulk involved early to keep the secondary from sitting on the pass.

FAST FACTS: Rams: Have not created a turnover this season. ... Have won eight of the past 10 meetings. 49ers: Three teams have begun a season 0-3 and gone on to reach the playoffs. ... S Tony Parrish will make his 100th consecutive start to begin his career. ... Have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in an NFL-high 20 consecutive games.

PERSONNEL NEWS

RAMS

--- DT Jimmy Kennedy returned from having his foot examined in Charlotte and said the bone has healed and he will start running next week. He did some light work Wednesday afternoon and could be ready for contact in two weeks.

--- LB Robert Thomas, who sat out practice Wednesday because of an ankle injury, was back on the field Thursday afternoon although he did limited work.

--- LB Tommy Polley continues to work with the first unit in practice and is expected to start for the second straight week on the strong side.

--- RB Arlen Harris did some light running on the side Wednesday and remains questionable for Sunday's game.

--- WR Shaun McDonald might be used as a kickoff returner this week with Arlen Harris limited by a hamstring injury. WR Mike Furrey and RB Steven Jackson have been used on kickoff returns this season, in addition to Harris.

--- LG Chris Dishman missed practice again Thursday because of a knee injury and remains questionable for Sunday's game.

--- SS Adam Archuleta was added to the injury report as probable Thursday with a hamstring injury.

49ERS

--- WR Curtis Conway will start Sunday's game in place of Brandon Lloyd, who missed practices Wednesday and Thursday with a groin strain. Conway is tied for second on the team with 13 catches for 151 yards. He started Week 2 at flanker in place of Cedrick Wilson, and he started last week in place of Lloyd, who was injured in practice last week.

--- SS Tony Parrish will start is 100th consecutive game at the beginning of his career on Sunday. "One hundred is a number where you step back and say, 'I've been blessed," he said.

--- RB Kevan Barlow is "the best he's been for weeks," 49ers coach Dennis Erickson said. Barlow removed himself from the 49ers' game Sept. 19 against the Saints with sore ribs. He also was nursing a slight sprain of his MCL. He rushed for just 22 yards on 10 carries last week, but should be ready for a big game against the Rams, who rank No. 30 against the run.

--- LB Julian Peterson is tied for second on the team with 20 tackles. He also has a team-leading 2.5 sacks and one forced fumble. Peterson had one sack taken away from him in the season opener against Atlanta, as the sack was credited to Jamie Winborn.

--- DT Bryant Young has gotten off to a strong start this season, leading the team's defensive linemen with 14 tackles. Coach Dennis Erickson said Young is playing better than a year ago, when he struggled with some injuries. Young is currently in a tie for third all-time with Charles Haley on the 49ers' sack list with 66.5.

INSIDE THE CAMPS

RAMS

After three games, the Rams' defense ranks 30th overall in the NFL in yards allowed. Breaking it down even more, the defense is 30th against the run and 18th against the pass. Oddly, though, the defense has been solid on third down, ranking sixth and allowing opponents to convert just 31.4 percent of the time.

' However, in three games the Rams have yet to force a takeaway and big plays have piled up against them.

In the running game, opponents have accumulated 18 plays of 10 yards or more for a total of 281 yards. That is an average of 15.6 yards per play. The Falcons' Michael Vick accounted for 101 of those yards on seven attempts. Most notably, opponents totaled just 213 yards on 74 other rushing attempts, an average of 2.9 per attempt. Thus, 56.9 percent of the total yards came on 19.6 percent of the rushes.

Moving to the passing game, the Rams have allowed nine completions of 20 yards or more for a total of 287 yards (31.9-yard average). The other 47 completions totaled 389 yards (8.3-yard average).

Is there a trend here? Clearly.

Said coach Mike Martz of the big plays against: "That seems to be an issue for us. I think we played very well for a long period of time and then we give up a big play either in the passing game or the running game. There are some reasons for that, obviously, that we will correct."

Speaking of the game against the Saints, where Saints running back Aaron Stecker had 83 yards on four attempts including a 42-yard touchdown run, and just 23 on his other 14 carries, Martz said, "We got caught in some Cover-2 and they made some big plays. They hit a blitz with their (touchdown) run. When you blitz, you have to make sure all those gaps are accounted for. If there is one mistake, there's a chance they'll make a big play. That's what happened.

"In the last two weeks, we've given up some big plays. It's not a succession of a lot of yards. You get two or three real big runs or two or three real big passes ... you're looking at a half-dozen plays you have to eliminate."

Said defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson, "In our one-gap defense, everyone has to be in their gap. If one guy is not and they hit a big play, it makes the whole defense look bad.

"It doesn't matter who the running back is. If we don't tackle or don't get in our gap, you could run for 150 yards against us."

49ERS

Quarterback Tim Rattay made it through his second day of practice Thursday afternoon, as he took all of the repetitions and declared himself ready to start Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams. Erickson named Rattay the starter after practice on Friday.

"Tim will be the starter," Erickson said. "He's practiced well all week. He hasn't had any setback. (Friday) I was worried he might have a setback, but it was fine. He was practicing all week. Ken Dorsey is a lot healthier right now. You can probably see it. He's throwing it better, he's able to step, which he wasn't able to do last week. Tim will be the starter unless something drastic happens. I've said that a couple of times this week."

When asked why he was worried about a setback with Rattay, Erickson said, "Just a couple days of throwing real hard. He wasn't sore (Thursday) so you always wonder what's going to happen. He had no pain today, so that's Wednesday and Thursday of practicing without any soreness.

Rattay has not played since the 49ers' season-opener Sept. 12 against the Atlanta Falcons.

Rattay sustained a grade-two separation of his right shoulder in the second quarter and returned in the fourth quarter to lead a comeback that fell two points shy. Rattay completed 18 of 31 passes for 175 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

Backup Dorsey started the last two games, including the 49ers' 34-0 loss to the Seahawks. Dorsey threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles in the game.

Rattay had some success against the Rams last season, as he engineered a 30-10 victory on the 49ers' home field. Rattay completed 19 of 29 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start.


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