We’ve reached the last game of the season, believe it or not. Seemed like eons ago when the Rams faced off against the “dream team” Eagles in the home opener. Such high hopes for the regular season after going undefeated in the preseason only to have eight players go down in that first game – most notably RB Steven Jackson, QB Sam Bradford, and WR Danny Amendola. The Rams’ season wouldn’t be the same after that.
Fast forward 15 games later only to find ourselves staring down the oh-so-wrong end of a 2-13 record. If it’s about the journey and not the destination then it was a long path of frustration and futility. For those who’ve suffered the most the season will mercifully come to an end tomorrow.
Don’t expect the 49ers to sit back and relax though. They are still in the hunt for the second seed which bears the fruit of a first round bye during the playoffs. A win in the Edward Jones Dome hands them a week off. Or they can wish upon a star that the New Orleans Saints lose against the Carolina Panthers. I don’t expect the latter to happen so the 49ers will do what they can to secure that two spot.
This may be a blessing in disguise for the Rams though. They could land the coveted (?) number one overall pick in the 2012 draft (twice in three years) with another loss and a Colts win over the Jaguars. After all, there has to be some positive in all the negative that the Rams have faced this season. Jacksonville is 3.5 point favorites for those of you who are into the spread. Go Colts!
Game stats from week 13: Rams at 49ers
What the Rams offense has to do
First and foremost, run the ball better.
In their first meeting back in week 13, the Rams were shut out at Candlestick. Too bad the transformers didn’t shut down that day… RB’s Steven Jackson (10 carries) and Jerious Norwood (11 carries) COMBINED for a whopping 19 rushing yards. It might be safe to say we’ll see better numbers than that, right?
It will be good to see if QB Kellen Clemens bounce back from last week’s performance of 68 passing yards. You know, baby steps FORWARD and not backwards. Or this just could be the part of me that’s accepting of mediocrity. Hey, I’m just trying to stay positive to the end.
Also, according to ProFootball Talk’s Gregg Rosenthal the Rams never advanced past the 49ers 45-yard line. I’d like to see them at least do that once – just to say that some progress was made.
But like last time, it could be an uphill battle.
LB’s Aldon Smith (rookie out of Mizzou) and Larry Grant (former Ram – ahem…) will do their best to make it a repeat shut out game for the 49ers. Not to mention, DE Justin Smith and CB Carlos Rogers. ILB NaVorro Bowman is not a household name (yet) but he actually had the most solo tackles (6) in week 13. Their other star LB Patrick Willis is listed as questionable due to a hamstring injury.
What the Rams defense needs to do
Hold RB Frank Gore to the 21 carries and 73 rushing yards just like they did in week 13. I think this can be done again – at least for the first three quarters. Depends on how much the defense is left on the field due to the lack on offensive on the Rams’ part. Don’t count out their other RB Kendall Hunter. He’ll be getting some time in so Gore can get rest.
The real struggle again will be keeping the passing game (insert scowls here) in check. The 49ers’ WR trio of Michael Crabtree (96 yards), Kyle Williams (65 yards) and Ted Ginn Jr. (55 yards) gained over 200 yards on merely 10 total receptions. Luckily, for the Rams it sounds like the latter duo of Williams (concussion) and Ginn Jr. (ankle) are listed as questionable for Sunday’s rematch. So, that leaves WR Brett Swain, their beast of a TE, Vernon Davis as their main passing threats.
What the Rams special teams need to do
Oh, I don’t know… Maybe get a field goal through the uprights???
I’m not sure what’s up with K Josh Brown but he better get his act together. He’s only made two of his last five field goal attempts. Last week against the Steelers he was 0 for 2. I can almost understand the missed 52-yarder but the 20-yarder, I have no answer.
With their number one and two return men listed as questionable the 49ers may turn to RB Kendall Hunter to pull double duty. He’s listed as the back up RB as well as the back up KR. Regardless of who’s back there the Rams special teams need to limit the 20+ yard returns. Special teams is all about field position, isn’t it?
Who will win
Honestly, I just want to see signs of life from the Rams. Get points on the board some how and not get shut out on the last game of the season. Overall, I’d like to see the younger players get some “meaningful” playing time. I realize performance bonuses might be on the line but why not see what these guys can and cannot do. In reality, the Rams have been in a talent re-evaluation mode for quite a while now.
The Rams will fight hard for the home crowd and for their own dignity. But they will come up short again and with a Colt victory will clinch the first overall pick in the April draft.
Rams fall to the 49ers again 24-10, but this time put up at least one TD and one field goal.
Sobering stat: Only three teams have eaten the dreaded donut in 2011 – week 2 the Steelers blanked the Seahawks 24-0, week 8 the Bills shut out the Redskins 23-0, and our beloved Rams were kept out of the end zone twice. The first time in week 13 by the 49ers and once again by the Steelers just this last week in Heinz Field.
*Thank you very much for a wonderful 2011 and here’s to an even better 2012. Happy new years everyone.