Yesterday morning I took some time to chat with Joe McAtee from Turf Show Times on a Google+ Hangout. We had plenty of time to cover a wide range of topics, but we also wanted to do the more traditional five questions exchange to set up the matchup. You can check out my answers over at Turf Show Times and check out what Joe had to say below about his Rams. Thanks to Joe for another fun week of preparation.
Niners Nation: What's the latest on Danny Amendola's latest injury? Chris Givens had a big game last week, so is he becoming a bit more of a go-to guy with Amendola banged up?
Turf Show Times: Well, he sat out Wednesday practice. It's hard to know with Danny; he's tough as nails, but he's constantly dealing with some kind of injury. Given that he sat out the second half against the Cards, I could understand why Fisher would give him the red light on Sunday. At the same time, if he isn't, I expect him to be on the field for the first offensive snap. It's the Amendola Principle, and as Rams fans, we abide. As for Givens, he was targeted in more ways than he has been in the past.
While Sam still connected with him deep on the touchdown, he was used much more frequently on intermediate routes. For the last six weeks, Givens has been targeted between five and seven times every game, but he posted a season-high five receptions against the Cardinals for 115 yards, also a season high. I think part of what opened things up there was the running game and the playaction it helped therein. We'll see if the Rams approach you guys with a similar gameplan, though I'd be surprised if they did.
NN: Is Sam Bradford your answer at QB, and a follow-up to the first question, how much can he do with Amendola sidelined?
TST: It's really too hard to tell. The lack of chemistry over three seasons haven't done him any favors: three offensive coordinators (Shurmur, McDaniels, Schottenheimer), three QB coaches (Dick Curl, nobody, Frank Cignetti), two head coaches (Steve Spagnuolo and Jeff Fisher). Throw in the ever-changing stable of wide receivers and the regularly injured and often untalented offensive line options, it's been very, very difficult to gauge Sam's play individually. Not having Amendola for every game save the season opener last year certainly suggested that the Rams' WR corps was nowhere near sufficient to run any kind of offense, let alone McDaniels' high risk/high reward attack. But Sam's having the best year of his career without an intermediate option in the passing game and an offensive line that no QB would be comfortable taking seven-step drops behind.
He may not have instantly turned into a franchise-catapulting QB, but I personally can't lay all of the blame at his feet. Given that his contract doesn't explode until the 2014 season, I think the Rams have time to continue to build around him and spend the offseason after next year to evaluate whether he's worth the $27m he's due for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
NN: How has the rushing game shaken out the last couple week?
TST: One of the most frustrating things this season has been the lack of rushing attempts when everything points to a heavier workload. Jeff Fisher and Brian Schottenheimer came to St. Louis from rush-heavy schemes. Steven Jackson is still a wonderful threat out of the backfield, and Daryl Richardson has certainly been a great selection so late in the draft given what he brings to the team. On top of those two aspects (coaching and talent), the passing offense has struggled mightily at times. And yet whether it was the Bears game or the Dolphins game or even the Jets game two weeks ago, the Rams have leaned on that passing offense in situations where the running game looks like the better option.
Against the Jets, Sam looked pretty awful at times en route to a 23/44, 170 yard performance. That's 23 completions for just 170 yards. On the other hand, in the same game Steven Jackson ran 13 times for 81 yards and Daryl Richardson chipped in a half dozen rushes for 26 yards. The running game looked much more threatening than the aerial route, but the Rams had a gameplan that obviously relied on the pass and stuck to it. Surprising then that last week against the Cardinals, the Rams lacked a spark in the air early and really adjusted their game heavily to lean on the run. Sam finished 8/17 with 205 yards, a stark contrast to his game a week earlier against the Jets while Steven Jackson carried the offense with 139 yards on 24 carries. So who knows what the Rams will throw at you guys this week. The 49ers have a wonderful run defense, but you guys have played the pass very, very well this year as well. And the Rams can't bank on punters turned quarterbacks every week, so we'll see what they do on the ground.
NN: It's only been a few weeks since the tie, but what has changed or developed for the Rams since then?
TST: A horrible game and a wonderful game. It's the rollercoaster of a season for a very, very young team who lacks collective experience (Scott Wells, Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Cortland Finnegan are all first-year Rams in key positions). I think the tie certainly had an effect on the locker room that manifested a week later in a pathetic loss at home against the Jets in a game in which the Rams were favored to win for the first time this season. They followed that by traveling to Phoenix and putting forth an incredibly impressive final three quarters in that game. Overall, I don't think much has changed since the first Rams-Niners game. We're a team whose standard deviation is soooooooooooo high, it's hard to know what you'll get with the Rams on any given week.
NN: Final prediction for this game? You can't predict a tie.
TST: BUT EVERY RAMS-NINERS GAME THIS SEASON HAS ENDED IN A TIE. HOW DARE YOU PROVIDE ME SUCH SHORT SHRIFT! I mean, I had you guys winning big in San Fran. Then Alex Smith goes out. Then Kaepernick, well, you guys are living the saga. So who knows. I'll guess a tight Niners win, a TD or less...but I'd happily be wrong this week.