Friday, September 27, 2013
5 Burning Questions Answered
The 49ers went into St Louis a struggling football team, and while their performance Thursday night was not perfect, it was good enough to pick up a 35-11 win. Now they have 10 days to rest and get healthy before the Houston Texans visit Candlestick Park next Sunday night.
Here are the answered to my 5 burning questions, which the answers were key to the outcome of the game.
1) Will Colin Kaepernick rebound? - After the Seattle game I wrote a piece about how the 49ers needed Alex Smith to win in Seattle, and on Thursday night that is exactly the type of performance Colin Kaepernick turned in against the Rams. Kaepernick did a very nice job of playing within the framework of the offense. He ended the night 15-23, 167 yards, 2 TD's and 0 Int's, a rating of 115.7 and an overall QBR of 83.6.
Kaepernick came through with some clutch throws on the money down, finishing the night with an overall QBR of 99.5 on 3rd down. On the first 2nd quarter possession, down 3-0, Kaepernick converted a 3rd and 10 with a 42 yard strike to Boldin, and a 3rd and 19 with a 20 yard shot to Boldin for a TD.
Throughout the night Kaepernick did a good job of utilizing all of his weapons, targeting 9 different receivers, and completing passes to 7 of them.
2) Will Greg Roman stick with the run? - Roman called his best game of the season last night. After a bit of a rough start in the first quarter, he went back to what was working and stuck with it all night long. As a result the 49ers running backs ended the night with 37 carries for 208 yards.
The offensive star of the night was Frank Gore. Gore turned in another incredible first half, rushing for 107 yards on 10 carries, and 153 yards for the night on 20 carries. Of his 153 yards, 115 came on runs between the tackles (he had 88 in the first 3 games combined), including 44 yards coming after contact.
Gore has been a streaky runner the last couple of years, and it appears that he is on a run right now.
3) Can the 49ers defense stop the run? - The Rams came into the game struggling with their running game, and the 49ers defense made sure that those struggles would continue. After giving up 351 yards the previous 2 weeks, the 49ers held the Rams to 18 yards on 19 rushes. It was the first time in the NFL since 2008 that a team with 19 or more carries ran for less than 20 yards when the Rams had only 14 yards on 19 rushes in week 12 against the Bears.
4) Who makes the sacks without Aldon Smith? - The 49ers put pressure on Sam Bradford all night, ending the night with 5 sacks, including 2 for Navarro Bowman, 1.5 for Ahmad Brooks, 1 for Glenn Dorsey, and .5 for Justin Smith. Rookie Corey Lemonier also had an impressive game. Although he did not come away with any sacks, he put consistent pressure on Bradford.
For at least one night the absence of Aldon Smith was overcome.
5) Can Carlos Rogers cover the slot? - This wasn't even a matchup. Rogers shut Tavon Austin down all night long, holding the rookie to only 6 yards on 2 receptions. Rogers generally struggles covering quick in and out type routes, and we didn't see a lot of that last night from Austin. Instead they had him running more vertical which plays to Rogers strength and allows safety help over the top.
Stepping back, I would be remiss to not mention the one play that the 49ers secondary got away with. On the second Rams possession they faced a 3rd and 2 at the 49ers 22 yards line. The Rams ran Austin on a quick flat route and Austin Pettis on a corner route. The 49ers were in man coverage with Tramaine Brock and Carlos Rogers in coverage. After a quick motion by Austin, Brock and Rogers had a miscommunication, leaving Pettis free on the corner route. Eric Reid was not able to cover their mistake and only an extremely poor pass from Bradford saved the day and allowed the 49ers to force the field goal.
49ers 13 Rams 9
"The main reason for this pick is that I cannot wrap my head around the 49ers losing 3 straight games under Harbaugh. The other reason is that the Rams have shown little ability to get the ground game going, and over the last 2 weeks have gone away from it rather early. The 49ers defense must keep that trend going.
On offense the 49ers need to get back to being balanced. There is no doubt that Kaepernick is struggling right now, so they need to make it easy on him tonight. A heavy dose of Frank Gore, and some easy passes off play action early on to get him in rhythm could go a long way."
I picked the right team to win, but was way off on the score. The 49ers defense shut down the Rams ground game. On offense, the 49ers got back to playing 49er football and the results showed.