Rams have made gains — enough to win?

Here is my Saturday column previewing the upcoming 49ers-Rams game.

SANTA CLARA – If the 49ers lose to the Rams on Sunday, you can forget about the 49ers.

The 49ers currently cling to the sixth and final NFC playoff seed. The 49ers can’t afford to lose to the Rams and fall behind in the race for the final Wild Card spot.

The Rams have improved since the 49ers embarrassed them in St. Louis Week 4. The Rams actually have a running game now. Since they gained just 18 yards on 19 carries against the 49ers earlier this year, the Rams have rushed for 1,063 yards and 4.9 yards per carry.

And they can stop the run, too. The past four games when their defense has had a full week of rest, they have held opponents to a minuscule 2.6 yards per carry.

The Rams lost their starting quarterback, Sam Bradford, and that seems to have been a blessing. Bradford couldn’t throw deep (58 passer rating on passes more than 20 yards downfield this season) and he couldn’t convert third downs (80 passer rating on third downs). The Rams’ backup QB, 30-year-old Kellen Clemens, has excelled on deep passes (118 passer rating) and third downs (134 passer rating) this season.

The Rams have an extra day-and-a-half to prepare for the Niners than the Niners have to prepare for the Rams. The Rams coaches started game planning for the 49ers last Sunday night. The 49ers coaches couldn’t fully commit to the Rams’ game plan until they landed in Northern California early Tuesday morning.

The 49ers’ offense hasn’t been this bad since the Mike Singletary Era. The past three games since the 49ers returned from their Bye week, the 49ers have converted just 29 percent of their third downs.

It gets worse.

The past three games, the 49ers have averaged just 3.3 yards per carry. They’re a run-first team that can’t run the ball right now.

It gets worse.

The 49ers have had just two drives of more than 49 net yards, no drives of more than 62 net yards, and no drives with more than three first downs the past three games. They cannot sustain offense so they rely on their defense to force turnovers. But the Rams’ offense is tied for 7th-best in the league with 1.3 turnovers per game. The 49ers probably are going to have to put together long drives to score on the Rams.

And here’s why I think the 49ers will be able to do that:

Michael Crabtree.

He says he will play against the Rams. He tore his Achilles’ tendon six months ago, but he says “for the most part” he is the same player he was before the injury.

I expect the 49ers to play Michael Crabtree at split end, Mario Manningham’s spot, and throw him a slant early in the game just to get him the ball, like they did with Manningham in the last game.

If Crabtree is as healthy as he says he is, just his presence on the field should be enough for the 49ers to beat to the Rams. Lining him up on the other side of the formation from Anquan Boldin should make it nearly impossible for the Rams to double-cover either guy, especially when the Rams also have to account for the 49ers’ tight end, Vernon Davis. The Rams can’t cover all three of those players – the Rams secondary almost is as bad as the Redskins’ secondary.

Think of the 49ers’ stretch run to make the playoffs as Ferris’ Bueller’s attempt to cut school without getting caught. And think of the game against the Rams as the scene when Bueller tried to get a seat at Chez Quis by pretending to be Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago.

The snooty maître’d with the pencil-thin blonde mustache didn’t believe Bueller was Froman and threatened to call the police. Right before Bueller outsmarted the maître’d, Bueller turned to the camera and said, “If I’m going to get busted, it is not going to be by a guy like that.”

The Rams are that guy.

The Rams won’t bust the Niners.

The 49ers will beat them 23-13.

Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for the Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at grantcohn@gmail.com.

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  1. Jacksonville has improved too, and we have also improved since the last time, we played the Lambs and we beat them soundly. Also our defense is quite good, we can stop the run, can they stop ours, I don’t think so. We will prevail.

    1. If you cant catch the Game, I can help you access it online in HD live or on-demand anytime after the game is over! Message me on FB

  2. Well, 10 points ain’t a blowout, so I’m OK with that prediction. The analysis seems about right, although MM may be a factor too. It’s definitely a gut check for the 9ers.

  3. The play the auburn qb just pulled was a thing of beauty. I always wondered why ck doesn’t use it at times when running the option. That was playground type thinking

  4. MD,
    It was a nice play. I’m not sure if it was a designed play because the QB sold the run by carrying the ball with his non-throwing hand.

