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Rams vs 49ers - Pre Game Stuff

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  • Rams vs 49ers - Pre Game Stuff

    St. Louis at San Francisco

    Preview - Box Score - Recap

    Game Info: 4:15 pm EDT Sun Sep 11, 2005
    TV: FOX Add to Calendar
    Buy Tickets

    Key Matchup - WR

    STL vs.

    2004 Season
    94 Rec 55
    5.9 Rec/G 4.2
    1372 Yds 795
    85.8 Y/G 61.2
    10 TD 3

    The St. Louis Rams still boast one of the best offenses in the NFL, but a retooled defense may determine whether they can record double-digit wins again.
    Coming off a year in which they reached the playoffs despite a .500 record, the Rams hope their defense can help make them an elite team again as they open the season against the San Francisco 49ers -- a club still recovering from the death of lineman Thomas Herrion.

    St. Louis had the top offense in the NFL and ranked among the top 10 in defense in its Super Bowl seasons of 1999 and 2001, when it went 27-5 in the regular season. In three years since, despite an offense that is still one of the league's best, the Rams have gone 27-21 with a defense that has struggled.

    St. Louis did make a surprising run to the NFC divisional playoffs last season, losing to the Atlanta Falcons. Trying to build off that momentum, most of the team's high-profile offseason moves came on defense.

    A pair of linebackers, Chris Claiborne and Dexter Coakley, were the big free-agent pickups for a team that was last in the NFL with a minus-24 takeaway differential. Claiborne gives the Rams an inside presence missing for several seasons. The duo, along with outside holdover Pisa Tinoisamoa, should take some of the heat off the defensive line.

    ``We played pretty well on the defensive line last year and I felt like our linebacker play wasn't what it needed to be,'' Rams coach Mike Martz said. ``We've made the personnel changes, and it was significant. This is as excited as I've been about a defense here.''

    Question marks remain in the secondary, however.

    Cornerback Jerametrius Butler, who led the team in interceptions the last two seasons, is out for the year with a torn knee ligament sustained on the first day of training camp. Adam Archuleta, hampered all last season by a herniated disk in his back, tried moving to free safety before going back to the strong side late in camp.

    Offensively, the potential remains if a rebuilt line can protect Marc Bulger. Steven Jackson and Marshall Faulk present a top 1-2 punch at running back, with Faulk being a backup for the first time in his career.

    Jackson, a first-round pick last year, gives the Rams a combination of speed and strength Faulk has lacked the last few years.

    ``When he has that adrenaline going, he's tough to bring down,'' Bulger said of Jackson. ``You give him a little bit of a crease, his legs are so big and he's so strong that he's tough to bring down.''

    Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce are one of the best wide receiver tandems in the NFL, and there's speedy depth at the position with Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald.

    ``I don't think there's a limit to it,'' Rams offensive tackle Ryan Tucker said. ``The talent at the skill positions is the best there's ever been in the NFL, I think.''

    San Francisco, after its worst season since 1979 and with a new coach in Mike Nolan, is in rebuilding mode and is a team trying to overcome the death of Herrion.

    Herrion, 23, died from heart disease when he collapsed after a preseason game in Denver on Aug. 20. The 6-foot-3, 310-pound guard was on the field for San Francisco's 14-play, 91-yard drive that ended with a touchdown with 2 seconds left.

    Players had finished listening to Nolan address them in a postgame meeting when Herrion collapsed. He was pronounced dead early the next morning.

    ``I hope a lot of good will come out of it, but it's hard to see that now,'' said starting offensive lineman Eric Heitmann, one of Herrion's friends. ``We're all going to be thinking about Thomas when we're here in the locker room or when we go out to practice. He'll be with us.''

    Nolan's first season in San Francisco should be a learning experience for everyone.

    The players must adapt to a new system with new teammates who weren't around last season, which saw the firings of coach Dennis Erickson and general manager Terry Donahue.

    Ten rookies, including No. 1 draft pick Alex Smith, and seven new veterans are on the roster, while many of the returning players will be in new roles.

    Nolan, though, expects his team to challenge in the NFC West.

    ``We're not content to wait around for our time to come,'' Nolan said. ``We're going to play to win this year. We've got a lot of guys on this team who are tired of losing. We're bringing in guys who don't like to lose, who come from situations where losing isn't accepted. That's what we're trying to build.''

    The 49ers proved they haven't written off this season when Tim Rattay was promoted past Smith as the starting quarterback. Rattay, who started nine games last season while battling injuries, was much better prepared than the top pick to run offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy's West Coast scheme.

