The San Francisco 49ers welcome the St. Louis Rams to town on Sunday, with the 49ers looking to lock up the NFC West once and for all. While the 49ers are sizable favorites in the game, there are certain individual matchups where the Rams could overwhelm the 49ers.
One such matchup is defensive end Chris Long against the right side of the 49ers offensive line. This matchup is tough enough for any right tackle/right guard combination, but if Chilo Rachal gets the start at right guard over Adam Snyder it could be a whole lot more difficult.
Chris Long is putting together an absolutely dominant 2011 campaign. He has a career-high ten sacks and has a five game sack streak dating to week eight. Last season against the 49ers, Long had a sack in each game. Anthony Davis was learning many of the tricks of the trade throughout last season. This year he had been starting to come on strong, but he struggled mightily against the Ravens. Some of that has to do with the incredible talent he was facing, but some of it also has to do with Chilo Rachal ending up back in the lineup next to him.
The Rams do all sorts of interesting things with Long throughout a given game. There is the basic pass rush effort, but they also try to disguise him in some coverage. I took a brief look at the Rams game against Arizona and aside from just dropping him back in coverage every so often, the Rams also would move him out to cover a tight end or running back split wide, but then bring him back in just before the snap.
On one play where they did that, Long blew in completely untouched to hit Skelton as he passed the ball. I don't know if that sufficiently confused the right tackle, but nobody picked up one of the top sack men in the league, so I'm guessing a mistake was made.
The Rams will be looking for momentum plays to swing things in their favor this Sunday. The 49ers should be able to roll through this matchup, but when you've got talent like Chris Long on the other side of the ball, nothing is guaranteed. The Rams will be bringing heat from Long on the left side and Hall on the right side.
I'd imagine the 49ers will be looking to firmly establish the run to slow down the pressure, but the passing game will still have to show it can make some plays when the opposition turns up the heat. This is a tough matchup in that regard, but a quality test as the team tries to ready itself for a potential postseason run.