    Alabama trying to put it away with a 57 yrd@#$@#$@$# What!!!!

    1. I know it wasn’t that’s why I said “playground” type of play. I’m sure there have been some open backs or receivers at some point. Was a thing of beauty.
      And on a final note. WOW!!!! That 1 second came back to haunt bama. What an ending

    1. I’m not a college fan much either, but that rivalry, that matchup, the fans and how the game went back and forth; I do believe that’s what the game of football is all about.

      1. I didn’t watch that one, but the highlights were amazing.
        This Irish QB is taking some shots. Do I remember right that you’re an Irish fan, Razor?

      2. Yes sir. I miss Parseghian, Devine and Holtz. Those were the ND teams the 49ers used to draft from. Not so much anymore….

      3. Was it ’65 that a big showdown came between undefeated ND and Mich State? Hugely hyped, hard fought tie because Ara didn’t go for the 2pointer, so the outcome didn’t live up to the buildup.

      4. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! I walked into that one!
        “…pie in the face for being a sleepyfull Joe…” (J. Sebastian ’65)
        You mentioned Ara P., so I thought…..

      5. I do have a story for you regarding Devine. In ’79, ND was playing against the Wolverines at their house. There was like 5 seconds left in the game and Michigan was attempting the game winning chip shot. ND linebacker Bob Crable climbed up onto the back of opposing center George Lilja, and was able to block the kick, allowing ND a 12–10 victory. The following season they outlawed those type of tactics…..

      6. Believe it or not, my grandmother was a volunteer at the Naval Academy Hospital where she was a big fan of Roger Staubach. She got to know him and thought he was really nice. There’s a picture of Roger holding me as a baby with the Navy Coach standing next to us. I also have a football from the period with all the Navy Team signatures. I remember her rooting for her Roger and those Cowboys….

  5. Grant, Rams always play us hard and their DL is extremely athletic. With that said, we must play a balance game to slow their pass rush and keep their defense on the field. On the defensive side we must stop Stacy and the run game to put pressure on the rams passing game. Go Niners

  6. I just witnessed the 4th most incredible finish in my life!
    1. Cal Bears lateral win in the Big Game.
    2. Doug Flutie’ hail Mary at Boston College.
    3. The Catch!
    4. Auburn “The Return” wow!

    1. how can any self respecting niners fan not list the niners-saints 2011 playoff game, where niners score 2 tds in last minute, last with 14 sceonds left to win—it was called the catch II—

      1. The “catch II” also known as the redemption reception was Owens vs GB

        The “catch III” was also known as the Vernon post.

        Mark. If you’re going to call someone out on their fanhood. You better make damn sure you’re right
        Go Niners.

  7. Grant, awesome analogy. Will this be the best defensive front we have played against since the last time we played them? I think Long and Quinn have improved since last time. How do you see Snyder holding up?

  8. I know this is a 49er blog and I may be the longest 9er fan here but I love College football and I may have just watched one of the top 10 games in college history.
    Not only was Auburn\Alabama possibly a top 10 all time game but today overall could be one of the best days ever in college football. Mich\ohio St. was a great game, seeing Duke beat N.C. and playing at the level they are has been awesome. We still have Clemson\S. Carolina, N.D. and Stanford along with Missouri VS S. Carolina by the end of the day we may have seen one of the greatest Saturdays in NCAA history and that doesn’t even take into consideration yesterdays Fresno S. Jose shoot out. Now if the 9ers can beat the Hell out of St. L tomorrow it will have been a pretty damn good weekend. Oh and go Monty and Analy tonight.

    1. All that matters is winning that game tomorrow against the Rams. The enjoyment of today’s gridiron college bonanza will fade rather quickly if not…..

    2. For the sake of accuracy that’s Missouri VS. Tex. AM and I forgot Grants big game UCLA and USC sorry Grant i’m rooting for USC they are my last pick on a 5 team parlay card.

    3. I thought the ending of Boise State-Oklahoma was amazing. That one second to glory runback was incredible. Nick Saban gambled and lost.

    4. Look at the end of that play, you’ll see #79 from Alabama purposely target an Auburn player who was completely removed from the play. what are your thoughts about this? would you want a player like this on your team?

