KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:05 Pacific
SITE: Candlestick Park in San Francisco
RECORDS: 49ers 2-7, 1-3 NFC West, Rams 2-7, 0-2 NFC West
TV: FOX (Matt Vasgersian, JC Pearson, Nischelle Turner)
SERIES HISTORY: 117th regular-season meeting. Rams lead, 60-54-2 and the point differential in the previous 116 games is 2,569-2,547. The last six games have been decided by seven points or less, and last year the teams split the series with each team winning on the road.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The 49ers' plan should be pretty straightforward - give the ball to RB Frank Gore and let him attack a Rams run defense allowing 4.8 yards per carry. St. Louis has also given up 383 rushing yards the past two weeks. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz let QB Shaun Hill stretch the field more than expected last week, and he should be even more effective if Gore and set up play-action. ... Whether it's RB Steven Jackson or backups Antonio Pittman and Kenneth Darby carrying the load, the Rams have to start running the ball with more consistency. QB Marc Bulger has averaged just 125.5 passing yards the past two weeks and could be replaced by Trent Green if he struggles again early. But Bulger does face the league's 23rd-ranked pass defense that has just 14 sacks.
KEY INJURIES: Rams: DT Adam Carriker (ankle) is playing at less than 100 percent. Jackson (quad) has taken part in limited practice and will be a late-week decision. 49ers: WRs Arnaz Battle (foot) and Josh Morgan (groin) are out.
FAST FACTS: Rams DE Leonard Little has 8.0 sacks and five forced fumbles in the past nine meetings. ... 49ers WR Isaac Bruce is St. Louis' all-time leader with 942 receptions and 14,109 receiving yards.
--- RB Steven Jackson will not play today due to a leg injury and RB Antonio Pittman will start in his place.
--- RB Kenneth Darby, despite two fumbles Sunday against the Jets, will be the backup to Pittman.
--- OG John Greco left practice earlier this week after suffering an injury to the patellar tendon and will not play against the 49ers as he is listed as inactive for the game.
--- DT Adam Carriker is getting closer to 100 percent after recovering from an ankle injury.
--- RB Frank Gore was bothered by a neck strain this week but will start today's game.
--- RB DeShaun Foster has not seen a lot of action this season as Frank Gore's backup. Foster, who signed a one-year deal with the 49ers in March, has just 11 rushing attempts for 26 yards this season.
--- WR Josh Morgan is listed as "week to week" with a groin strain he sustained in Monday night's game against the Arizona Cardinals. With Morgan out of the lineup, veteran Bryant Johnson will start and will likely play most of the game with the 49ers short at receiver.
--- S Mark Roman was added to the injury report with a groin strain. Roman did not practice earlier this week, but he will play against the Rams.
--- T Jonas Jennings, who has not seen action since sustaining a dislocated right shoulder on Sept. 14, is no longer on the team's injury report. Jennings did not regain his starting job upon getting healthy. Adam Snyder, who began the season as the starting left guard, has taken over for Jennings as the starter at right tackle and will start against the Rams.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
The Rams are ranked 30th against the rush and will be challenged again this week by 49ers running back Frank Gore. Five runners have gone for at least 100 yards with the Jets' Thomas Jones and Seattle's Julius Jones rushing for 149 and 140 yards, respectively.
Coach Jim Haslett knows the challenge Gore presents. "I think the guy's a beast," Haslett said. "I think he's one of the best running backs in the league. He plays low to the ground, he's powerful, he's got great quickness and we've always had problems bringing the guy down, so we have to make sure we're a lot better than we were last week with alignments, assignments, getting off blocks."
Asked how the run defense can improve, considering the Rams have allowed 51 runs of 10 yards or more and 15 of 20 yards or more, Haslett said, "You have to focus on the fundamentals, which is what we did today (in practice) and then do all the little things right. The teams that are going to run at you, when you're not a huge defense, you're not overly big, then everything has to be perfect. Your technique has to be perfect, your alignments, your assignments have to be perfect, just get lined up with everybody in the gaps. You get a lot of misdirection from this team coming up and guys are going to have to do a good job fitting and knowing where the free hitter is all the time."
Said defensive end Leonard Little, "It's all mental. There wasn't anything physical that they (Jets) did to us. It was all mental stuff by us. When you give a team like that the breaks that we gave them in the run game, and stuff like that, it makes it hard for us to rush the passer because we are always thinking about the run. Hopefully, this week, we can hold down the run a little bit. They have a great back over there, Frank Gore. We'll try to control him a little bit, but hopefully we can get past the mental stuff that we did last week."
The Rams will also be facing wide receiver Isaac Bruce for the first time since he was released in the offseason following 14 years with the franchise.
Asked how Bruce looks, Haslett said, "Like he's done before, I mean, like he is all the time. You can tell he's got great zip coming out of his breaks, doing a good job blocking. The thing I'm impressed with is they're lining him up at all different spots; he's inside, he's outside, playing X and Z, so that's something I never really saw him do. Obviously, he has a great knowledge of the offense, so you can do those types of things, but he was basically the Z here, the flanker position, now I see him running up in different spots."
Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa knows Bruce and offensive coordinator Mike Martz will be ready with everything for this game.
"What I appreciate about them is what Isaac brings. He is still running great routes and I don't know what his statistics are looking like right now, but he's still a force to be reckoned with. I'm just glad that I don't have to cover him. With Mike Martz, you never know what you're going to get. He just makes up plays. It's weird, but he definitely has a skill at drawing up plays."
The best thing to come from the 49ers' disastrous final-minute meltdown Monday night against the Arizona Cardinals was, perhaps, the emergence of a capable, young receiver.
Jason Hill, a third-round pick in the 2007 draft, saw the most extensive playing time of his NFL career on Monday in the 49ers' 29-24 loss to the Cardinals. Playing the slot in place of injured veteran Arnaz Battle, Hill caught six passes for 82 yards. Hill had just four NFL receptions through his first season-and-a-half as a professional.
What makes it even more special for Hill is that he grew up in San Francisco before going to Washington State to play college football.
"I've got big dreams and aspirations," Hill said. "I grew up in the city watching Jerry Rice and John Taylor, so being in the same locker room that those guys ran, it's some big shoes to fill, and that's just one step."
Quarterback Shaun Hill and Jason Hill provided a nice combination for the 49ers in their limited time together. All of Jason Hill's catches this season have come in the six quarters of action in which Shaun Hill was quarterback. (The Hills are not related.)
"It's more than just sharing the last name," Shaun Hill said of Jason. "He's come on here, and he's been playing well. That's a guy over the last couple of years that I've had a chance to throw a lot of balls to with the scout team and in practice. I guess there's a little bit of ... familiarity with him, but he came in and he played well, and he has to keep that going."
Game breakdown: 49ers vs. Rams
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