Keys To The Game Revisited: San Francisco

Posted Dec 2, 2013

The Rams made their final regular-season visit to Candlestick Park on Sunday to conclude their season series with the San Francisco 49ers. Here is a look at how they fared in three key areas on Sunday.

The Key: Limiting Frank Gore

Though he turned 30 earlier this year, the longtime 49ers lead back has shown no signs of slowing in his ninth NFL season. Gore has had considerable success in his career against the Rams, including a season-high 153 yards in the two teams’ Week 4 meeting. For the year, Gore is on pace to surpass 1,000 yards rushing for the seventh time in the past eight seasons.

“(He’s) still talented,” Head Coach Jeff Fisher said. “He’s not getting the carries right now. He’s probably hoping to get more. I think they’ve gone, in the last four games, like 19, 18, 13, 13. They’re very effective in the running game and he’s still got a lot of ability.”

Fisher was close, as the 49ers have actually given Gore just 53 carries over the past four games, though he still is averaging 70.8 rushing yards per game, the league’s 10th-highest average.

The Answer:

Despite the loss, the Rams’ front seven performed remarkably well in containing Gore, particularly in contrast to the two teams’ Week 4 meeting. Gore was held to 42 yards on 15 carries, his third-lowest rushing total of the season. Gore did reach the end zone, however, with a three-yard plunge for the 49ers’ first touchdown of the day.  For the third consecutive game, the Rams held their opponent to 85 or fewer yards on the ground.

The Key: Win the Turnover Ratio

Perhaps the most indicative statistic on the defensive side of the ball during the Rams’ last two wins has been the unit’s ability to force turnovers. Led by DE Robert Quinn, who has forced six fumbles on the year, the Rams created eight takeaways in the last two weeks alone, leading to short fields and a pair of defensive scores. During that same time period, the Rams’ offense has committed just once. In the Rams’ five wins this year, the team is 14 in turnover differential. In their six losses entering Week 13, they were -6.

“That changes the whole dynamic of a football game,” LB James Laurinaitis said. “It’s hard to get takeaways for touchdowns, so it’s not something you go into a game (looking for). I think you just have to go out there and when they give you opportunities by putting the ball on the ground or getting our hands on the football, we have to capitalize, because it will give our offense a short field on a really good defense, as well.”

The Answer:

For the first time since Week 8 against Seattle, the Rams did not win the turnover ratio, with each team credited with one takeaway. The Rams’ lone takeaway came courtesy of LB Alec Ogletree’s fourth forced fumble of the season, a play that thwarted a potential 49ers third-quarter scoring drive and positioned the Rams for a possible late comeback. The Rams’ lone turnover came on an interception by San Francisco’s Carlos Rogers on the Rams’ penultimate offensive possession in the fourth quarter. The interception was the first thrown by Clemens since Week 8 against Seattle.

Starting Quickly

In a departure from an aspect of the offense that lacked a bit during the first half of the season, the Rams got off to quick starts in each of their last two victories. The 21 first-quarter points scored against the Bears in Week 12 were the most by a Rams team since 2008. The Rams are 5-1 this season when they are either tied or take a lead into the second half.

“We talked about starting fast and we needed to do that, you know, coming off the bye week,” Fisher said immediately following the Rams’ 42-21 win over the Bears. “If you get your focus on the start, then you have a tendency to avoid the timing issues that often times happens. So that’s what our focus was.”

The Answer: The opening drives on Sunday lacked much of the early production of the past two games. The Rams were held without a first down until their third possession, and entered the half with just 73 yards of offense, including 25 net passing yards, and a 13-3 deficit. Though the Rams’ running game found a bit of room throughout Sunday’s game, the unit’s 114 rushing yards marked the fewest since Week 7 against Carolina. The team’s lone
touchdown came on a 10-play, 92-yard drive on its 11th and final possession of the game.

“We would like to think we could carry on what we had been doing the last couple weeks, but for some reason, we didn’t match up well with them today,” Fisher said. “They did a nice job with consistent pass pressure and forcing Kellen to go to check-downs and held us to six points. We couldn’t really get anything going offensively.”