    There's little experience or exceptional talent on the rest of the offense. Youngsters Arnaz Battle and Brandon Lloyd have been thrust into starting spots as receivers, while the shaky offensive line's effectiveness could hinge on the durability of center Jeremy Newberry's surgically repaired knee.

    Nolan has switched San Francisco's defense to a 3-4 alignment that moved Bryant Young to defensive end, Andre Carter to linebacker and several backups to new teams because they didn't fit in. The scheme makes sense given the Niners' wealth of talent at linebacker, including two-time Pro Bowler Julian Peterson, leading tackler Jeff Ulbrich, Derek Smith and Jamie Winborn.

    ``There's a whole different attitude now,'' Peterson said. ``It feels good to come into practices and games with this kind of preparation. We feel like we're ready to go out there this season and get this franchise back to where we expect it to be.''

    2004 STANDINGS: Rams - 2nd place, NFC West. 49ers - 4th place, NFC West.

    2004 RAMS LEADERS: Offense - Bulger, 3,964 passing yards and 21 passing TDs; Faulk, 774 rushing yards; Jackson, 4 rushing TDs; Holt, 94 receptions, 1,372 receiving yards and 10 receiving TDs. Defense - Bryce Fisher, 8 1/2 sacks; Butler, 5 INTs.

    2004 49ERS LEADERS: Offense - Rattay, 2,169 passing yards and 10 passing TDs; Kevan Barlow, 822 rushing yards and 7 rushing TDs; Eric Johnson, 82 receptions and 825 receiving yards; Lloyd, 6 receiving TDs. Defense - John Engelberger, 6 sacks; Tony Parrish, 4 INTs.

    2004 RAMS TEAM RANK: Rushing Offense - 101.5 yards per game (T-25th in NFL); Passing Offense - 265.8 ypg (5th); Total Offense - 367.3 ypg (6th). Rushing Defense - 136.2 ypg (29th); Passing Defense - 198.4 ypg (11th); Total Defense - 334.6 ypg (17th).

    2004 49ERS TEAM RANK: Rushing Offense - 90.6 ypg (30th); Passing Offense - 196.0 ypg (20th); Total Offense - 286.6 ypg (26th). Rushing Defense - 124.7 ypg (20th); Passing Defense - 217.9 ypg (19th); Total Defense - 342.6 ypg (24th).

    LAST MEETING: Dec. 5; Rams, 16-6. At St. Louis, Jackson ran for 119 yards on 26 carries for his first career 100-yard game.

    STREAKS AND NOTES: Rams - St. Louis has won seven of its last 10 openers. ... WR Bruce needs 82 receiving yards to surpass Don Maynard for 12th place on the all-time list. ... RB Faulk is 88 rushing yards away from passing Thurman Thomas (12,074) for 11th all-time. 49ers - G Heitmann returned to practice this week after missing time with a knee injury. ... S Parrish has started 112 consecutive games. ... San Francisco is 18-12-1 on opening day at home.

    2004 ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Rams - 2-6 on the road; 49ers - 1-7 at home.

    INJURIES: Rams - DOUBTFUL: CB Terry Fair (neck). QUESTIONABLE: DT Ryan Pickett (low back). PROBABLE: RB Arlen Harris (concussion); DT Damione Lewis (toe); G Claude Terrell (shin). 49ers - DOUBTFUL: TE Johnson (foot). PROBABLE: C Newberry (knee).
    Turning the other cheek is better than burying the other body.

    Official Sport Lounge Sponsor of Rhode Island - Quincy Jones - Yadier Molina who knows no fear.
    God is stronger and the problem knows it.

    2017 BOTB bracket

  • #2
    Kevin Lynch, Chronicle Staff Writer

    Tuesday, September 6, 2005

    Printable Version
    Email This Article

    Football Preview 2006
    Nolan Era off and running

    Defensive tackle Bryant Young, standing before the locker he has occupied since 1994, and was asked about the changes the team has undergone this season.

    "Everything I've learned in 11 years is out the window," said Young, who is the only 49er remaining from the franchise's last Super Bowl team. Young was referring to the defensive terminology, but he could have been talking about the entire franchise.

    The 49ers are undergoing the most radical change since Bill Walsh took over as coach in 1979.

    Gone is the defensive terminology dreamed up mainly by former defensive coordinator and head coach George Seifert.

    Gone is the Walshian fascination with passing and the pass-first philosophy. The only similarity Walsh and new coach Mike Nolan share is their autocratic control of the team and organization.

