Five things to watch for in 49ers-Rams

BY foxsports • September 25, 2013

FAMILIAR FOES

Besides meeting twice a year, last season the Rams and 49ers played nearly 10 quarters, with the first NFL tie in four seasons and a Rams victory late in overtime in the rematch. While both sides bemoaned missed opportunities, they loved what Rams coach Jeff Fisher called "knock-down, drag-out" games that 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh noted were "hotly contested."

"That's football in the good old days, the good old Big Ten football -- you feel like you're playing Wisconsin or Michigan State again," said Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis, who played for Ohio State.

S-L-O-W STARTS

The Rams have trailed by double digits all three games, overcoming an 11-point deficit against Arizona, falling a TD shy after Atlanta built a 21-point bulge, and coming up empty against the Cowboys.

The last two games, the 49ers' offense also has been a non-starter. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was 13 for 27 for 150 yards with an interception and three sacks.

"The effort's been extremely good and the precision needs to be better," Harbaugh said.

OFF AND RUNNING

Kaepernick hasn't hurt defenses much with his legs thus far, and the Rams will do their best to keep it that way by making him pay for any forays.

Neither team has generated much on the ground, with San Francisco's Frank Gore getting just 11 carries last week and totaling 142 yards on the season. No Rams players are over 100 yards. St. Louis hasn't run much because it has been playing catch-up all the time.

PENALTY PROBLEMS

San Francisco followed 12 penalties for 121 yards in a 29-3 rout at Seattle with six more for 48 yards in Sunday's 27-7 loss to the Colts, taking the 49ers' flag total to 29.

San Francisco's defense gave Indianapolis five first downs by penalty, including on the first two snaps of the game. Three penalties were called on cornerback Tarell Brown.

"There were first downs by penalty. And, again, in a game that we were really a touchdown away at 13-7, up until seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, and there was a key drive there," Harbaugh said. "I think our defense, that's not something we want to be about. We don't want to be giving first downs by penalty and we'll keep working at it."

NEW-LOOK LINEBACKERS

49ers All-Pro linebacker Aldon Smith is away from the team indefinitely to undergo treatment for substance abuse. Fellow All-Pro Patrick Willis is nursing a groin injury that could sideline him, too. That means some shuffling, and playing time for untested backups.

Dan Skuta, Corey Lemonier and Demarcus Dobbs will have larger roles in the effort to end the first losing streak of Harbaugh's three seasons.

"Guys will be ready to step in there," safety Donte Whitner said. "There's no time for excuses. It's all good when you're winning games two years in a row, but a little adversity here and we'll see what we're made of."

ADDITIONAL FACTS AND FIGURES FROM STATS LLC

* The 49ers lost, 27-7, to the Colts last Sunday, and have now dropped two straight games by a combined score of 56-10. The last time San Francisco lost three consecutive contests was in 2010, when the Niners began their season with a mark of 0-5.

* St. Louis was blown out, 31-7, by the Cowboys in Week 3 and has also lost two straight games since winning its 2013 season opener. Including victories in two of their last three home contests, the Rams are 5-4 overall at Edward Jones Dome since the beginning of 2012.

* The Rams went 1-0-1 versus the 49ers last season, including a 16-13 overtime win the last time the clubs took the field in St. Louis (Week 13). San Francisco and St. Louis have played 127 games against each other all-time (including playoffs) and both teams have won 62 of those meetings (3 ties).

* Kaepernick threw for just 150 yards (1 interception) in the Niners' loss last Sunday. Kaepernick is 26-of-55 (47.3 percent) for 277 yards, zero TDs and four interceptions in his last two games (27-of-39, 412 yards, 3 TD and 0 INT in Week 1 versus Green Bay).

* Austin Pettis scored the Rams' lone touchdown on a four-yard reception from Sam Bradford in Week 3. Including Pettis, St. Louis has three different players who have two TD catches in 2013 -- one of three NFL teams (Green Bay and Denver are the others) to boast three players with two or more touchdown grabs this season.

* The last time the 49ers started a season 1-2 and made the playoffs was in 1981, when they finished 13-3 and defeated the Bengals in Super Bowl XVI. The last time St. Louis lost two of its first three games and made the postseason was in 2004 -- also the last time the Rams made the playoffs (finished 8-8).


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