NFC West: Rams-49ers

Chad Wetzel had this to say upon reading my 27-7 score prediction for the San Francisco 49ers' game against St. Louis: "I'm hoping you think the 7 you give the Rams isn't from a rushing TD."

This would be in reference to the 49ers having allowed no rushing touchdowns since last season.

I'll confess to entertaining the following scenario in recent weeks:
  • The 49ers lead by five. The opponent has fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line with one second remaining in the fourth quarter. The opposing team's leading rusher has 99 yards on the ground. The 49ers, having not allowed a 100-yard rusher in their last 33 games, need a victory to clinch something of importance.

That's the sort of drama 49ers fans could surely do without. I don't expect the team to face such a scenario, particularly against the Rams. But I'd love to be there if it happened.

Rams staring down their recent history

November, 9, 2010
Six mostly tough years have passed since the St. Louis Rams emerged from Week 10 of an NFL season with a winning record.

They can end the streak Sunday by beating the San Francisco 49ers.

The Rams are 4-4 entering Week 10, same as they were in 2005 and 2006. Those previous 4-4 teams slipped back under .500 with road defeats against Seattle.

The 2004 Rams beat the Seahawks in St. Louis to go 5-4 on their way to an 8-8 record and wild-card playoff berth. A year earlier, the Rams were 5-3 entering a Week 10 game against Baltimore. They won that one to begin a seven-game winning streak on their way to a 12-4 record.

We're safe in saying the current Rams will not need a seven-game winning streak to claim the NFC West title. Three or four more victories in their final eight games might be enough.

The 49ers are six-point betting favorites Sunday, presumably because sports books have a hard time attracting money on the long-suffering Rams. Getting to 5-4 isn't going to alter perceptions too much, but it would distinguish these Rams from their recent predecessors while enhancing their chances within the division.

Posted by's Mike Sando

Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo wasn't exaggerating when he said Chris Long's contributions extend beyond the statistical shutout he suffered Sunday against the 49ers.

Long did cause the problems that allowed teammate Larry Grant to get a sack.

Long does disrupt plays on occasion. He finds the ball. He makes tackles. He's simply not as dynamic as people expect a No. 2 overall draft choice to be.

My point: The Rams would be bragging about Long if he had been a third-round pick. They're defending him because he was the second overall choice and James Hall is starting. Expectations might always dog Long, same as they dog Cardinals right tackle Levi Brown, chosen fifth overall in 2007.

It's not their fault teams valued them so highly.

Posted by's Mike Sando

Thanks to 9ergocrazy for pointing out the terrific video showing Mike Singletary's coaching before, during and after the 49ers' victory over the Rams.
  • Best quote, after guard Chilo Rachal allowed a sack: "Chilo is going to make me knock him out."
  • Next best quote, while inquiring about Dre Bly's injury: "You got elbow or forearm? All right, he's all right. He's all right. Come on, you all right, youngblood. Come on, you're from the hood! You're all right. He's all right; he's from the hood. He's all right. Come on. Come on out of there."

The video shows how Singletary balances harsh criticism with genuine concern. I could watch it five more times without tiring of it. Great stuff.

Rookie surprise: 49ers LB Scott McKillop

October, 7, 2009

NFC Rookie Surprise: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Posted by's Mike Sando

  Kyle Terada/US Presswire
  San Francisco 49ers linebacker Scott McKillop is the only rookie in the NFC West to score a touchdown.
Few unheralded rookies in the NFC West have made significant contributions to their teams in the first four weeks of the regular season.

Scott McKillop, a fifth-round choice from Pitt, scored a touchdown on special teams Sunday to earn NFC West honors as the rookie surprise among players drafted after the first two rounds or not drafted at all.

"He came up big getting the ball in the end zone and scoring a touchdown," coach Mike Singletary said.

Singletary praised McKillop among several 49ers players, including Patrick Willis, for their efforts during a 35-0 victory over the Rams in Week 4. The team would like McKillop to eventually develop as a successor to Takeo Spikes at inside linebacker. Whether or not that happens, McKillop has already done something no other rookie in the NFC West has accomplished: score a touchdown.

The Rams and 49ers were scoreless deep into the second quarter when Andy Lee's punt struck the Rams' Quincy Butler in the leg at the St. Louis 20. Butler kicked the ball toward the end zone, where a hustling McKillop pounced on it. The touchdown gave the 49ers a 7-0 lead heading into halftime. The score remained 7-0 until the 49ers broke open the game during the second half of the third quarter.

