Teacher: Billy, if you spell [couch] correctly you pass second grade.
Billy Madison: Couch. C-O-U-C-H!
Teacher: That is correct!
Billy Madison: I AM THE SMARTEST MAN ALIVE!
When the 49ers were up 35-3 at the half, I began considering what to write in the recap. I'm not sure what made me think of Billy Madison, but our 49ers remind me of Billy Madison at this moment. To a normal team, beating the crap out of the Rams is nothing to get excited about. Unfortunately, the 49ers are not your normal team and a blowout of the 49ers is worth getting excited about. The team snapped a 6-game losing streak with a 35- victory over the Rams to improve to 3-6.
There was a lot of discussion in the game thread about finishing the game. After putting up 35 points in the first half, the 49ers failed to score in the second half and played some rather sloppy ball, particularly in the penalty department. And yet, I'm not all that worried about that. In fact, I'm glad we're able to bitch about not closing properly in a 35- ballgame.
The offense struggled throughout the second half, but I wasn't exactly surprised by that. The 49ers had every intention of running the ball in the second half and the Rams had every intention of tightening up their run defense. As bad as the Rams defense was against the run in the first half, when you no longer have to concentrate on the passing game it's a lot easier to stop the run. Shaun Hill had a perfect first half (so sayeth the passer rating) but clearly had no need to make any big plays in the second half. Frank Gore did most of his damage in the first half and fortunately that first quarter fumble didn't bite the team in the butt.
On defense, the pass rush got pressure all day long, finishing with 4 sacks. Donnie Avery did have a very solid performance (8 rec, 93 yards), but Walt Harris deflected a potential touchdown pass and Avery's yards really didn't do enough for the Rams.
The number that I do like seeing is the +1 in the turnover margin. Gore and Foster each coughed up a ball, but the 49ers snagged two interceptions and fumble of their own and put up a touchdown on each turnover. More importantly, Shaun Hill did an excellent job protecting the ball. On both sacks the sacker had a chance to swipe at the ball, but Hill was quick to wrap it up and protect it, which is something JTO could never do.
Of course, once again, this was the St. Louis Rams. The Rams are clearly an awful team and will do battle with the Lions for the #1 pick (although the Lions are probably going to lock that one up). Next week (and in the subsequent weeks) is when we'll find out how much of this was crappy Rams and how much was improved 49ers. The 49ers head to Dallas, then Buffalo, before returning home to face the first place New York Jets.
In an ugly season like this, it's simplest to just focus on the next opponent. The rivalry with the Cowboys is not at its zenith, but an upset in Big D would be mighty sweet. The Cowboys face a monstrous game tonight at their hated rivals, the Washington Redskins. A loss puts the Cowboys playoff hopes in BIG trouble. Either way, the 49ers will need to bring their A-game if they want to shock the Cowboys. Needless to say, I find myself quite excited about this game. The 49ers will be big underdogs, but maybe they can carry some of the momentum from today over to next weekend.
Check back early and often this week as we prepare for next Sunday, but for now, enjoy Coach Singletary's first win as an NFL head coach. I'm obviously not in the locker-room, but I hope a game ball goes to him. Even though the team got a bit lackadaisical, Singletary was still trying to get them to keep their eye on the finish line. I'd like to think this week's practice will be a little extra fired-up and chippy going into such a big game.
Thanks to everyone who took part in the open thread. It's certainly a lot more fun when the 49ers are rolling to an easy win.
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