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Alex Smith has been sacked 24 times already this season, an appalling statistic.
Some of those sacks can be blamed on Smith's proclivity for holding onto the ball too long. But regardless of why Smith has been sacked so frequently, the fact remains that getting to the quarterback that often is a surefire way of forcing turnovers, either through hurried throws or fumbles.
As much criticism as Smith has received for his inability to throw downfield effectively, he has proven extremely capable in all other areas of the passing game when given time. His accuracy on shorter routes is above-average and is one of Smith's biggest strengths as a quarterback.
I expect the Rams cornerbacks to play a lot of press-coverage in an attempt to disrupt the timing and route-running on the short and intermediate patterns. If the 49ers receivers struggle to get off the line of scrimmage and create separation early, Smith will be forced to make multiple reads and buy more time in the pocket.
While he is somewhat adept at moving in the pocket, Smith has not shown the same ability to progress through three and four reads. His play against Arizona in the 49ers' last game showed marked improvement in this area, but protecting him from the Rams' pass rush will make this task much easier for him.