Three things: Rams-Niners

November, 30, 2013
11/30/13
12:30
PM ET
ST. LOUIS -- A look at three things to watch in Sunday’s game between the St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers.

Pressure with Four

San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick has had his share of ups and downs in 2013 but he’s been at his absolute best when facing five or more pass-rushers.

Kaepernick has an 88.1 QBR against five or more rushers, which ranks third in the NFL in such situations.

In the first game between the teams, the Rams brought extra rushers on 37 percent of Kaepernick’s dropbacks and Kaepernick was able to dissect them. He only threw for 167 yards but had two touchdowns and no interceptions for a QBR of 83.6.

The Rams have been on a roll creating pressure in the past few weeks and much of that pressure has come from the front four with end Robert Quinn leading the charge. Since that first meeting with the Niners, the Rams have posted 24 sacks, tied for fifth most in the league.

If the Rams can get to Kaepernick with the front four and force him to go through his progressions or make throws under heat, it would greatly improve their chances for a win.

Big-play push

One of the biggest benefits of the Rams’ vastly improved rushing attack is the way it’s opened things up for more big plays down the field.

In the past two games against Indianapolis and Chicago, the Rams have averaged 25.78 and 14.8 yards per completion. Since the first meeting with the Niners, the Rams have completed 9 of 20 passes thrown 20 yards or more down the field, a big improvement over the first four games.

San Francisco, meanwhile, has been one of the best in the league at preventing big plays.

The Niners have allowed 28 plays (rush or pass) of at least 20 yards this season, the second fewest in the NFL trailing only Seattle in that category.

The Rams have been able to sustain drives because of their run game but have benefited greatly from hitting the home run plays that have long evaded them. They’ll likely need one or two to come out with a win in this one.

Trickeration

For those that remember the Rams-Niners tie of 2012, you may remember that the Rams pulled out all the stops to stay in that game and give themselves a chance to win it late.

The Rams successfully executed two fake punts in that game to keep drives alive as punter Johnny Hekker completed both of his pass attempts for 40 yards.

That doesn’t mean the Rams must come out looking to call fakes every which way but it couldn’t hurt to reach deep into the bag of tricks be it on offense, defense or special teams to try to make something happen.

Sitting at 5-6 and essentially needing to win out means the Rams have no reason to hold anything back against the Niners.

Nick Wagoner

ESPN St. Louis Rams reporter

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