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San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams: Preview and Pick
San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams: Preview and Pick
The San Francisco 49ers were predicted to be one of the teams that have a real shot of winning the Super Bowl, but after back to back ugly losses, they have people questioning their talent. It won’t get any easier on Thursday night football when the 49ers travel to play the St. Louis Rams. The Rams have had two bad losses but always play well against the 49ers.
San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams Odds
The NFL betting line for this game opened up with the 49ers listed as three point chalk. As could be expected the public came out and pounded the 49ers at a 78 percent clip. This will most likely stay the same or get higher as the game approaches. Currently the lines has not changed but keep an eye out at top rated online sportsbooks for a line change leading up to kickoff.
If the 49ers want to win they need to recover from the loss against the Indianapolis Colts. Colin Kaepernick was 1-for-6 on passes traveling more than 10 yards downfield Sunday, continuing his recent struggles on such throws. Last year, Kaepernick completed 55.6% of his passes that were longer than 10 yards, fifth-best in the NFL (min. 60 attempts).
Vernon Davis missed Sunday's game with the same hamstring injury that bothered him in Week 2. Davis had three catches for 69 yards and a touchdown on passes deeper than 10 yards downfield in Week 1. The Rams hope to take advantage of this problem, but they have had struggles of their own as Sam Bradford has struggled in recent outings.
The Rams will have to put it altogether on the field if they hope to win this game or keep it close enough to pay underdog backers.
The latest NFL betting trends show that the betting angles are plentiful for this game.
St. Louis is 7-16-2 against the spread (ATS) in its last 25 games when playing at home against San Francisco but this dates back to when the Rams were awful and they have gotten better in recent years. San Francisco7-2-1 straight up in its last 10 games when playing St. Louis but they are only 1-5 ATS in the last six meeting with the pesky Rams. The total has gone over in 5 of St. Louis's last 6 games at home but under in 5 of St. Louis's last 7 games when playing at home against San Francisco
San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams Pick
With plenty of time to go before the start of the regular season, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.
They had as many punts as points and more turnovers than touchdowns.
Yes, for the second straight week the 49ers’ offense was inert, and its latest no-show resulted in a 27-7 upset loss to the Colts on Sunday at Candlestick Park.
On the heels of a 29-3 beating at Seattle, however, this punchless performance was also marked a trait not associated with the 49ers during the Jim Harbaugh era: a lack of passion.
After the Colts rushed for 179 yards, averaged 4.6 yards a carry and had three rushing scores – as many as the 49ers allowed in the 2011 regular season – safety Donte Whitner said some ferocity was missing from a defense regarded as one of the NFL’s best. San Francisco hadn’t allowed 179 rushing yards since Sept. 26, 2010.
“It’s OK to be where you’re supposed to be to do your job, but that passion is what makes the 49ers defense,” Whitner said. “We need to capture that passion really, really quick.”
Whinter wasn’t alone in that assessment after Indianapolis (2-1) started faster and finished stronger than the 49ers (1-2), who sustained their first back-to-back losses since 2010. On their game-opening, seven-play, 80-yard drive, the Colts rattled off six first downs and took a 7-0 lead in less than four minutes. Then, clinging to a 13-7 lead, they closed it out by outscoring San Francisco 14-0 in the fourth quarter.
“We felt flat,” cornerback Tarell Brown said. “We felt flat and looked flat.”
Was Harbaugh pleased with his team’s energy level? “You can question just about everything right now,” he said.
Running back Frank Gore was similarly noncommittal when asked about the overall effort: “I’ve got to watch the film,” he offered.
Harbaugh and his players predictably said the arrest of All-Pro outside linebacker Aldon Smith on suspicion of DUI about 54 hours before kickoff wasn’t a distraction, but it certainly did nothing to bolster their pregame mindset.
Still, the continued offensive failings clearly go beyond a lack of focus. On Sunday, quarterback Colin Kaepernick posted his second straight sub-50.0 passer rating (49.9) as the 49ers’ 11 offensive drives ended with seven punts, two turnovers, a touchdown and a one-play drive that concluded the first half. After throwing for 412 yards and three touchdowns in Week 1, Kaepernick has resembled a young quarterback with just 13 career starts, which, of course he is.
The unsightly numbers from his last two games: 26 of 55, 277 yards, no touchdowns, six turnovers and a 32.2 passer rating.
As a result, the 49ers have combined for 10 points in back-to-back games for the first time since Weeks 4 and 5 of the 2007 season, when 35-year-old Trent Dilfer was their starting quarterback.
“There’s no one thing,” Kaepernick said of Sunday’s performance. “We just didn’t execute this offense.”
