Niners game plan

The onus falls onto defensive coordinator Willy Robinson to put the 49ers into better spots to make plays against the St. Louis Rams.

There are some matchup problems the 49ers must be able to counter, especially in the passing game. The 49ers are hoping cornerback Jimmy Williams can return to be a factor after missing three games with a broken little toe on his right foot. Robinson's defense has been susceptible to problematic matchups throughout the season.

Offensively, the 49ers must get something going with the run game. Coach Dennis Erickson said the run game has been simplified, and left tackle Kwame Harris will see more action. Harris has struggled in pass protection but is considered the best run-blocker on the team. Also, the pressure is on Kevan Barlow to get some yards against a Rams defense that ranks among the worst in the league in nearly every statistical category.

Only if Barlow is running the ball effectively can quarterback Tim Rattay be expected to have time to throw. Rattay has been sacked 13 times in the past two games, and he needs the threat of play-action to slow down the pass rush and deliver the ball down the field.

The 49ers must also find a way to cut down on turnovers. They are last in the league with a minus-16 takeaway/giveaway margin. Rattay has accounted for 15 turnovers with six fumbles and nine interceptions.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: 49ers CB Dwaine Carpenter, a converted safety who will see plenty of action in coverage, vs. Rams WR Isaac Bruce, who is second in the NFC with 67 catches for 1,026 yards and four TDs; FS Ronnie Heard, who is responsible for help on a lot of deep routes, vs. QB Marc Bulger, who will undoubtedly be attacking the 49ers' secondary down the field; RT Scott Gragg, who like everybody else on the offensive line is going through his struggles, vs. DE Leonard Little, who leads the Rams with five sacks and 13 QB pressures.

INJURY IMPACT: CB Ahmed Plummer is probably out for the season with a bulging disk in his neck. ... CB Jimmy Williams returned to practice this week after missing three games with a broken little toe on his right foot. It will be determined before game time whether Williams is healthy enough to step back into the starting lineup. ... C Jeremy Newberry underwent an epidural on his back and will likely not play again this season. Newberry underwent knee surgery after the first game of the season. When his knee was recovered, he incurred a bulging disk in his back. ... LB Julian Peterson and FB Jasen Isom both had their casts removed Thursday after undergoing October surgeries to repair their torn Achilles tendons. Both will ease into their rehabilitation schedules.


Niners Digest Top Stories