  9. Harvin is doubtful with “soreness” to the hip. I told you that hip was a serious injury, and a guy like him depends on it for his elusiveness. The dealer in their locker room better give him a shot…..The Vikings fleeced them. Payback is a beach!

  10. I dunno, Grant;
    showboat sophomore quarterbacks had some problems today.
    Texas A&M is now 8-4 and “boy wonder” Johnny Manziel
    certainly reminds some of us of Colin Kaepernick.
    Too hot or maybe too cool for his own good???

    As you point out, no sustained drives over 62 yards
    and only two of them lasting 49 yards (less than half the field).
    No drives with more than three first downs in the past 3 games?
    Crabtree may change things…. unless the Rams dominate and
    derail the Niners running game. Then they will be free to lay
    back and emphasize their passing defense.
    So I think the key question is ‘who puts points on the board’
    early. If we take a big lead, then yes…. we will win.
    If the Rams jump out in front, then we will suck eggs.

      1. You missed Adam’s point, Darrel. His comment is directed at a no-life knucklehead who comes on a Niners site to root against the Niners. That’s an individual who should not refer to the Niners or their fans as “we”. The dude is Tweedledee. Tweedledum would be Capeman, the Seahogs fan who loiters on here with the same lame game.

    1. 3 out of their 4 losses were against the top 5 teams in the country and he is still in the running for the Heisman. He is having a good year and carrying a so so football team dumba**.

    2. You are a sorry soul. YOU are not a Niner fan or deserve to be a niner fan. Move on to watch your chiefs and enjoy the rest of the season.

    1. The Chiefs hate Alex now. His defense needed some help and realized Average Alex was Cassel 2.0

  11. Niners 19-16.

    Out here for the holidays and on talk radio its become fashionable to say the Niners now have a defense good enough to win games by itself. But we just did that experiment in successive weeks and the results came in with losses to Car and NO. One win against the Redskins is nice but it doesnt prove a lot. I’ll take any win here, Crabs coming out healthy, and to summon other holidays i’ll save Judgment Day(s) for the game against Sea and the playoffs

  12. Bro Tuna, CFC, AES, Jack, MWNiner – Just wanted to let you guys know my kids team won their Super Bowl game. They were trailing Norco 16-6 in 2nd quarter and roared back to win 42-16.
    Corona Chargers Jr. Pee Wee SB Champs!……Lol
    Go Niners!!

      1. Thanks guys….whole team went to Buffalo Wild Wings….It was wild there, filled with UCLA/USC fans. My Bruins spanked USCum! Hundley was awesome. Drinking Pedialyte for hangover today…..it works. Wife was designated driver ;).
        Must win game for Niners!

  13. 49er Defense:

    Hey babe what we gonna do
    No look behind me glances
    Straight time this time
    Well take our chances
    Darling it’s been so long
    Every lonely hour
    What the sinner pulls the trigger
    And the world turns sour

    *whisper in the wind
    Locked in silence
    Profession of violence
    Whisper on the wind
    Locked in silence
    Profession of violence

    Try to pick up the pieces
    Maybe move away
    But the lifer
    Was only yesterday
    Down the halls of justice
    The echoes never fade
    Notches on my gun
    Another debt is paid

    1. Razor – That’s a UFO song isn’t it?
      “Too hot to handle” is a good UFO song, hopefully that will be Niner offense today.

    1. December 01, 2013, Update news from Seattle for @3Jordan…

      The good news in Seattle is everyone else is healthy and will play, with the exception of suspended cornerback Walter Thurmond and cornerback Brandon Browner, who is out with a groin injury while awaiting a final decision from the league on a possible one-year suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.

      Russell Wilson, of course, is undefeated at Century Link Field.
      Wilson has 26 touchdowns passes and six interceptions at home, compared to 19 TD throws and 10 interceptions on the road. His 72.9 quarterback rating at home is third in the NFL over the past two seasons.With his next touchdown pass, Wilson will join Dan Marino, Peyton Manning and Andy Dalton as the only players in NFL history to throw at least 20 TD passes in each of his first two seasons.

