After all the turmoil with the 49ers this week (and even beyond), there is still a game to be played against the St. Louis Rams. The Rams were struggling as much as the 49ers, but might be coming out of their own depression with an impressive offensive showing against the New Orleans Saints. So I thought we'd take a look at some of what Scouts Inc has to say about the game:
San Francisco RB Frank Gore vs. St. Louis MLB Will Witherspoon
Gore showed signs of returning to form Monday night against the Seattle Seahawks. While he didn't light it up in total yardage, he averaged 5.5 yards per carry before the 49ers had to abandon the ground game in an attempt to pass their way back into the game. San Francisco looked particularly effective running the ball straight ahead with a quick, power running attack. Witherspoon mans the middle of St. Louis's linebacking corps and leads the team in tackles. He will need to meet Gore in the hole, or even before he gets to the hole, to keep Gore from breaking into the open field where he is especially dangerous.
While Frank Gore hasn't puled up the insane numbers from last year, he has been relatively effective when the 49ers have been able to apply a rushing attack. Unfortunately, they've abandoned the running game either immediately before getting blown out, or once the blow out has developed.
Dilfer will be in the lineup after Smith let the news leak that his arm is not healthy and the injuries affected his accuracy, but what can Dilfer provide that Smith couldn't over the last three weeks? First, he will be more accurate than Smith has been in recent weeks. Dilfer can be very accurate given time and he has enough of an arm to threaten secondaries with the deep ball. Defenses seemed to be daring Smith to throw the ball since he returned to the lineup but his arm was just too weak to do any damage. Dilfer can also be a very effective game manager, and as long as the Niners don't ask him to carry the offense with his arm he can effectively distribute the ball to his playmakers and sustain some drives that will keep the San Francisco off the field. Finally, it will be more difficult for defenses to disguise coverages against Dilfer as he has seen just about everything during his 14-year career. Expect the 49ers to open things up a bit as a healthy Dilfer will be able to make a lot more throws than an injured Smith.
I see several problems with that answer. First off is giving Dilfer time. Considering the offensive line struggles, I'm curious how much time he'll have tomorrow. The second issue is the effective game manager. He used to be an effective game manager, but when he was running things earlier in the season, it really seemed like he'd lost some of that game management skill.
And from the advanced scouting report:
Bulger was on fire against the Saints on Sunday as the ground game slowed down New Orleans' pass rush and gave Bulger more time to read the coverage and distribute the ball to all of his receivers...St. Louis still has a lot of weapons in the passing game and Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce can scorch a secondary on any given night. The Rams have not done a great job of protecting the football, however, giving up a league-high 16 interceptions and 29 sacks (third highest in the league). The 49ers spent a lot of money on CB Nate Clements in the hopes that they would end up with two shutdown corners, but Clements and Walt Harris have been a disappointment so far this season...But it's not all the secondary's fault as the pass rush has not been able to get any kind of consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
The last line sums it all up. I really don't blame Nate Clements and Walt Harris for the passing woes. The 49ers are still 7th in the league against #1 receivers (I'm gonna ride that stat till the end of time). The pass rush really shook up Bulger in Week 2, but we'll see if he gets more time tomorrow.