Game breakdown: 49ers vs. Rams

Taking a look deep inside Sunday's battle of NFC West rivals between the 49ers and St. Louis Rams at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, with snapshot game details, series history, game plans, matchups to watch, injury impact, personnel updates and a look inside both camps before the big game.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:15 Pacific
SITE: Candlestick Park in San Francisco
RECORDS: 49ers 2-1, 2-0 in NFC West; Rams 0-3, 0-1 in NFC West
TV: FOX (Ron Pitts, John Lynch, Nischelle Turner)

SERIES HISTORY: 119th regular-season meeting. Rams lead the series, 60-56-2. The 49ers won both games last season, and defeated the Rams 35-16 in the game played in San Francisco.

KEYS TO THE GAME: 49ers rookie RB Glen Coffee will get the opportunity to assume the workload of injured Frank Gore. The offense will change very little as coach Mike Singletary is determined to stay with a run-based attack that wears opponents down. Also look for TE Vernon Davis working the seam as he continues to emerge as a weapon with teams stacking against the run. QB Kyle Boller is expected to start for the Rams with Marc Bulger recovering from a shoulder injury. Again, St. Louis will base its offense on getting RB Steven Jackson going early. But Boller's accuracy will also be worth watching. He tends to be inconsistent and he's working in a new offense with a shorthanded receiving corps.

FAST FACTS: The Rams' 13-game losing streak is the longest in the NFL. ... 49ers QB Shaun Hill has a 120.8 passer rating in the fourth quarter.

BY THE NUMBERS: 46.5 -- Percentage of offensive plays in which coordinator Jimmy Raye has called run plays. He said his goal when the season began was to have an offense that runs the ball 60 percent of the time. 358-160 -- The accumulated total the Rams have been outscored by in their NFL-longest 13-game losing streak. In those games, the Rams have scored 20 or more points twice; they have allowed 30 or more points six times and they have lost games by at least 19 points seven times.

"We have a goal, we have a destination that we are trying to get to and we're not looking at the team because it's about us. It's not about them and we have to stay focused on the goal at hand and if we don't stay focused, then we're not who we say we are." – 49ers coach Mike Singletary on his team bouncing back this week.
"I have a lovely wife who cooks good food and I've got good people around me. I just try and move onto the next game. I know that sounds cliche but it's like I told the team this morning: if we were 3-0 I'd be saying the same thing, that 'Hey it is time to get ready for San Francisco, look at the film, get it out of the way, and move on.' That would be a whole other challenge, but it still comes back to the same thing; you get rid of this on Monday by two or three o'clock and away you go onto the next game." – Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo, asked how he keeps his sanity after losing the first three games of the season.

49ERS GAME PLAN: The 49ers do not figure to change much of their offensive game plan with rookie Glen Coffee taking over for injured Frank Gore, who is expected to miss the 49ers' next two games. "We are not going to alter it one bit," Singletary said. "Obviously, you are missing one of the best backs in the league, but for us, we are fortunate to have Coffee and we are confident he will step in and do a good job. He is a very mature young man working his tail off, and he can handle the load. Our offensive line will be the ones that have to take up the slack." The 49ers figure to use their power-running game to help set up quarterback Shaun Hill's passing. Hill has been effective on third downs, completing 75.9 percent of his attempts for a 111.0 passer rating on third downs. Defensively, the 49ers will continue to play the run to take away Steven Jackson and force the Rams into third-and-long situations.

RAMS GAME PLAN: With Kyle Boller starting at quarterback Sunday, the Rams will look to still run the ball with Steven Jackson. But the key will be whether Boller can have consistent accuracy with a receiving corps that is seriously shorthanded. Defensively, the Rams will have to take advantage of RB Frank Gore not being available, and keep QB Shaun Hill from hitting big plays in the passing game.


49ers RTs Adam Snyder and Tony Pashos, who have struggled while splitting time, vs. Rams DE Leonard Little, who leads the team with two sacks on the season. Little had his first two sacks of the season against Green Bay, and he has the ability to win the matchup against Snyder. The question is whether the 49ers will provide help for Snyder to slow down Little.

49ers LB Patrick Willis, the 49ers' top defensive player and a two-time Pro Bowl performer in two seasons, vs. Rams RB Steven Jackson, the Rams' biggest offensive threat with 288 yards rushing and a 4.8-yard average in three games. Willis has displayed the ability to blow up plays, so the Rams' offense will have to find a way to get Jackson yards and avoid Willis.

49ers CB Nate Clements, whose attention will be diverted between the run and the pass, vs. Rams WR Donnie Avery, who has 10 catches for 62 yards.
49ers S Dashon Goldson, who has 20 tackles and an interception as a first-year starter, vs. Rams QB Kyle Boller, who is likely to get the start in place of injured Marc Bulger on Sunday.
49ers TE Vernon Davis, who is turning into QB Shaun Hill's favorite target, vs. Rams S Oshiomogho Atogwe, whom the Rams locked up for this season as their franchise player.


RB Frank Gore is out at least two games with ankle injuries sustained two weeks ago against Seattle and last week against Minnesota. Gore expects to return to action Oct. 25 after the bye week when the 49ers play at Houston. . . . S Reggie Smith (groin) will be out of action for at least two weeks. His severe strain will be re-evaluated during the Oct. 18 bye week. . . . LT Joe Staley sustained a thigh contusion and was expected to have limited practice this week. The 49ers expect Staley to be available to start Sunday. . . . G David Baas was expected to take part in limited practice this week but be available for Sunday's game. . . . RT Adam Snyder (thumb), Return specialist Allen Rossum (illness) and LB Jeff Ulbrich (thigh) are expected to take part in limited practice this week but be available to play Sunday.