On Sunday, there was no question that offense was sorely lacking a proven pass-catcher beyond wide receiver Anquan Boldin (5 catches, 67 yards), who was the only 49ers with more then two catches or 21 yards. Tight end Vernon Davis missed his first game since 2007 with a hamstring injury and Kaepernick often loitered in the pocket, waiting in vain for a pass-catcher to break open.
A wide receiver besides Boldin didn’t have a catch until Kyle Williams had a six-yard reception with 1:52 remaining. Kaepernick was 2 of 8 for 12 yards when targeting other wide receivers besides Boldin.
Kaepernick indirectly acknowledged there was a lack of open targets.
“I have to make those (throws), regardless,” he said. “I have to be able to throw receivers open and give them a chance to make plays.”
The Colts, who ranked 29th in rushing yards allowed in 2012, were playing without inside linebacker Pat Angerer and safety LaRon Landry, who led the NFL in tackles after two games. And the 49ers appeared to discover the cure for their offensive woes on their lone touchdown drive, a 91-yard, first-quarter march highlighted by runs of 22, 21 and 11 yards by Gore and capped by Kendall Hunter’s 13-yard scamper.
Gore (11 carries, 82 yards), however, had just seven carries in the final 50 minutes.
“When things are not going right you get frustrated,” Gore said when asked about his lack of second-half carries. “But I think the game got kind of different in the second half and we had to do what we had to do, just throw the ball.”
The 49ers have to cure their various aliments quickly: They play Thursday night at St. Louis, which went 0-1-1 against San Francisco last year.
Can they fix their myriad issues in three days?
“We have no choice,” Harbaugh said. “No choice but to find our way.”
The Rams and 49ers will renew acquaintances for the 127th time on Thursday at the Edward Jones Dome.
In the most recent installment of the rivalry, the Rams are coming off a season in which they were 1-0-1 in two games against San Francisco, including a 16-13, overtime victory in St. Louis last Dec. 2. Last year marked the first season the Rams went undefeated against the 49ers since 2004.
Both teams begin the week looking to reverse recent trends. The defending NFC champions enter having dropped their last two games, including a 27-7 loss at home to Indianapolis last Sunday.
“We’re facing adversity,” 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh said during his Wednesday conference call with St. Louis media. “It gives us the opportunity to stare it in the face and respond. That’s a relentless quest for improvement, that’s where we’re at.”
Similarly, the Rams will look to rebound at home after suffering defeats at Atlanta and Dallas in the past two weeks. Rams Head Coach Fisher sees many similarities between the Rams and their longtime division rival at this early juncture of the season.
“We have a tremendous challenge here,” Fisher said at his Monday press conference. “The 49ers, in a lot of ways, probably see themselves in the same situation that we’re in. Got beat at home, now have to deal with some injuries, and then come here on a short week. So, they have as equal as great a challenge as we do. It should be a short week and a good ball game.”
Thursday represents an opportunity for the Rams to improve upon their 5-1-1 record against NFC West opponents under Fisher, the best such mark within the division during that time period. That run of success includes a 4-0 mark against division opponents at home since the beginning of the 2012 season.
The 49ers will look to dual-threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who threw for 315 yards and ran for another 150 in his two games against St. Louis in 2012, to help ignite an offense that has been held to one touchdown over the last two games.
St. Louis has boasted a pass-heavy offensive attack through three weeks, ranking second in the league in completions with 88, just one behind Denver. Fourth-year QB Sam Bradford is on pace to establish career highs in completions, yardage and touchdown passes.
The Rams lead the all-time series between the two teams, 62-61-3, and are 9-8 against the 49ers at the Edward Jones Dome
At a grim San Francisco 49ers camp this week, there were few smiles, lots of whiskers and surprisingly vitriolic hate aimed at last year's Next Big Thing.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who in the second half of last season and the postseason ran and threw his way to instant stardom and into the hearts of 49ers fans, epitomized the tense atmosphere Tuesday with an awkward question-and-answer session with news media members.
Quickly, the subject got around to struggling Kaepernick having "favorited" a lot of anti-Kaepernick tweets, much of it obscene, that appeared on Twitter since the 49ers dropped to 1-2 Sunday.
Q: Why did you favorite all that nasty stuff?
A: It's something that I do for me.
Q: Does it fuel you?
A: It helps me.
Q: In what way?
A: It just helps me.
Q: Does it motivate you?
A: I guess you could say that.
After a couple more minutes of this and a number of variations on the same question — "What's wrong with the 49ers?" — the session ended with someone asking Kaepernick what was the message in the 49ers locker room the last couple of days. "We have to win," he said.
