A lot has changed since the St. Louis Rams last played the NFC Champion, San Francisco 49ers. What happens on Thursday night, between two teams trying to get back to .500, remains to be seen. Here are a few things that definitely won’t be seen.
Aldon Smith Sacking Sam Bradford
Smith, the 2012 NFC Player of the Year, will not be suiting up for Thursday night’s game in St. Louis. The 49ers' Pro Bowl linebacker is on the non-football injury list "indefinitely" following a DUI arrest last Friday…an arrest which also included possession of marijuana.
Smith tallied 9 tackles and 3 sacks in the 49ers/Rams series in 2012, and while his exact date of return remains uncertain, you won’t be seeing him line up opposite the Rams’ offensive line on Thursday night.
Steven Jackson Barreling Through Patrick Willis
We’re a mere three weeks into the season, and I’m sure that some already miss seeing plays like this. At a minimum, you’ll miss the opportunity to see one. The 49ers defense is on the the NFL’s finest, and running the ball will be imperative if the Rams are to find success on Thursday night. As it stands, the Rams rank 29th in the NFL in total rush yards, with 171 [3.2 yards per carry]. Only three teams trail them in this statistical category…those teams combined for zero wins.
Isaiah Pead was relatively impressive filling in for an injured Daryl Richardson in Dallas. And though you’re likely to see a couple of different rushers in the Rams’ backfield on TNF, there’s no chance you’ll be seeing SJAX get a much-needed first down by imposing his will on the NFL’s best middle linebacker.
Danny Amendola & Brandon Gibson Impacting the Game
In the first game of the 49ers/Rams series from 2012, the 49ers appeared to have no answer for Danny Amendola. Sam Bradford consistently targeted his favorite receiving option [12 times], and Amendola hauled in 11 catches for 102 yards. The Rams won’t have Amendola to spark the passing game this Thursday, and therefore one of the team’s newer, younger receiving threats will have to step up.
Brandon Gibson is another Rams’ wideout who won’t take the field donning blue and gold on Thursday. Gibson, if you’ll remember, played a large role in providing the Rams with their only tie of the season. 80 yards nullified. The 49ers won’t have Brandon Gibson to save them on Thursday.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar KO’ing Alex Smith
Oh, how the fortunes of these two players have changed since last season’s Week 10 matchup. Dunbar, a free agent linebacker brought into St. Louis by their non-existent defensive coordinator - Gregg Williams - had played admirably for the Rams throughout the first part of the season. A welcomed addition to an often lackluster LB-corps, Dunbar was known for laying big hits to his opponents.
Alex Smith can attest to that. Smith, who had lead the 49ers to a 6-2 record, was coming off the bye week and heading into Week 11 aiming to take the 49ers to a second consecutive postseason. That is, until this happened…
After that it was just a whole bunch of bicep kisses courtesy of Colin Kaepernick, as the 49ers continued on their way, eventually ending with a Super Bowl loss.
For Dunbar, his eligibility to play in the NFL won’t resume until Week 5. There’s still an outside shot he could sign with the Rams, but he won’t be around this week to potentially concuss another 49ers QB. Smith now resides in nearby Kansas City, where his Chief’s are one of six NFL teams who have yet to lose a game.
Craig Dahl Tackles
Not seeing Craig Dahl tackles, for most, is deeply disturbing. No one in the NFL puts himself in a better position to be in a horrible position than the now-49ers’ safety. The good news is that any snapshots from Thursday’s game - like Dahl trailing behind or eating a stiff arm - will most certainly result in good things for the Rams.
For the first time - in a long time - seeing #43 in the end zone will be a welcomed sight...