Alright 49ers fans...time to look ahead

I would love to dwell on the excitement of Monday's 4th quarter for the rest of the season, but unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), the 49ers have another game this Sunday.  The players may get a day off, but at Niners Nation there is no rest for the weary.

This is a very intriguing week for the NFC West.  It's one of those weeks that networks like to give nicknames too.  Maybe Showdown Sunday?  The NFC West Wild Weekend?  Each of the 1-0 teams faces each of the 0-1 teams.  Seattle travel down to Arizona to do battle in the bubble in the desert, while your San Francisco 49ers travel out to the Edward M. Jones Dome to do battle with long-time nemesis, the St. Louis Rams.  While a loss for St. Louis and/or Arizona does not doom their playoff chances, it certainly puts them in an early hole.  We could get a little bit of clarity, or everything could get especially muddied.  Personally, I vote for the former, but that's just me.

Later this week we'll have some cross-site interaction with Turf Show Times, which is always fun.  The plan is to trade 5 questions and post the answers.  Obviously I'll be asking the obvious question about the impact of losing Orlando Pace.  Any thoughts on the other 4 questions?  Feel free to post potential questions in here and I'll select some.

In the meantime, we'll start off with some light Scouts, Inc. reading.  The World Wide Leader runs scouting reports of every matchup in the week leading up to the game, and naturally they are usually Insider protected.  I can't copy and paste the whole article, but I'll throw out some of the important highlights for those of you without Insider access.

49ers-Rams Scout's Inc Preview (Insider-protected)

When 49ers have the ball

Rushing: San Francisco's Frank Gore got very few carries in the preseason due to a broken hand and was not at his best against the much-improved Cardinals defense, but with graders Jonas Jennings and Larry Allen on the left side things should improve as the season progresses. . .Defensive tackle Adam Carriker was drafted in the first round to help shore up the run defense but will take some time to develop. . .we will see the Rams loading up in the box more and running different stunts and zone blitzes this week.
Passing: . . .Smith also needs to be able to locate and identify the Rams strengths and make proper pre-snap adjustments. The Rams did not have a sack against the Panthers and must find some way to some pressure Smith as opposing QBs feel they can exploit the soft spots in St. Louis' two-deep zones. . .And the the Rams linebackers are effective run stoppers but are not great at getting back into coverage and making plays in the passing game.

When Rams have the ball

Rushing: It wouldn't be surprising to see the Rams use more two-TE sets to help whichever player fills the void (of losing Pace), whether right tackle Alex Barron moves to the left side or Adam Goldberg steps into the lineup. . .The 49ers do not rely on fancy stunts and blitzes, instead asking the linemen to play responsibility defense in which they stay home and try to force the ball back into the middle where Willis and fellow ILB Derek Smith can make the play.
Passing: . . .All but four of his 22 completions were to wide receivers, but with a quality TE in Randy McMichael and Jackson's receiving skills out of the backfield you have to think they will try to spread the ball around a bit more against the 49ers. . .The 49ers pass defense is based on getting pressure on the QB, primarily from the outside, and they will be sending one or both of their OLBs in passing situations, hoping Manny Lawson or Tully Banta-Cain can time their blitz to get off the edge unblocked.

Special Teams
Basically, they cite the 49ers quality punt and kick coverage thanks to some smart drafting recently and the general accumulation of quality players.  Certainly nicer than having some guy's 5th string TE handling coverage duties, that's for sure.

The Rams added Dante Hall in the offseason.  While he is not quite the Hall of 2002-2004, he is still a dangerous return man.  The 49ers special teams coverage was phenomenal on Monday and can not afford a letup against such a dangerous return man.

Again, feel free to throw out a question or two in the comments for me to ask Ryan over at Turf Show Times.  I obviously won't be able to ask all of them (well unless there are only a couple questions), but I'll get as much information as I can.  I'll be back with a link dump before class tomorrow morning.

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