Rams Resemble a Much Different Team In Second Meeting With 49ers

Posted Nov 26, 2013

What a difference eight weeks can make.

As the Rams prepare for their second meeting of the season against longtime division rival San Francisco, they can look back to the last game between the two teams as a measuring stick for just how far this team has come in a two-month span.

Following their Thursday night loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 4, the Rams stood at 1-3, and had lost their last two games by a combined score of 66-18. They had posted just 18 rushing yards against the 49ers, a season-low. As difficult as the situation may have appeared at the time, it bears no resemblance to the Rams team that has taken the field in recent weeks.

The loss to San Francisco was the impetus for a number of changes, primarily in the team’s running game. In the seven weeks following rookie Zac Stacy’s installation as the team’s lead back, the Rams have posted a record of 4-3, boosted by an average of 151.9 rushing yards, the second-highest per-game average over that span.

“The last seven weeks, we’re averaging 31 rush attempts per game and over 150 yards and about 4.9 (yards) per carry,” Head Coach Jeff Fisher said during his Monday news conference. “We focused in on it and we stuck with it and we emphasized it, and it’s allowed us to be successful here as of late. Like I said, that’s a credit to the whole group.”

The difference has not been limited to the running game, however. The Rams’ run defense, also maligned at times in the first four games, turned in its second consecutive game in which it allowed 80 or fewer yards on the ground. Furthermore, in perhaps the most telling statistic during the Rams’ recent success, an opportunistic defensive unit has helped the Rams to a 17:8 takeaway to turnover ratio in the past seven games.

With the Rams now positioned at 5-6 and on the periphery of the NFC playoff hunt, they will have their chance at redemption this week against the 7-4 49ers, but are quick to acknowledge there is much yet to be accomplished.

“I wouldn’t call it a roll yet,” DE Chris Long said following the Rams’ 42-21 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got a big divisional game this weekend. We’ve put (up) two good results in a row. We’ve played well some games and lost. It’s gratifying to play well and win.”

The strides made over the past eight weeks have also come despite a significant amount of adversity. The Rams have dealt with the loss of starting QB Sam Bradford for the remainder of the year, and have also been without G Harvey Dahl, who has missed the past three games due to a knee injury. The Rams’ offense has not missed a beat in the absence of Bradford and Dahl, averaging 27.5 points per game over the past four weeks with veteran QB Kellen Clemens guiding the Rams’ offense.

"This is what it's all about,” Clemens said after the Rams’ latest victory. “That's why we play the game, for the atmosphere in here... We're a close-knit team. We don't have any of the egos. We don't have any issues like that. That's why you play it."