Rookie Watch
Scouts Inc. is keeping a weekly watch on the league’s top rookies.
Rookie Watch
I considered 49ers running back Glen Coffee as a potential surprise rookie, but he was a third-round choice, so expectations were higher, and Coffee hasn't been especially impressive or surprising since replacing an injured Frank Gore in the starting lineup.

Posted by's Mike Sando

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The coaching environment can be rich following a 35-0 victory. The positive outcome gives coaches an opportunity to be more aggressive in addressing shortcomings without worrying about affecting confidence too negatively.

Coach Mike Singletary made it clear this would be a tough week for guards David Baas and Chilo Rachal. Singletary did not mention them by name, but he praised the other three offensive linemen while saying he planned to meet with line coach Chris Foerster to figure out some things. Pressed for details, Singletary said he needed to find out whether Baas had recovered from the foot injury he suffered during training camp, alluding to how offensive linemen tend to downplay injuries.

Whatever the explanation, Baas and Rachal clearly struggled against the Rams. Baas has dealt with injuries, as Singletary mentioned, while Rachal is a young player with 10 career starts.

Scouts Inc. on Baas: Baas has adequate initial quickness in the run game, but lacks top athletic ability and body control. He lacks foot quickness to adjust against quicker defenders, but once he locks on, he can create movement off the line of scrimmage. In passing situations, his lack of foot quickness creates problems against quick, change-of-direction rushers. He struggles with second moves and DTs get outside his frame quickly. He has enough strength to sit and anchor against the bull rush. Overall, he is best suited to play in a short area, where his aggressiveness off the ball makes him effective.

Scouts Inc. on Rachal: Rachal has good size and strength, and has excellent finishing skills as a run-blocker. He is most effective when he keeps his pad level down and uses leg drive to create movement. He's limited athletically if he's asked to pull and lead out in space. He lacks speed on the move and adjustment skills on the run. He has adequate foot quickness and short-area strength in pass protection.

Those reports affirm what you see from these players in games. They can appear quite slow when pulling, and quick defensive tackles give them problems.

Posted by's Mike Sando

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wonders if the Rams are the worst team in NFL history. He picks apart the arguments of those who said the Rams shouldn't have drafted a quarterback because the team wasn't good enough to support a young one. I'm in agreement on that point, but the $8.5 million guarantee to Marc Bulger this season surely complicated the team's thought process at the position. Committing so much to one position in the first year of a rebuilding project might have made the Rams worse elsewhere. The overall long-term benefit still might have made drafting the right quarterback worthwhile, but I can certainly see why an organization with salary-cap issues and an aging roster did not go in that direction in 2009.

Jeff Gordon of says the Rams appear to be a lost cause from a mental standpoint.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams broke every rule during their 35-0 defeat to the 49ers. Defensive tackle Clifton Ryan: "I'm asking our fans to be patient. I'm asking you guys in the media to be patient. We can't turn it around overnight. It's going to be a work in progress. When the Rams first got here they won the Super Bowl and went to two Super Bowls -- a lot of success in their first 10 years. I think our fans and the media got real spoiled. But we're going to get it back because we've got a lot of young guys dedicated to getting this show back on the road, and getting this franchise back to being one of the top franchises in this league."

Also from Thomas: The Rams are on pace to score 96 points this season even though Steven Jackson is on pace for 1,468 yards rushing.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Alex Barron appears to be "floundering" at left tackle for the Rams. Head coach Steve Spagnuolo benched Barron after the tackle failed to line up properly, negating a positive play by the offense.

Also from Coats: Kyle Boller struggled in his return to the Bay Area.

More from Coats: a report card with a "D" grade for the Rams' offensive line.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Barron symbolizes what is wrong with the Rams while a lot of other guys symbolize what is right. Burwell: "If you were looking for a symbol of everything that will eventually help drag the Rams out of their gawdawful losing ways, then spend a little time looking at the aching expressions of so many players like Jackson who took and gave out a beating all day long, well after the outcome of this game was determined. But if you were looking for the glaring sore thumb of everything that has helped hurtle this franchise into this downward spiral into pure football hell, Alex Barron is your man."

Turf Show Times' VanRam sees problems and offers a few potential solutions for the Rams. Starting Jason Smith at left tackle ranks high on the list.

