Game snapshot: 49ers vs. Rams

The Rams and 49ers are at it again, reprising one of the NFL's longest-standing rivalries Sunday in San Francisco's home opener at Monster Park. In the 113th rendition of this heated series, the 49ers will be matching their new-look offense against St. Louis' new-look defense while attempting to drop the Rams for the third consecutive time.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:05 p.m. Pacific
SITE: Monster Park in San Francisco
TV: FOX, Matt Vasgersian, JC Pearson

SERIES: 113th regular-season meeting. Rams lead, 58-52-2. Since 1999, the Rams had won 10 of 12 games in the series until the 49ers swept in 2005 by a total of seven points, 28-25 in San Francisco and 24-20 in St. Louis. How close has this series between longtime rivals been? In the previous 112 games played between the two teams, the Rams have scored 2,507 points to San Francisco's 2,484, a difference of 23 points.

2006 NFL RANKINGS: Rams: offense 13th (9th rush, 15th pass); defense 9th (28th rush, 2nd pass). 49ers: offense 3rd (13th rush, 3rd pass); defense 27th (8th rush, 29th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The 49ers can't afford another shootout, even if the secondary is considered an area of weakness for the Rams. With an offensive line dealing with injuries, San Francisco wants to establish RB Frank Gore early on to avoid exposing QB Alex Smith to the Rams' complex blitz packages. If Gore can be productive, Smith can use the play-action pass to thwart the pass rush and work downfield to WR Antonio Bryant and TE Vernon Davis. Defensively, the 49ers switch between the 3-4 and 4-3 fronts, but it's the secondary that will struggle to hold up against the Rams' deep receiving corps. However, St. Louis is without injured C Andy McCollum, which could make it more difficult to rely heavily on RB Steven Jackson to set up the pass. Regardless, if the 49ers don't get to QB Marc Bulger early and often, their defense stands little chance.

FAST FACTS: Rams - Bulger has a 90.6 passer rating in five career starts against San Francisco. ... WR Isaac Bruce needs two receptions to pass Steve Largent (819) for 11th-most all-time. 49ers - Seek first three-game winning streak in the series since a 17-game streak from 1990-98. ... DE Bryant Young is sixth among active players with 78.5 career sacks.

BY THE NUMBERS: 26 - The number of consecutive games the 49ers had been out-gained passing prior to Sunday against the Cardinals. The 49ers had 286 net yards passing, compared to the Cardinals' 283. 3 - Number of turnover-free games the Rams have had on offense in the last four seasons. That includes last Sunday's game against Denver.

--- "Teams are looking at a lot of new faces and there are a lot of people doing different things in this offense and contributing, so it'll be hard on teams to zero in and focus on specific things" -- 49ers quarterback Alex Smith.
--- "I think we're mature enough to understand that. I do kind of kid with (defensive coordinator Jim) Haslett and say, 'That's all that we need is five turnovers a game'. He didn't want to hear that. I think there's a certain amount of that, too. You also need a certain amount of confidence and what a great confidence builder that was. I think the realistic side says that's not going to happen very many times in your lifetime, the way the game went. I think it really sent a big charge through our team that we were able to go out and win a game like that." -- Rams coach Scott Linehan on the bar being raised by the defense's performance in last week's season-opening 18-10 win over the Denver Broncos.


--- LG Larry Allen is expected to miss 2 to 4 weeks with a sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Allen played just six snaps in the season opener before sustaining the injury.
--- RB Michael Robinson has pulled even with Maurice Hicks for the job as Frank Gore's backup. Robinson, a rookie, played 10 snaps in the season opener. Hicks also played 10 snaps. Robinson and Hicks will split playing time, depending on the offensive personnel group, as Gore's backup, coach Mike Nolan said.
--- TE Vernon Davis returned to practice Thursday and is expected to start Sunday against the Rams. Davis caught five passes for 37 yards and a touchdown, including a 31-yard score, in his NFL debut last week.
--- LB Manny Lawson recorded seven tackles in his NFL debut, and got good penetration on another play that led to a Marques Douglas tackle behind the line of scrimmage.
--- LT Jonas Jennings returned to practice Friday after sitting out Wednesday and Thursday and has been upgraded from doubtful to questionable to play against the Rams. Whether Jennings starts, or even plays, will be a game-time decision, Nolan said.
--- WR Arnaz Battle will start and might also handle punt-return duties again, depending on whether the team suits up rookie Brandon Williams as a fifth receiver. Battle averaged 23.7 yards on three punt returns, including one return of 60 yards against the Cardinals, and leads the NFC in that department entering Week 2. He caught two passes for 17 yards on offense.

--- LB Pisa Tinoisamoa returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday with a sprained foot. Still listed as questionable on the injury report, Tinoisamoa will play Sunday unless he has a setback.
--- NT Jimmy Kennedy returned to practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday because of a broken bone in his hand. Still listed as questionable on the injury report, Kennedy will play Sunday with a cast on his hand.
--- LB Jamal Brooks returned to practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday because of an infection that was drained in his knee. Still listed as questionable on the injury report, Brooks will play Sunday unless he has a setback.
--- DE Leonard Little could end up playing on the right side against San Francisco if 49ers LT Jonas Jennings doesn't play. Little has moved back and forth between the right and left sides this summer, and will line up on Sunday where defensive coordinator Jim Haslett believes there is the best matchup.
--- OL Adam Goldberg will likely be active this week after not suiting up in the season opener. Because of changes in the offensive line, Goldberg will likely be the backup guard to Todd Steussie.

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