The first thing to note about this game is that the makeup of the Rams' offense is quite different than it was in their Week 4 matchup against the 49ers. Obviously, Sam Bradford was still at the helm. He’s since been lost for the season [knee]. Kellen Clemens has lead the team to a 2-2 record as their starter, and has exceeded the expectations of most. Additionally, the Rams running game - now fueled by rookie Zac Stacy - was almost non-existent early in the year. Daryl Richardson received much of the workload at the time. Rodger Saffold, who played right tackle in Week 4, has now moved to the interior line [right guard], and has performed admirably.
That being said, the 49ers, who won that matchup 35-11, were without Michael Crabtree [who could return this week], Patrick Willis, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Aldon Smith. With the exception of Asomugha [who’s now a free agent], the three remaining names on the short list could all play major roles in this Sunday’s matchup.
So what will it take for the Rams to win this game? What will it take for them to lose? Let’s play the "If" game. It goes a little something like this:
The Rams will win if….
The Rams run defense is able to step up and limit the damage done by Frank Gore. The 49ers running back gashed the Rams in Week 4; rushing the ball 20 times for 153 yards [7.7 ypc], and a score. It was easily the best game of Gore’s 2013 campaign. Over the past two weeks, the Rams’ defense has done very well in thwarting opposing rushing attacks. Last week, they held Bears’ RB Matt Forte to 77 yards, and they limited the entire Colts team to 18 yards the week before that. If Frank Gore is able to run the ball like he did in Week 4, it’s going to be a long day for the Rams…on both sides of the ball.
The Rams will lose if…
Kellen Clemens attempts more than 30 passes. I say this for two reasons; neither of which is due to lack of confidence in Clemens. In Week 4, Sam Bradford attempted 41 passes. The result was eleven points and a home loss. Bradford, though, was forced to throw the ball as a result of a 18 combined rush yards on 19 carries. Clemens, who’s now 2-2 as a starter, has lost both games where he’s attempted 30+ passes. In the two games where the Rams have won, he’s attempted 38 total passes. Why? Because the Rams have now built their offense around a respectable rushing attack, which features Zac Stacy and - most recently - Benny Cunningham. Cunningham is coming off the best game of his young career [109 yards on 13 carries], and may be asked to step in as the team’s starter this week if Zac Stacy is unable to go [concussion]. Regardless of who gets the start, though, the Rams will need to establish the run. If they don’t, Kellen Clemens is going to be asked to take control of the game…and it won’t even the score in the 2013 Rams vs. 49ers series.
What are your thoughts on this week’s matchup? Certainly, the Rams will need a big game from their defense. The 49ers offense is loaded with weapons, and they could potentially be awarded with another one for Week 13. Are the Rams going to require another magical TD from Tavon Austin? Will they need a strip-sack-fumble-TD in order to score more than eleven points this week?
Let’s hear it. The Rams will win if___________. The Rams will lose if___________.