Cornerbacks stepping up for Rams

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The 49ers commanded more attention than expected this week after Mike Singletary's eventful first week as interim head coach. The intent all week was to get a better feel for the Rams. I did that in breaking down the St. Louis offense last night.

And while my defensive analysis doesn't feature personnel breakdowns -- time is an issue, and it's tougher to see every defensive player watching on TV -- I did emerge with a few thoughts on the Rams' defense:

  • Cornerbacks Fakhir Brown and Ron Bartell are giving the Rams much better play from that position compared to early in the season. They are playing aggressively and with renewed confidence. Safety Oshiomogho Atogwe can play the ball more effectively as a result.

  • Rookie defensive end Chris Long appears to be having fun now that he is producing in ways obvious even to casual observers. The look on his face after sacking Matt Cassel -- despite a holding penalty against left tackle Matt Light -- resembled the expression a kid might show when he's pleased with himself but trying not to smile. A good sign for the Rams, who are enjoying the fruits of a strong 2008 draft.

  • The Rams aren't the same without Leonard Little. The Patriots showed respect for Little by double-teaming him quite a bit in the first half. Sometimes the guard and tackle would take him. Other times, the tackle and tight end would block him. A hamstring injury forced Little from the game shortly before halftime. Little's status for Week 9 remains undetermined.

Coach Jim Haslett and defensive coordinator Rick Venturi can be effective in designing blitz packages. I'm interested in seeing if they find ways to pressure Kurt Warner. Scheme becomes more important if Little isn't available.