The San Francisco 49ers need to remain near-perfect over the final five weeks of the 2013 NFL season. With the Seattle Seahawks running away with the NFC West right now, the 49ers are likely playing for a wildcard spot in the postseason, meaning they can ill-afford to have any slip-ups between now and the playoffs.
Week 13 certainly has slip-up game written all over it for San Fran, though. Coming off of a short-week after grabbing a win this past week on Monday Night Football, the Niners will meet up with a divisional foe, the St. Louis Rams. Though St. Louis sits at just 5-6 on the season and is starting Kellen Clemens at quarterback, they could potentially cause San Francisco, particularly their run defense, some problems.
The 49ers defense has continued to be one of the better units in the NFL. For the year, they have allowed the sixth fewest yards per game to their opponents, giving up just 311.6 yards per game, while also giving up the fourth fewest points per game at just 16.7. However, their overall defensive performance has somewhat overshadowed a mediocre defense against the run.
San Francisco ranks just 12th against the run this season in terms of yardage, allowing 104.7 yards per game on the ground. Moreover, the 49ers run defense is among five teams in the league that have allowed nine rushing touchdowns this season, putting them in a tie for the 13th most allowed in the league through 12 weeks in the season.
The reason that you have to consider San Francisco’s possibly just-average run defense is the fact that the Rams are almost surely going to give the Niners a heavy dose of Zac Stacy, who has been a force as of late. Stacy has averaged more than 4.5 yards per carry in three of his last four games while also accruing four touchdown runs over that same span. The wrecking ball of a rookie has been a force since taking the starting duties and has been a big part in St. Louis winning their last two games rather handily.
The 49ers undoubtedly have the talent up front to load the box and stop Stacy, especially considering that the aforementioned Clemens doesn’t present much of a threat, but they have to make sure they play this game by the books. To limit Stacy, the 49ers defense has to tackle soundly, not make unnecessary gambles, and avoid Stacy breaking off big chunks of yardage. If they are able to execute in that regard, San Fran should be able to stay in the hunt for another playoff berth.