Pick Six: Keys For The Rams Against The 49ers

Ron Clements@Ron_ClementsCorrespondent IOctober 1, 2009

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 21:  Quarterback Kyle Boller #12 of the St. Louis Rams calls a play in the huddle against the Atlanta Falcons during the preseason game at the Edward Jones Dome on August 21, 2009 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Let's be honest. A victory by the St. Louis Rams in San Francisco Sunday would be nothing short of miraculous.

The Rams are 0-3 and, even worse, have been bitten pretty hard by the injury bug.

In their 36-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers last week, the Rams lost leading receiver Laurent Robinson for the season with a high ankle sprain and broken fibula.

Safety James Butler sprained his MCL and will miss at least two weeks. Cornerback Ron Bartell is nursing a couple of leg injuries and will not be 100 percent for Sunday's game against the 49ers.

Quarterback Marc Bulger has a bruised shoulder, and is questionable for Sunday. Backup Kyle Boller, who played admirably for a half against the Packers and led the Rams on two scoring drives, is practicing with the first team this week.

Offensive tackles Alex Barron and Jason Smith missed some practice time this week with leg issues.

Then on Tuesday came news that starting linebacker David Vobora will miss the next four weeks for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy.

To fill roster spots, the Rams made a bunch of roster moves this week. They promoted defensive tackle Leger Douzable, linebacker Dominic Douglas, and wideout Nate Jones from the practice squad.

Jones takes Robinson's spot on the roster, putting the Rams back at five receivers with former Packer Ruvell Martin, Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, and return specialist Danny Amendola.

The Rams are basically a walking MASH unit, and will be facing a San Francisco team that is one Brett Favre miracle away from being 3-0.

So what can the Rams do to somehow find a victory?


1. Get Steven Jackson into the end zone

Jackson is the Rams best player, and offensive coordinator did a much better job of getting the ball in Jackson's hands last week. He's got two consecutive 100-yard rushing games, but has yet to find the end zone.

Richie Incognito said the offensive line lives vicariously through Jackson, so Jackson scoring touchdowns will only boost the morale of a downtrodden team.


2. Let Kyle Boller start

Marc Bulger may be the $10 million man in St. Louis, but Boller gives the Rams the best chance to win. He's proven his toughness in the preseason, and against Green Bay. He's also shown a proclivity to make plays with his legs, an aspect Bulger really can't provide.

Bulger may be an accurate passer when given time, but the St. Louis offensive line has not protected the quarterback well, and Boller can move the pocket. He's just a much more mobile quarterback, and is whom the Rams need to turn to come Sunday.


3. Start fast

The Rams dug themselves a hole last week against the Packers. A blocked field goal and two fumbles had the Packers up 9-0 before most fans had filed into the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams were fortunate they weren't trailing 17-0 at that point.

Green Bay built a 16-0 lead before St. Louis got on the board. If the Rams hope to pull off a road win, then the NFL's worst scoring offense must somehow get on the board first.

Here's what the Rams must avoid:

1. Turnovers

Again, the Rams had two fumbles and an interception that led directly to 13 points for the Packers last week. They did not force a Green Bay turnover, and must win the turnover battle Sunday. The Niners are plus-3 in turnover margin, while the Rams are plus-1.

2. Big plays

The Rams actually get a bit of a reprieve here because San Francisco running back Frank Gore is out for Sunday's game because of foot and ankle injuries. Gore leads San Fran with 241 yards and three scores.

Filling in for him will be Glen Coffee for the second straight week. Coffee has been held in check this year with just 64 yards on 35 carries. Gore had an 80-yard touchdown run earlier, but Coffee doesn't appear to have that burst.

Quarterback Shaun Hill is completing 63 percent of his passes, but for only 548 yards and three scores. His longest pass completion is 50 yards. Green Bay hit on three big plays last week to set up scores.

If the Rams can keep everything in front of them and avoid the big play, they might be all right.


3. Penalties

Richie Incognito was penalty-free last week, although he did get into a shoving match with a Packers player. While Incognito kept his number from being called, that doesn't mean the Rams were without costly penalties.

A long Jackson run was called back for holding and there were a couple of other penalties that negated positive plays. St. Louis does not have enough talent to shoot itself in the foot and nullify its own big plays.

If this happens again Sunday in San Francisco, the end result will be another St. Louis loss.


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