This pivotal NFC West Divisional game will come down to passion, desire, execution and the will to WIN. The Rams and Coach Steve Spagnuolo are building a foundation to support winning for the future, with a strong sense of togetherness, discipline, team first attitude, and one heartbeat. While the Rams are missing several weapons on both sides of the ball, the future is extremely bright. San Francisco has several pieces in place despite chemistry issues and inconsistent play at the quarterback position. These two teams are striving for the same goal, but both headed down different paths to get to the same road, in order to achieve their goal of winning the division.
As a player, Coach Mike Singletary was known as SAMURAI MIKE, A Pro Bowler, who was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998, the original “Minister of Defense” for his on-field Intensity, leadership and motivational speeches. Singletary started coaching in 2003 with the Baltimore Ravens. A crash course on head coaching, he has learned the hard way and on the fly, building a staff, roster and dealing with personnel and organizational issues on a daily basis. He brings discipline, passion and intensity. He has a blue collar working mentality and brings mental toughness to the locker room and 49ers front office. Stitched to a tapestry in the team meeting room of the practice facility is their identity – Physical, Tough, Relentless, Disciplined, Smart.
The problem coach Singletary has run into and struggles with is the inability to separate player temperament and passion for the game. Coaching is obviously much different; teaching is a major part of coaching and it takes patience. This year is a good example of that. The players struggled to match his intensity. The losses started to mount. He fired Offensive Coordinator Jimmy Raye. Several players started to tune him out, but not because they don’t respect him. There’s just too much unnecessary yelling, and the players just tune it out mentally. The lack of experience in coaching at any level has really hurt this young head coach. Despite surrounding himself with a good staff and several Blue playmakers/difference makers, the NFL is not the level of football for OJT (on the job training). He has eight games to figure it out, and get this team moving in the same direction in an optimal manner and deep into the play-offs. His future as the 49ers head coach has a flicker of light remaining.
When comparing these two teams from top to bottom, their schedules, rosters and overall record, you start to see a big difference in several areas, and some good comparisons as well.
The schedule favors San Francisco 49ers;
San Francisco has four out of their last eight games at home. They play St. Louis, Tampa Bay Seattle, and Arizona at home; Green Bay, San Diego along with Arizona and the Rams on the road. The Rams have five out of eight on the road, playing San Francisco, Seattle, Arizona, New Orleans and Denver on the road, Atlanta, Kansas City and San Francisco at home.
The 2010 standings at the break favor St. Louis;
The Rams have fought themselves to a 4-4 record at the break, with close losses to Tampa Bay and Oakland; this team could easily be 6-2. The 49ers have underachieved most of this season, despite some close losses, fighting hard to the end, struggling to find a way to win games. While 2-6 overall, they have a much better team than the record indicates.
Quarterbacks: St. Louis
Sam Bradford is on track to become both the Rams and League Rookie of the Year. He is playing like a veteran in every sense of the word. Known as the “Big Easy”, this young quarterback has taken charge of an offense that is lacking talent and makes everyone around him better. He will be the difference in a close game.
Smith & Smith (Alex and Troy) each have a win. They are both different in their own right, size arm strength, accuracy, mobility and athletic ability. Alex Smith is the better well rounded QB, he has struggled with timing and anticipation this year, but again flashed on several occasions why they drafted him number one overall.
Running Backs: St. Louis
SJ39 Steven Jackson has been the most productive running back in the NFL from the line of scrimmage since 2006. This is extremely impressive because he continues to do it on a losing team. The Rams need to draft a young #2 not only for insurance for Jackson, but for the future.
I consider Frank Gore the next best running back in the NFC West and top 10 in all purpose in the NFL. Despite knee issues throughout his career, he still brings juice and playmaking ability and production each and every game. 49ers have a talented and powerful young runner in rookie Anthony Dixon.
Tight Ends: San Francisco
Vernon Davis is a freak athletically, faster than any Ram receiver. A TEA (athletic tight end) that is an adequate blocker, that is the only minus in his game. A playmaker that aligns outside, flex and inline. Delaine Walker a talented TEA with speed and playmaking ability from several points on the field.
Rookie tight end Michael Hoomanwanui is the complete package. Big body playmaker with the best hands on the squad. Daniel Fells flashes playmaking ability, but lacks consistency in play.
Wide Receivers: San Francisco
San Francisco is loaded with young and talented receivers with size, speed and playmaking ability, starting with Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan, Jason Hill and Ted Ginn.
St. Louis has four receivers on the active roster. They are undermanned despite playing well as a group led by Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson. Laurent Robinson has been injury prone and spotty in toughness and production. Rookie Marty Gilyard has the tools as an inside receiver, is swimming mentally at this time.
Offense Line: San Francisco
San Francisco has drafted very well, while drafting for value they also delivered need. Draft picks Joe Staley is the veteran at LT. In the 2010 draft the 49ers spent two first round picks to acquire Mike Iupati (OG) and Anthony Davis (RT), both very athletic and are large massive men.
St. Louis has some young talent as well. Roger Saffold a second round pick in 2010 draft is a starter at LT. He is very athletic with good toughness, balance and finish. 2009 second overall pick Jason Smith starting at RT, is playing well despite injury history dealing with concussions. The Rams lack girth at the guard position but are competitive.
The Rams and 49ers play two different styles of defenses. San Francisco 3-4 and St Louis 4-3.
Defensive Line: St. Louis
Rams veteran DE James Hall is having a Pro Bowl season and is the play maker off the edge. Chris Long is starting to show flashes of growth applying pressure on pocket and disturbing the rhythm of opposing quarterbacks.
49ers have size and speed on the front. Isaac Sopoaga (DE), Justin Smith (DE) along with (NT) Aubrayo Franklin and Ray McDonald. This is a talented group.
Linebackers: San Francisco
San Francisco has arguably the best middle linebacker in the National Football league in Patrick Willis. He is a high effort explosive, with great eyes and runs like a deer. Veteran Takeo Spikes is still playing at a high level. Outside linebackers Parys Haralson, Manny Lawson, Ahmad Brooks along with NaVorro Bowman are extremely athletic with very good chase and pursuit.
For the Rams, second year linebacker James Laurinaitis is the bell cow of a young and improving Rams defense. He is a playmaker in the box and in space as well.
Defensive Backs: San Francisco
San Francisco has the edge because of youth and playmaking ability. Led by veteran Nate Clements (DC) and Dashon Goldson (FS). 2010 rookie safety Taylor Mays as flashed play making ability and is extremely athletic and runs very well for 230 pounds.
St. Louis second year man at corner Bradley Fletcher is playing very well coming off a severe knee surgery. Ron Bartell has all the height weight and speed, inconsistent mental lapses is the only thing stopping him from developing into a Pro Bowler. Safety OJ Atowge is the ball hawk of the secondary.
Special Teams: Even
The difference in this game Sunday might come through a big play in special teams by San Francisco’s Ted Ginn or St. Louis’s Danny Amendola.
The team with the most talent is not always the winner of the contest, and in this case they don’t have the best record. This weekend the Rams travel west to the City by the Bay, trying to get their first road victory against a team that is ready to explode.