Posted by's Mike Sando

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Deion Sanders suggested first-round choice Michael Crabtree could be signing with the 49ers soon. Barrows: "After noting how well the 49ers defense played against the Rams, he said, 'And Crabtree may be on his way. I'm just saying. I'm just saying.' " Crabtree? That name sounds familiar, but I just can't place it. Oh, yes, the receiver. Now I remember. Perhaps he could be the second wideout in the 49ers' one-receiver personnel grouping.

Also from Barrows: The Rams are the perfect cure for the 49ers following a tough road defeat, same as last season.

More from Barrows: The 49ers' 35-0 victory over the Rams did not feel quite like a 35-0 victory, particularly in the 49ers' locker room.

More yet from Barrows: This Patrick Willis guy is pretty good.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says even the 49ers' offense managed to score against the Rams, although the defense and special teams scored more.

Also from Brown: 49ers coach Mike Singletary says "hands like rocks" prevented him from picking off passes and scoring touchdowns the way Willis did Sunday.

Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News says 49ers defensive lineman Isaac Sopoaga was relieved to hear from family members affected by the tsunami in American Samoa. Sopoaga: "They're good. The water stopped, like, 15 yards from their house. It hit one building where my cousins worked, but they escaped. The water didn't touch them."

Monte Poole of Bay Area News Group isn't missing the Mike Nolan era. Poole: "Gone is the artificial swagger of the Mike Nolan era, wherein the new coach inherited a team that went 2-14 in 2004 and immediately barked about winning the NFC West in 2005. He dared to put this palaver into print on a banner at team headquarters. Depending on your perspective, you either laughed out loud or rolled your eyes or felt a flash of shame. The 49ers had just hired a coach who dreamed big, baseless dreams perfectly suited for ridicule."

Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle books the 49ers for the playoffs after seeing what they're up against in the NFC West. I think we'll know more in a week. If the 49ers lose to the Falcons and the Cardinals beat the Texans, one team is 3-2 and the other is 2-2. Ratto: "The division stinks on ice. Dreadful on ghastly, with a side of cornea-searing hideous. And if that cheapens your enjoyment of what looks more and more like a divisional title, well, that's between you and that bottle of Jagermeister on your end table."

Also from Ratto, with John Crumpacker: a 49ers notebook noting Ray McDonald's contributions.

Also from Crumpacker: The 49ers did not get carried away with themselves following their 35-0 victory. After all, seven 49ers drives ended with punts.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says the 49ers think Willis is only "scratching the surface" of his abilities.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat takes a player-by-player look at the 49ers against the Rams, noting that Shaun Hill is 7-0 as a starter at home. On Jason Hill: "Suited up for the first time this season. Saw action as gunner on punt team ... Unsung hero on the 49ers' special-teams touchdown as he hustled down field knocked Danny Amendola into Quincy Butler, preventing both players from recovering ball in end zone. Scott McKillop recovered it for the touchdown. ... Did not see action on offense."

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers did not seem satisfied after their offense managed only 14 points.

More from Maiocco: It's tough to dismiss a 35-0 victory over anyone. Singletary: "The most important thing for us right now is to win the division. But as we go forward, we want to be one of the best teams in the NFL. That’s where we want to go. Obviously, we’ve got a lot of work to do, but that’s where our sights are."

More yet from Maiocco: The 49ers' defensive line gets an "A" grade, with special commendation for Aubrayo Franklin.

Maiocco again: The 49ers' offensive line isn't playing very well. Singletary: "When it’s all said and done, our offensive line will be one of the best lines in the league. I think sometimes we just cheat ourselves out of what we can be. We just have to take it to the next level and I know they will."

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers must improve on offense. Cohn: "This is the offense that, once upon a time, was run by Joe Montana, Steve Young and Jeff Garcia, and had Roger Craig and Jerry Rice. Now, the 49er offense consists of runs into the line and a million short passes -- on Sunday the offense scored only two touchdowns, sufficient against the bums from St. Louis, but not so sufficient against a real team."

Rapid Reaction: 49ers 35, Rams 0

October, 4, 2009

Posted by's Mike Sando

SAN FRANCISCO -- The 49ers were not very good Sunday, but they were still good enough to blow out the Rams.

That revelation must be shocking for St. Louis, even during a rebuilding season.

It's tough to envision the Rams winning a game this season based on the way this one went. St. Louis simply lacks weapons on offense beyond Steven Jackson, making it nearly impossible for the offense to function, particularly against a good defense.

The Rams are 0-4 for the second consecutive season. They have less talent than last season thanks to an offseason roster purge and a few injuries. The Rams also appeared poorly prepared in this game, committing basic errors ranging from how to field punts to having the right number of players in the huddle.

