Troy Smith had a lot of things going against him going in to last Sunday’s game against the Broncos. He had to travel half way around the world, start an NFL game for the first time in years, and had not even practiced the 49ers playbook until days before the game. Overall I say he did well enough to play the Rams. Now he will have two weeks to prepare for the game with all the support he needs. However, there are two advantages Troy Smith had against the Broncos that he will not against the Rams: The element of surprise and the legs of Frank Gore.
The Broncos and the rest of the world did not know what to expect from Troy Smith. They knew they would see a lot of Frank Gore, but that was about it. The Rams will have two weeks to watch film on Troy Smith to know and practice against his tendencies and the reduced playbook he has been given. That reduced playbook seems to include a lot of rushing plays, some play action roll outs, and a lot of designed quick passes to the sidelines. Don’t expect any of these to be available against the Rams.
Troy will not be able count on Frank Gore to move the chains rushing the ball like he did last Sunday. Unlike the awful rushing defense of the Broncos (ranked 31st in rushing yards per game), the Rams defense against the run has been solid (ranked 8th).
The Broncos defensive ends did not do a good job keeping Troy Smith between the tackles. As a defensive end, you are responsible for making sure no one gets outside of you. They are supposed to push the play to the inside and get help from others in pursuit. Troy Smith was very effective running and throwing the ball on these rollouts. The Rams defense will be prepared.
The designed quick pass to the sideline will definitely not work. I expected to see the Rams corners playing close to the line of scrimmage and possibly trying to jump the route and take it back for six.
So what does that leave?
Now that Troy Smith has two weeks to practice, Mike Johnson really needs to open up the playbook. Troy showed glimpses of what he could do with more plays at his disposal. The quick slant to Vernon Davis was perfectly timed and on target and the double move fade route by Crabtree was on the spot. On both these plays Troy Smith stayed in the pocket and hit the right man.
Now opening up the playbook has its risks. Troy Smith got very lucky with that hailmary pass off his back foot into double coverage. I know Mike Singltary is risk adverse, but opening up the playbook is the only way we are going to beat the Rams.
Or do you think the playbook we used against the Broncos will work against the Rams?