    Nolan, like Walsh, has sway over nearly every aspect of the team. He even had input into the hiring of minor office personnel. But mostly he's adamant about setting the policy and direction for his players.

    "The players are probably sick of hearing it," Nolan said last week during a speech at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce Kickoff Luncheon. "Personnel, structure, chemistry. Personnel, structure, chemistry."

    Nolan's philosophy is to place the right players in a successful structure. From there, Nolan believes, an unbeatable chemistry will develop.

    But his structure will not be defensive-line dominated nor will it employ a shifty, undersized offensive line that's bent on outthinking the opposition. Instead, Nolan has made the linebackers the kings of this defense, and the offense will employ a straight-ahead, smash-mouth running game.

    In the late '80s and most of the '90s, the Seifert defense was about the linemen. In the seven drafts he helped direct, Seifert chose 17 defensive linemen out of the 57 players picked, far more than any other position. Only seven offensive linemen were chosen in the same stretch.

    He would advocate for a defensive lineman so often, Seifert once joked that the personnel department would tackle him if he went to the draft board and chose another one.

    While defensive linemen are just as essential in Nolan's new 3-4 scheme, they are no longer the featured group.

    "Our job is to keep those (offensive linemen) off the 'backers so they can run," Young said.

    Since the linebackers are the most talented group on the team, they are allowed to take chances and shoot gaps. Linebackers are given the freedom at times to abandon their responsibility and fire into the backfield.

    "They want us to play fast and explosive," linebacker Saleem Rasheed said. "The thing they emphasize a lot is be a football player. (Coaches say) 'We don't want to slow you down.' "

    Nolan and defensive coordinator Billy Davis recognize that the 49ers' linebackers are built on speed and aggression, and coaches have structured a defense that takes advantage of those traits.

    Also, the influence of linebackers and assistant head coach Mike Singletary can't be minimized. He has the most input on the coaching staff and he wants his unit to play the way he played when he was going to Pro Bowls annually with the Bears.

    "Mike expects us to be the quarterbacks of the defense," Rasheed said. "He expects us to know what everybody else is doing."

    Typically, defensive calls fall to the safeties, but the San Francisco linebackers will be involved as much if not more.

    Nolan's defensive bent has also spread to the offense. Like most former defensive coordinators, Nolan believes in a strong running game. In fact, if possible, he would never pass.

    Nolan and offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy want a run-oriented offense that wears out a defense by game's end, and McCarthy doesn't seem to care if the defense knows it.

    The team used its "jumbo" group -- a two-tight end, two-back, one-receiver formation -- often in the exhibition season. In the exhibition finale, McCarthy used a three-tight end, two-back, no wide-receiver set. One of the tight ends was tackle Patrick Estes and the fullback was defensive tackle Anthony Adams.

    The 49ers tried to lean on the run last year, but they often abandoned the strategy when they fell behind. This year, it may be different.

    "I think we are good enough that if we are seven or 10 points down that we will continue to grind it out and win games in the fourth quarter," center Jeremy Newberry said.

    While McCarthy's offense is varied, he will be basic with the run, maybe installing five or six run plays every week.

    "I'm a firm believer that if you tell the defense what you are going to do and you block it right, there's not a damn thing they can do about it," said Newberry, sharing the view of his offensive coordinator.

    The run-first philosophy has the support of the offensive line, which would prefer to run than pass.

    "When you run, you are delivering the blow instead of receiving it," Newberry said. "We like that."

    Keys to the season
    1. An effective running game. The passing game isn't strong enough to function without the threat of the run.

    2. Good health. The team lacked depth to begin with, and with so many players learning new positions, backups didn't get sufficient playing time this preseason.

    3. An opportunistic defense. The 49ers will be at a talent deficit with most teams they play, so creating turnovers and then ball control are essential.

    4. Strong special teams. With a new offense and defense, the special teams must take up the slack, particularly early in the season while the other units learn.

    5. Momentum on a stadium deal. If ownership's focus isn't spent on increasing revenue and securing a stadium, the organization is letting down its players and fans.

    -- Kevin Lynch

    E-mail Kevin Lynch at [email protected].
    Turning the other cheek is better than burying the other body.

    Official Sport Lounge Sponsor of Rhode Island - Quincy Jones - Yadier Molina who knows no fear.
    God is stronger and the problem knows it.

    2017 BOTB bracket


    • #3
      I'll be interested to see how many touches Steven Jackson gets.


      • #4
        The 49ers stink

        The Rams should be able to win this one.
        Go Cards ...12 in 13.