The 49ers have much work to do on offense, but they're 3-1 with a 3-0 record in the division. That's what matters most.

Posted by's Mike Sando

SAN FRANCISCO -- It's become custom on the NFC West blog for me to find several "silver linings" to help fans deal with their teams' defeats.

Please feel free to point out any associated with the Rams' effort against the 49ers.

Donnie Avery did gain 22 yards early in the game. Still, that's not much to go on.

A little help, please.

Also: 49ers safety Dashon Goldson just suffered an injury of unknown severity. Trainers are tending to him on the field. He was able to get up and walk off. ... John Greco is playing left tackle for the Rams.

Update: Goldson just had the wind knocked out of him, return is probable.

Great sign for Rams: Avery makes play

October, 4, 2009

Posted by's Mike Sando

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Rams finally had a wide receiver make a play, and it was Donnie Avery.

The second-year receiver has struggled terribly to this point in the season. He shook a defender and gained 22 yards to convert a third down early against the 49ers. That type of play generally would not merit its own blog entry, but such have been the Rams' struggles at the position.

I'm not sure what the Rams were thinking when they ran Samkon Gado into the line on a subsequent third-and-1 play, setting up Josh Brown's failed attempt at a 51-yard field goal. We can set aside that one for another discussion.

In the meantime, if you're a Rams fan, rejoice. A wide receiver made something positive happen.

New challenge awaits improved 49ers

October, 4, 2009

Posted by's Mike Sando

SAN FRANCISCO -- For the first time this season, the 49ers are facing an opponent they're expected to handle easily.

A victory over the Rams would elicit shrugs. A defeat would raise all sorts of questions. There's no pressure on the Rams.

The 49ers can pass the test if they handle the Rams the way they should handle them.

Bartell, Rossum among inactive players

October, 4, 2009

Posted by's Mike Sando

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Rams will be without injured top cornerback Ron Bartell for the first time this season.

The Rams have named Bartell among their inactive players along with Nate Jones, James Butler, Roger Allen III, Jason Smith, Victor Adeyanju and Darell Scott. Marc Bulger is the third quarterback.

The 49ers have named return specialist Allen Rossum inactive along with Frank Gore, Curtis Taylor, Reggie Smith, Cody Wallace and Ricky Jean-Francois. Nate Davis is the third quarterback. That means receivers Jason Hill and Brandon Jones are both active. Perhaps we'll see the 49ers use a few more multiple-receiver personnel groups.
Just got em:

Nate Jones
Ron Bartell
James Butler
Roger Allen III
Jason Smith
Victor Adeyanju
Darell Scott
Bulger third QB

Micheal Spurlock
Allen Rossum
Frank Gore
Curtis Taylor
Reggie Smith
Cody Wallace
Ricky Jean Francois
Nate Davis third QB

Posted by's Mike Sando

Meeting a new girlfriend's parents -- particularly the father -- has been known to rattle a young man's nerves.

One of the more painful illustrations played out for Ben Stiller in "There's Something About Mary," and again in "Meet the Parents."

Imagine if legendary former linebacker Mike Singletary answered the door. The Rams' Oshiomogho Atogwe need not imagine. He's dating Singletary's daughter and facing Singletary's 49ers at Candlestick Park in Week 4.

Reporters covering the 49ers backed into the subject by asking Singletary how he, uh, knew Atogwe.

"I know him because he dates my daughter," Singletary said. "Go ahead. It's not uncomfortable. Go ahead."

What kind of person is Atogwe?

"He’s a very nice guy," Singletary said.

Quite respectful, no doubt.

"He’s a gentleman," Singletary said. "He’s been to my home, several times. We’ve had conversations, not about football, but about life. He's a quality individual. That’s what I know about him."

Posted by's Mike Sando

The Wall of Fame added 14 legends in Week 2, but none in Week 3.

Let's pick up the pace.

Simply use the comments section of this blog entry to predict winners and final scores of games featuring at least one NFC West team in Week 4. The Rams visit the 49ers. The Seahawks visit the Colts.

The fine print: Those submitting predictions for "You called it" must pick the winner correctly for their scores to be considered. Scoring is easy to calculate. The difference between a 20-17 prediction and a 31-14 outcome would be 14 points. We would calculate this by adding the difference between 20 and 31 to the difference between 17 and 14.

The Wall of Fame presently features:

(Read full post)