1) Pressure Sam Bradford
The Rams offensive line has given up 23 sacks through the first half of the season. This puts Bradford on pace to endure more sacks than he has in any single season of his career (36). The Rams expect to have starting LT Roger Saffold back on Sunday. Saffold has been out since injuring his knee in the Rams 31-28 week 2 victory over Washington.
Saffold will be welcomed back to the starting lineup by the 49ers leader in sacks through the first half of the season Aldon Smith (7.5). This is definitely a matchup that favors the 49ers and they need Smith to come through. Bradford has shown that when pressured he becomes very inaccurate which could help the 49ers defense get back on track with a take away or two.
With the exception of Aldon Smith's two sacks, Bradford was able to operate from a fairly clean pocket all day. Ahmad Brooks was able to knock down three Bradford passes, but the 49ers pass rush continues to be an enigma in 2012.
2) Contain Chris Givens
While Amendola and Brandon Gibson lead the Rams in receptions, the Rams' big play receiver has been Chris Givens. The Rams' rookie, taken in the 4th round out of Wake Forest, has a reception of 50+ yards in each of the Rams last 5 games, including 2 for touchdowns, a 51 yarder to put the game away against Arizona, and a 50 yarder in the first quarter in their last game against New England.
Amendola was having an incredible start to his season with 32 receptions on 49 targets through the first 4 1/2 games of the season. He also accounted for 395 yards and 2 TD's. Gibson has 28 receptions on the season on 42 targets and has 381 yards and 2 TD's. During the 3 games that Amendola was out, Gibson stepped up catching 15 passes for 197 yards.
The Rams have been most successful through the air in the first half of the season, and it will be interesting to see how they fare against the 49ers and their league leading pass defense.
The 49ers caught a break when the Rams made Givens inactive for violating team rules on the trip. They were not so fortunate with Amendola. Once again Carlos Rogers struggled, as Amendola was targeted 12 times and finished the day with 11 receptions for 102 yards. This is becoming a glaring area for the 49ers. When you look at the top playoff contenders, they all have very good slot receivers that allow them to move the chains on third downs. Rogers needs to pick up his game to help the defense get off the field and get the ball back for the offense.
3) Keep Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson down
The Rams rushing attack is ranked 18th in the NFL, averaging 106.2 yards per game. Steven Jackson is the Rams leading rusher with 403 yards on the season. Once among the top backs in the league, Jackson has carried the ball 108 times and is averaging only 3.7 yards per carry, with a long of 23 yards on the season.
Jackson is sharing carries with Daryl Richardson. Richardson, selected by the Rams in the 7th round (#252) from Abilene Christian. Richardson beat out another rookie, Isaiah Pead (2nd round #50), for the backup running back spot. Richardson has carried the ball 62 times, averaging 5.4 yards per carry with a long of 53 yards. On the season Richardson is averaging 41.9 yards per game.
Look for the Rams to run the ball somewhere in the area of 23 - 28 times on Sunday unless the 49ers can get up early and force them to abandon the run, which they have shown to do in recent weeks.
The 49er defense has shown vulnerability when teams stick with the run and the Rams took advantage of that today.Jackson and Richardson combined to carry the ball 38 times for 159 yards and 1 touchdown.
Overall the 49ers failed to win in any of these key areas defensively on Sunday leading to a 24-24 tie with the Rams. Due to the tie the 49ers were not able to keep pace with their next opponent, the Chicago Bears in the race for the #2 seed in the NFC Playoffs.