Keys to the Game: San Francisco

Posted Nov 29, 2013

The Rams will make their final regular-season visit to Candlestick Park on Sunday when they conclude their season series with the San Francisco 49ers. The Rams enter this week looking to make amends for a 35-11 loss at home to San Francisco in Week 4. Here are three keys to observe for Sunday’s game.

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.

Win the Turnover Ratio

Perhaps the most indicative statistic on the defensive side of the ball during the Rams’ last 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, they’re -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.”

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 on Sunday 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.”