With how putrid the St. Louis Rams have been in pretty much all three phases of the game in recent weeks, it’s easy to lose sight of the team’s success last season against the NFC West elites. It doesn’t take long for the shine to wear off when a team gets off to a rough start to a season, but fans can’t forget just how well the Rams matched up last year with both the Seattle Seahawks and, more importantly for this particular week, the San Francisco 49ers. But how will that help the team going into their Week 4 clash with the Niners?
For starters, the Rams showed an ability to get pressure on the San Francisco quarterbacks last year when their offensive line was performing like a fortress. This season that same line has been shaky at best, unable to open up running lanes and just as incapable of protecting quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers are ranked 27th in the NFL in total offense, and although their eight sacks allowed doesn’t seem that bad on the surface, their man under center has been under a lot more pressure than he was last season.
That certainly bodes well for a pass rush in St. Louis that boasts Robert Quinn and Chris Long coming off of the edges. Quinn already has four sacks and three forced fumbles on the year, and that total could increase on Thursday night.
And let’s not forget about the offensive success the Rams enjoyed against the Niners on both occasions last season. In totaling up the two games from a year ago, St. Louis actually outgained San Francisco 751 yards to 680 yards. That was when the 49ers held the third ranked defense in all of the league while this season they are ranked a much more modest 12th after three games.
Another big offensive factor is the forgotten playmaker that the Rams have in wideout Chris Givens. After being suspended for the first matchup in the Bay Area, Givens played a huge role in the second game in the dome (where Thursday’s game will take place) with 11 catches for 92 yards. Add in the fact that this year the Rams have the dynamic Tavon Austin on offense and the Niners could have a difficult time covering all of the options quarterback Sam Bradford has to choose from.
But what this Rams team needs more than anything this season is a fast start. Their opening game of the year against the Arizona Cardinals required a double-digit fourth quarter comeback to earn a ‘W’ in Week 1. After getting down by three-plus touchdowns in each of the last two weeks, even decent efforts to get back into the game came up woefully short. Last year the Rams managed to get off to solid starts in both of their games against the 49ers despite having to come from behind in the second contest.
Perhaps the most important factor is playing at home. Even though they have struggled of late, the Rams are still 1-0 at the Edward Jones Dome this season. If you believe in home-field advantage, maybe home sweet dome is just what the Rams need to buck their losing trend on Thursday night.