Game snapshot: 49ers vs. Rams
KEYS TO THE GAME: Yes, the Rams need to get RB Marshall Faulk (13 yards rushing in 20 carries in the past two games) going in order to make the playoffs. And yes, they need to limit their turnovers to compete with the league's better teams. But none of that will matter Sunday unless the 49ers' offense snaps out of its funk in a big way. LT Kwame Harris has been re-inserted in the lineup in an effort to spark the running game. If RB Kevan Barlow doesn't get it going early against a defense allowing a league-high 5.1 yards per carry, coach Dennis Erickson won't hesitate to bench him in favor of Maurice Hicks. QB Tim Rattay has been sacked 13 times in the past two games and doesn't stand a chance unless the running game is successful in setting up the play-action pass. FAST FACTS: 49ers: Rattay is sacked or throws an interceptions once every 8.0 he drops back to pass. ... DT Bryant Young needs 1.0 sack to become the first defensive tackle in franchise history with 70 for his career. Rams: Faulk has eight rushes for negative yardage in the past two games. ... Rank 31st in the four return categories; kickoff and punt returns for and against. PERSONNEL NEWS 49ERS --- LB Jamie Winborn was named the winner of the 49ers' Ed Block Courage Award. Winborn sustained a herniated disc in his neck last season and underwent surgery to fuse two discs together. He leads the 49ers with a career-high 4.5 sacks, which is tops among NFC linebackers. He also leads the team with eight quarterback pressures. --- TE Eric Johnson ranks second among NFL tight ends with 65 catches. He has a team-leading 684 yards and needs 16 to become first 49ers TE with 700 since Brent Jones, who had 735 yards in 1993. --- WR Cedrick Wilson is the 49ers' leading wideout with 37 catches for 493 yards. --- RB Kevan Barlow ranks 20th in the NFC in most yards from scrimmage with 761 yards, but of the top 50 yard-producers, Barlow's average of 3.6 yards is the lowest. --- CB Jimmy Williams looked good in practice this week but will not start in Sunday's game against the Rams. Williams will likely be used as the 49ers' third cornerback in their nickel and dime packages. --- RB Maurice Hicks, the backup to Kevan Barlow, will likely enter the game for the 49ers' third offensive series. Coach Dennis Erickson will then decide how he rotates his backs the remainder of the game against the Rams. RAMS --- RB Marshall Faulk was downgraded from probable to questionable on the injury report because of a bruised knee. Faulk didn't practice this week, and a decision on his availability won't be made until Sunday morning. --- FS Aeneas Williams did some limited work in practice Thursday, and remains questionable for Sunday's game because of a stinger in his neck. --- SS Adam Archuleta received an injection Tuesday for a herniated disc in his back and practiced Thursday. Archuleta remains listed as probable on the injury report. --- WR Isaac Bruce, who injured his wrist against the Packers on Monday night, did only individual drills in practice Thursday, but is expected to play Sunday. --- DT Jimmy Kennedy received a lot of reps in practice Thursday with the first unit and might make his first NFL start Sunday. INSIDE THE CAMPS 49ERS Through the first two games of the season, the 49ers' run game appeared to be in good shape. Running back Kevan Barlow had gained 190 yards on 39 carries in losses to Atlanta and New Orleans. But left tackle Kwame Harris went down with sprains to his knee and ankle. In the next nine weeks, Harris has played only sparingly. He missed two games with the injuries, but then his poor pass-blocking has kept him from regaining his starting job. During that time, Barlow's number sank to a 2.8-yard average. On Sunday, Harris will be back in the starting lineup, as the 49ers try to find something that will turn around their offensive problems. "Kwame, to me, is one of our better run blockers," coach Dennis Erickson said. "Where he struggles is in pass protection. But he does help in our running game." Although Harris spent the last nine games out of the starting lineup with Kyle Kosier taking over at that spot, he turned defensive when quizzed about returning this week as a starter. "I never felt like I was out (of the starting lineup)," Harris said. "So it was never a demotion for me, if that's what you're implying." General manager Terry Donahue said the 49ers' problems running the ball, like their problems across the board, are "multifaceted." After all, the 49ers awarded Barlow a lucrative contract extension in the offseason because the run game appeared to be in such good shape. "He (Barlow) has got talent but he doesn't always run where the coach wants him to run or maybe he doesn't hit the hole where the coach wants the hole to be," Donahue said. "Maybe he doesn't compete as competitively as he should ... you know what's being said. The reality of it is, why aren't we getting the production out of Barlow that we once got? "At the time the (contract) decision was made, we were running the ball more effectively than we're currently running the ball. The offensive line was playing better at that time than it is today. We were a better running team. That isn't a knock on anybody, that's a historical fact. We were a good running team." Barlow said he has confidence he can turn it around. "I'm not a failure," he said. "I'm not going to be a letdown. I'm not a bust. Hell, no. It's not in my blood." RAMS Rookie running back Steven Jackson could get his biggest chance of the season Sunday. Marshall Faulk didn't practice this week, and he was downgraded to questionable on Thursday's injury report because of a sore knee. Faulk's knee has been bothering him for the last two weeks, when he rushed for a total of 13 yards on 20 carries. He also had eight attempts that went for minus yardage. Coach Mike Martz acknowledged that the use of Faulk wasn't managed well in last Monday's loss to Green Bay. In that game, Faulk rushed seven times for six yards, while Jackson had eight carries for 40 yards. "We played him more than we should have," Martz said. "He has a bruised knee that's very tender. But he doesn't like to talk about it. Whether he plays Sunday depends on his well-being and how he feels Sunday morning. "He'll be in on the game planning and if he's completely healthy, he'll play." With Sunday's game at home and on the rock-hard artificial surface at the Edward Jones Dome, even if Faulk plays, it would likely be in a limited pass-catching role. Jackson has rushed for 377 yards on 74 carries (5.1-yard average) this season, and the most carries he has had in a game is 13.
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