      Here’s the TD passes list for the first two seasons:

      Dan Marino — 68

      Peyton Manning — 52

      Andy Dalton — 47

      Russell Wilson — 45

      Jeff Garcia – 42

      To mention one, Wilson has a quarterback rating of 105.1, sixth in the NFL, with Kaepernick at 86.6 (18th), Luck at 84.3 (21st) and Griffin 81.9 (26th).

      Quarterbacks, of course, hardly are on their own, and Mariucci states the obvious in noting that Wilson has the best defense and running game of the four.“The two best friends for a young quarterback are a good defense and a running game and he’s been fortunate to have that,’’ Mariucci said. “But when you just evaluate his skill set and his production and how he is playing individually, he’s has got it. There’s no doubt — he’s got it.’’

      1. Tweedledum competing hard for the TOTY Award*. He’s trailing Tweedledee, but making a kick down the backstretch.
        (*TOTY = Troll Of The Year)

    2. Good News? Crapman, we don’t give a crap. If the Seahacks win the Super Bowl, their got to be a BIG *, since 1/2 the team, is on PED’s. Crapman, why are you here?

      1. He’s a stalker. A ex 49er fan that jumped off the bandwagon as soon as Young went down and (supposedly) became a Seahawks fan. More likely just another troll, wallowing in their self-induced misery. He probably doesn’t even like football.

      2. Big P,

        If he was a life long Seahawk fan, that is one thing, but he is nothing but a fair weather front runner fan, and having a hard time, where he belongs.

      3. It seems there are a lot of people in this blog name 23jordan. Sorry my Bad, my next Update will not only be for 23jordan but for all you 49ers fans.

      4. December 02, 2013. Update from Seattle for 23Jordan and his 49ers buddies.
        The weather at Seattle W.A, the forecast is for freezing temperatures, and possibly snow. How do you think that will impact the Saints?
        They’ll definitely go more run heavy. The Saints can run the ball if they commit to it. If I’m being honest, though, there’s no question the Saints are built to win indoors. These conditions clearly benefit the Seahawks, a run first team that’s built for physicality. If the Saints can’t spread out the offense and throw the rock in ideal conditions, then it becomes more difficult. But they still have to play the game and the Saints’ defense is top 5 in the NFL this year. This team can compete with any team on any field.

        Tonight the weather will certainly be a factor in the outcome of the game, and most likely, the team that can run the football with success and the team that makes less penalty and turnovers will win the game. The Seahawks has an edge over the Saints; they can run the football with success, they have a stellar defense and also they have the 12th man who gives the Hawks an advantage playing at home.

      5. Noooooo, Tweedledum, not yet. You still don’t get it?
        Go to the Saints site and jack up the swamp loggers. Then, AFTER tonight’s game, come on back and jack us up in anticipation of Sea/SF matchup. Its really frickin stupid and small-minded, but its at least understandable in the context of rivalries. Then IF your guys win, you can gloat for two days, then turn your attention to the next team. You only make an ass of yourself loitering on here.
        Freedom of Speech comes with implied responsibilities. Print out a copy of this for your future reference.

      6. Capeman,
        Your weather report just confirms how crappy it is to live in Seattle, where it’s always raining, snowing, etc.

      7. 23jordan,

        After last night 34-7 Saints humiliating loss to the Seahawks, it’s more likely you won’t make the wager.

        All your speculation the Hawks without Browner and Thurmond they were doom and it’s the start of the Hawks down fall. Jordan the 49ers are next on the Hawks list, we’ll see how your boy Kap play against the #1 team in the NFL with best defense and with their young upcoming star QB name Russell Wilson.

        Btw, what do you think of Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell, Jeremy lane, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and how about K.J. Wright the LB going against Vernon Davis. A. Boldin is going to have a long day against Richard Sherman and Maxwell will take Crabtree out of the game. And the Hawks front seven defense will shut down Kap and the 49ers running game.

        Now who’s looking up and who will be traveling to Seattle in the Playoffs. But first, the 49ers need to play the 2nd seed Saints at N.O in the Playoffs, who I think will win all their remaining games.

      1. OREGONINER,

        They’re not only high school buddies, but also weed buddies as well that’s why this group of jerks are all staring down the toilet bowl looking at their brains. Sometimes what you need to do is just ignore their ignorant comments.

  14. The Browns had that game and they still found a way to lose. It’s just gotta be so painful to be one of their fans.

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