RAMS: With WR Laurent Robinson out for the season, the Rams' pass-catching corps consists of Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Danny Amendola, Ruvell Martin and Nate Jones. Avery has to find a way to relax, step up and make plays to take some of the defensive pressure off Steven Jackson.



--- QB Marc Bulger did not practice Thursday because of his injured shoulder and while there's a slight chance he will throw Friday, Bulger won't start Sunday against the 49ers. The likely scenario is that Bulger would be the third quarterback, so he could hand off in an emergency.
--- QB Kyle Boller will likely start for the Rams against San Francisco Sunday. It will be Boller's first start since the 2007 season when he was with the Baltimore Ravens.
--- QB Keith Null, the Rams' sixth-round pick this year, is expected to be the backup to Kyle Boller Sunday, assuming Marc Bulger is the third quarterback.
--- LT Alex Barron practiced on a limited basis Thursday, but is expected to start Sunday against San Francisco.
--- CB Ron Bartell is expected to start Sunday against the 49ers despite working on a limited basis Thursday because of a quad injury.
--- WR Danny Amendola has been getting most of the snaps in the slot in practice when the Rams line up with three receivers.


--- CB Nate Clements ranks second in the league, allowing just 33.3 percent of the passes his way to be completed, according to STATS, Inc. Seven passes have been completed on Clements through three games, including two touchdowns.

--- LT Joe Staley returned to practice Thursday after missing a day with a thigh contusion. He is expected to start Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams.
--- WR Jason Hill expects to suit up for the first time this season. He has been a healthy inactive for the 49ers' first three games. But this week he is seeing more action on special teams, which is a signal that he will likely be in uniform for the game.
--- WR Brandon Jones is rounding back into shape, and expects to be active for Sunday's game. Jones sustained a broken right shoulder blade on Aug. 6. This is his third week of practice, as it has taken him awhile to get back up to speed.
--- G David Baas returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday's work with an ankle sprain. The 49ers expect to have their entire starting offensive line available for Sunday's game.



The Rams entered training camp figuring they might have some issues with their wide receiver corps.

Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton and Derek Stanley were returning players with Stanley coming back from ACL surgery. Laurent Robinson was acquired from Atlanta before the draft, Brooks Foster arrived in the fifth round of the draft, and veterans Tim Carter and Ronald Curry were signed with the hope they could add some experience.

Robinson was the pleasant surprise in the group, emerging as the team's most consistent pass-catcher. But he suffered a fractured fibula Sunday against Green Bay and will miss the rest of the season.

Foster is also on injured reserve after being injured in training camp. Stanley was released after Week 2 and has been replaced by Danny Amendola. Curry and Carter were released when rosters were cut to 53 players.

Former Packer Ruvell Martin was added two weeks ago and Nate Jones was signed from the practice squad this week. Amendola played his first NFL game Sunday, Jones might do that this week and Martin will likely be active after not playing the last two weeks.

Then, there has been the disappointing performance of Avery, who broke a bone in his foot in an Aug. 7 scrimmage, and is averaging 6.2 yards per catch in his first three games.

General manager Billy Devaney said, "He's pressing, trying to score a touchdown on every play. He'll be fine, but he just has to relax and go out and play, and understand every play won't be a big play."

Asked his level of confidence in the receivers this week after Robinson was placed on injured reserve, coach Steve Spagnuolo said, "It's probably no different, other than we know Laurent did a nice job for us. I do think it's always going to be about spreading the ball around. We'll have to do more of that."

Said quarterback Kyle Boller, "I feel bad for Laurent because I thought he was doing a great job. But these guys are going to step up."

For their careers so far, Avery, Martin and Burton have combined for 134 receptions and 1,737 yards.

In three games, the passing game has produced just four plays of 20 yards or more. Opponents have had 12, including five by the Packers last Sunday.

Martin has the best chance of contributing, but his two weeks have been spent learning different language and pass routes.

"It's still a work in progress, learning things," he said. "My biggest thing is I want to get so comfortable to the (point) where I'm not thinking when I'm out there."


The 49ers will not change their approach Sunday against the St. Louis Rams even though the team's best offensive player will not be in uniform.

Rookie Glen Coffee, a third-round draft pick from Alabama, will make his first NFL start on Sunday with starter Frank Gore out for at least two games with an ankle injury.

Niners' offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye said if the 49ers end up throwing more to the wideouts on Sunday, it'll not be due to the fact that the 49ers have a rookie playing the bulk of the snaps at running back.

"It's a defense that dictates that," Raye said. "It won't have anything to do with Glen Coffee. How they intend to defend us will dictate more of how we change than the fact that it's Coffee in there. We're not going to run away from what our staple is because we have a change in that position."

The 49ers have seemingly been dared to throw the ball a lot this season, as they have routinely faced the specter of eight defenders near the line of scrimmage to contain the run game.

"I think it's a matter of visual interpretation," Raye said. "Because they stack the box, so to speak, or have eight men in the box, we have an ability to add on and block the eight element if we so desire. And, if we choose to run the ball into that, the perception that you've got to throw it because there are eight people in the box would be, in my opinion, disingenuous to the philosophy that we have and the way we play."

Raye said during training camp that he wants the 49ers to run the ball 60-percent of the time. While overall they're attempting more passes than runs, the 49ers have been ground-oriented on first downs. The 49ers have attempted run plays on 58-percent of their first-and-10 situations.

Quarterback Shaun Hill is completing passes at a 76.7-percent rate in the fourth quarter. He ranks No. 5 in the NFL in fourth-quarter passer rating. So wouldn't Hill's high completion percentage enable Raye to feel more comfortable passing the ball late in games when they're trying to run out the clock?

"No," Raye said. "What you're listing is this, is that he has been able to do that because we've run the ball against eight-man fronts. That's the reason that his completion percentage is what it is."

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