Doin' Lines: Rams o-line vs. 49ers d-line

There's been plenty of extra "ohh" in the Rams o-line lately. They were manhandled by the Jets defensive front, and their pass protection has made Bulger one of the least popular men in St. Louis.

Rams O-line in pass defense

They have a much better matchup against the 49ers, especially in pass protection, where, as Fooch from Niners Nation told us, is a real weak spot for that team. The Rams o-line is fairly week in pass protection, as you may have heard. However, that's not entirely the line's fault. Poor blocking from backs and a struggling QB (see last week's sack that was initially blamed on LT Orlando Pace) have contributed to the team's 27th ranked 8.7% sack rate. Who does the matchup favor? Depends on which fan perspective you're looking at it from. As a Rams fan, I choose to believe that the Rams have been chided and threatened into better pass blocking after last week's all-around debacle and can withstand the SF pass rush. I suspect the truth, as it is wont to do, lies somewhere in between. Which is to say, the 49ers ought to be able to get some pressure and maybe a sack or two, but the Rams should find some success blocking for Bulger.

The 49ers run a 3-4 sometimes, and the Rams have had success against that package, except for last week. The real trick this week will be to give Bulger enough time to exploit week matchups in the backfield, like whichever WR is not covered by CB Nate Clements. 

Rams O-line in run blocking

The 49ers have a pretty solid run defense, led by a good group of linebackers. Second year stud Patrick Willis leads the team with 82 total tackles. Offseason pickup MLB Takeo Spikes is third with 54 tackles. (An aside: the Rams, so desperate for a MLB, could have pursued Spikes in the offseason and landed him for next to nothing, relatively).

They've allowed an average of 104.7 rushing YPG, and have a DVOA of -5.3%, 15th best. The only run defenses rated higher in DVOA the Rams have faced are the Giants, Eagles, Redskins and the Jets.

Ultimately, the run game is just a supporting player in this matchup. Taking advantage early of the 49ers pass defense will open up the field for Pittman, himself recently challenged to grab the mantle and look like a starter in Jackson's absence.

Bottom line: this game is a chance for the o-line to show up their critics, and for some guys, time to prove their worth in an NFL lineup is running out. Without better play from this unit this week, forget it.  

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