It’s hard to think of a game this season where the St. Louis Rams played worse than their first tilt with the San Francisco 49ers. The offense was sputtering, the defense wasn’t stopping anyone, and the team was getting blown out on a regular basis way back in Week 4.
Oh, how things have changed.
Up until last week it was the 49ers who were struggling and the Rams who were rolling through opponents – or at least keeping games competitive. Despite being without their franchise quarterback this resilient bunch in St. Louis has rallied around one another for two straight blowout wins over playoff contending opponents and two near losses against two more formidable foes.
But that is no reason to relax because the schedule doesn’t get any easier for these Rams. The Niners game on Sunday is followed by a tilt against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 14 with both teams at 7-4 and standing in the way of potential playoff push for St. Louis. Even though the Rams have seen a real awakening in many phases of the game that troubled them earlier in the season, this game with San Francisco on Sunday will be a true test of just how far they’ve come.
In the first meeting where the Niners destroyed the Rams 35-11, running back Frank Gore ran wild with 153 yards on just 20 carries his backup Kendall Hunter also racked up 49 yards of his own on 11 totes. In doing that math, the duo combined to gain a staggering 202 yards on just 31 attempts for a ridiculous 6.5 yards per carry average.
But that was then.
Since that point the Rams have been getting their act together in terms of run defense. The team contained the Chicago Bears’ rushing attack relatively well last week holding Matt Forte and company to just 80 net yards on the ground after holding the Indianapolis Colts to an embarrassing 18 yards rushing. That’s an average of just 49 yards per game allowed for the Rams in their last two games, but that isn’t where the turnaround narrative ends.
When the Rams and 49ers met way back on September 26, nobody knew that Zac Stacy even existed outside of the St. Louis locker room. And even though his status remains cloudy after suffering a concussion against the Bears his backup, Benny Cunningham, proved more than capable of shouldering the load on the ground. At the point when the Niners faced the Rams way back when 100 yards on the ground was a complete fairytale for the team. Heading into this contest, however, every single game except for the Week 7 tilt against the Carolina Panthers in which quarterback Sam Bradford was injured eclipsed 100 yards on the ground for the team.
The moral to this story is that the best way to slow down opposing rushing attacks is by getting a lead and running the ball successfully yourself – both things the Rams have done well of late. And there’s no doubt that formula will be the team’s go-to option again this week as they try to show the 49ers just how far they’ve come in nine weeks’ time.