Maybe it's a good thing that the reigning NFC champions, who lost to the Baltimore Ravens in last season's Super Bowl, get a chance to do it so soon. They take their losing record, plus a whole lot of questions about their on-field performance and off-field behavior, into St. Louis on Thursday to face the Rams and try to avoid a third consecutive loss.
Don't be surprised if 49ers coaches all have four-day-old beards on the sideline. "We all got back into the office about an hour after the game Sunday," 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Tuesday. "We're working late hours. We're unshaven and a little gritty. But grit is good."
If grit means winning, grit is great. At this point, the 49ers will take winning ugly, bearded or any other way because just when it seemed at the end of last season that coach Jim Harbaugh and Kaepernick were two of the NFL's most ascendant stars, the 49ers have lost their way.
Only three teams — the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars — have scored fewer points, and only seven teams have surrendered more points.
The 49ers opened with a victory against the Green Bay Packers that showcased Kaepernick's big arm. He completed 27 of 39 passes for 412 yards and three touchdowns.
But the 49ers have been outscored 56-10 in their last two games, losing at the Seattle Seahawks 29-3 and at home to the Indianapolis Colts 27-7.
Kaepernick has regressed badly, with no more TD passes but four interceptions. Averaging more than 30 pass attempts a game, he has completed 56.4%, and his passer rating is 72.5, which ranks 25th in the NFL.
Last year, when he took over the job from Alex Smith in the second half of the season, Kaepernick had a passer rating of 98.3 in the regular season and 100.9 in the playoffs. In the 49ers' last 11 games, including the postseason, he threw 14 touchdown passes and five interceptions.
Equally frustrating to 49ers fans is that he's not running the ball the way he did in the postseason. He has carried 23 times for 129 yards and has not been the read-option or scrambling threat he was at the end of last season. In the 49ers' three postseason games last year, Kaepernick averaged 88 rushing yards a game, although that's skewed by the 181 he gained against the Packers.
This season, Kaepernick rushed for 87 yards in the loss to Seattle. In the Green Bay and Indianapolis games, his legs were basically not a factor.
"I don't think you can pinpoint one thing," Kaepernick said. "I think we just have to get better as a unit and execute."
Running back Frank Gore hasn't been much of a factor, either. After averaging 21 carries and 106.3 yards in last season's playoffs, Gore has started 2013 by averaging 13.7 carries for 47.3 yards.
Against the Colts on Sunday, Gore gained 70 yards on eight carries in the first half, which ended with the Colts leading 10-7. In the second half, Gore carried three times for 12 yards as the 49ers were outscored 17-0. On Tuesday, Gore denied disputed a report that he yelled at Harbaughed during the game. "No, I'm cool with coach Harbaugh," he said.
Roman said the problem was the offense went three-and-out so often that it couldn't develop rhythm — and just didn't get around to calling the running plays that had succeeded so well earlier.
Were the 49ers, facing an impending short week against a divisional opponent, taking it easy on 30-year-old Gore's legs? Harbaugh doesn't really answer such questions.
"Those were the plays that were called," he said. "We all have our fingerprints on it and you all work to improve the precision. That's where we're at."
The defense has been mysteriously ineffective. The 49ers have been badly outrushed the last two games 351-215. They're ranked 29th in the league in rushing defense, and no one has allowed more rushing touchdowns — six — than they have.
Last season, San Francisco had the third-rated defense in the NFL. It was ranked fourth against the run and allowed seven rushing touchdowns all season.
So they've been unable to move the ball consistently, unable to get their defense off the field ... and have been undisciplined, too. In three games, opponents have compiled 11first downs by penalty. The 49ers have been penalized almost twice as much as their opponents — 29 for 254 yards vs. 16 times for 138 yards.
The 49ers on Thursday will play without one and maybe two of their best defensive players. Outside linebacker and pass-rushing star Aldon Smith is on an indefinite leave of absence to enter rehab for substance abuse after his arrest for drunken driving Friday at 7 a.m., though he played Sunday. Inside linebacker Patrick Willis, another defensive stalwart, might miss the game, too, with a groin injury.
"Guys behind them will just have to play to the best of their abilities," defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said.
There's the rub. Right now, the 49ers just aren't sure what the best of their abilities adds up to.
"Football's not easy," Harbaugh said. "There are struggles. That's one of the things you enjoy about the game, that there are struggles. We've got some adversity, there's no question about that. And we'll also have the opportunity of staring adversity in the face and whipping it."
Then maybe they can smile again, and shave, and shrug off the hate.
The 49ers are a mess right now. They have injuries on defense with Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith at rehab and that is allowing opposing teams to run right through them. The Niners are giving up 138 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 29th in the league and it will allow the Rams to keep this close. The 49ers are just 1-5 ATS in the last six games against the Rams and will lose outright in the Thursday night game of the week.