The 49ers have a top 5 offensive line - in both running-blocking and pass-protecting - a dynamic running game, and an explosive receiving core. As intimidating as all of that seems, the Rams can get excited about the continued presence of Alex Smith as the San Francisco starting quarterback. Why is this fortunate? Alex Smith can be beaten, and has been beaten... a lot. Smith has only thrown for 300 yards once and won a game. The Rams defense can match up with the 49er offense, and if they can win this part of the game, a road win may be a real possibility this week.
The gameplan is divided into three points:
- Stack the box, and stop the run on first down. The 49ers run the ball on first down more than any other team. They are in fact who we think they are. Let Mikell and Dahl do the only thing they can do, and play the run from inside the box. Put only one safety high, and make Alex Smith and Randy Moss beat you. By keeping them long on 2nd and 3rd down, and by playing a heavy box, you force Alex Smith to throw more than 7 yards to beat you.
- Let Jenks, Fletch, and Cortland play tight man coverage up on the line, and take away the short routes. The theme we have going now is heavy box and tight coverage. This compresses the offense, and forces them to play in a shell. While this is a formula that can get you burned, it's also a formula for takeaways, and it makes Alex Smith create big plays to win the game. It's essentially putting Alex Smith up against our secondary, and it's a battle I think our team can win. This also put stress on the 49ers on 3rd down, and allows Quinn and Long to create a little more pressure. The 49ers are one the top teams on third down, and if we play the corners 7 yards off the line you let Alex Smith and the 49er offense play to their ball control strengths.
- Stay aggressive. This is a ball control team, and they want nothing more than a team to play it safe, so they can "dink and dunk", and handle the clock. This offense keeps their defense, which does not rotate more than one player typically, off the field. They hope to score an explosive play on an overly aggressive team to get them to back off, but the Rams will have to stay with this gameplan, and force them out of their comfort zone. Accept the big plays as they come, but force this team to throw and beat the blitz.
This will be an incredibly tough game. If Jeff Fisher can turn it into a dog fight - like many of our first 5 games - there is always a chance. It will be interesting to see how this team responds following the bye.