San Francisco 49ers vs. St. Louis Rams: Why It Will Define 49ers' 2010 Season

Mihir Bhagat@mihirbhagatSenior Analyst IIINovember 9, 2010

San Francisco 49ers vs. St. Louis Rams: Why It Will Define 49ers' 2010 Season

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    ST. LOUIS - JANUARY 3:  Center Eric Heitmann #66 of the San Francisco 49ers gets ready to hike the ball during the game against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on January 3, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The 49ers beat the Rams 28-6.  (Photo b
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    The San Francisco 49ers (2-6) have crossed the midway point of the 2010 NFL season, and have been a major disappointment thus far.

    Heading into the season, many had high expectations for the team and they were projected to claim the NFC West crown for the first time since 2002.

    Instead, they've had struggles at all phases of their game and their inability to execute has them looking like one of the most dysfunctional teams in the league.

    Now, they're fresh off their bye and are in desperate search of a win if they want to salvage their season. This week, they've have a chance with their division rivals St. Louis Rams visiting. 

    In fact, this game could define the 49ers season, and here are the top ten reasons why.

Can They Maximize The Bye Week?

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 31:  Michael Crabtree #15 of San Francisco 49ers celebrates as he scores their second touchdown during the NFL International Series match between Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers at Wembley Stadium on October 31, 2010 in Lo
    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    Since playing in the NFL is a grueling, tiresome activity, each team is allowed one week of resting period known as the bye.

    This is an opportunity for teams not only to take a break from the game but also analyze their strengths and weaknesses and adjust their strategies accordingly. Moreover, it provides ample time to study up on the upcoming opponent.

    The bye week is typically beneficial and results in a victory in the following week. However, it seems as if only the better teams take full advantage of it. This year, teams that post a record of .500 or better have been 9-3 following their bye.

    Therefore, if the 49ers want to prove that they are one of the better teams in the league, then they will need to start by utilizing their time off especially because the Rams are coming off their bye as well. 

Troy Smith The Full-Time Starter?

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 31:  Troy Smith #1 of San Francisco 49ers in action during the NFL International Series match between Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers at Wembley Stadium on October 31, 2010 in London, England. This is the fourth occasion w
    Warren Little/Getty Images

    Based on numerous instances, the quarterback position has proven to be the most critical ingredient to a team's success. So, finding a long-term solution at quarterback should certainly be every team's priority

    In recent history, the San Francisco 49ers have struggled in that area.

    The team drafted Alex Smith with their No. 1 overall selection in the 2005 NFL Draft with the notion that he would become their franchise quarterback, but that clearly hasn't worked out for them so far.

    With him out with a shoulder injury, third-string QB Troy Smith was called upon to take the reigns. Surprisingly, he displayed poise in their win against the Denver Broncos as he scored two touchdowns and finished with a passer rating of 115.2 

    This week, he'll have yet another chance to prove why he deserves to be the starter and he could very well claim the full-time role with an impressive performance.

    If he can, that would definitely be a big step in the right direction.

Talent = Record?

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    ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 21: Patrick Willis #52 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates a victory against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on December 21, 2008 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The 49ers beat the Rams 17-16.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Get
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Often times in the NFL, stats and overall records can be very misleading in regards to a team's true talent.

    At the same time, teams aren't judged on how many yards they compile. Instead, all that truly matters is the win-loss column. Just ask the San Diego Chargers.

    That said, the 49ers' talent on paper surpasses what their dismal 2-6 record indicates. 

    The real question is can they validate that with a win this Sunday or not?

NFC West Race

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 24:  Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers against the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 24, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The NFL is arranged in such a manner that relatively bad teams can still qualify for the playoffs if they win their weak division.

    Luckily for the San Francisco 49ers, that's the case in the NFC West.

    Even though they hold a superior record, the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks are ultimately in the same boat as them. The team that I believe has seperated themselves from the pack are the St. Louis Rams.

    Thus far, the Rams are 1-1 in regards to inter-divisional games while the 49ers are 0-1. So, if the red and gold are able to pull off a win this week, then it would give them an edge which would be a huge boost moving forward.

Mike Singletary Job Security

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    ATLANTA - OCTOBER 03:  Head coach Mike Singletary of the San Francisco 49ers questions a call during the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on October 3, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The NFL is such a demanding business to a point where all that matters is 'what have you done for me lately'.

    Unfortunately for San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Singletary, that hasn't been much.

    We've already witnessed Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips be fired on the spot after a pathetic start even though owner Jerry Jones said he wouldn't make any in-season coaching decisions.

    It just goes to show how little say loyalty has when a team's season is tanking.

    So, even though its been noted that coach Singletary will remain in his position, I believe this is a must-win if he wants to keep his job. 

    At the very least, he needs to maintain his squad's respect and the little coaching credibility he has remaining around the league. 

Resurrect Their Fan Base

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 31:  San Francisco 49ers fans waves flags in support of their team during the NFL International Series match between Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers at Wembley Stadium on October 31, 2010 in London, England. This is the fo
    Warren Little/Getty Images

    In sports, a team's fan base plays a rather significant role in the organization's overall prosperity. That said, it's crucial for a team to make sure that they continuously expand their popularity as opposed to it depreciating. 

    Time after time, it's been demonstrated that the best method of doing so it by winning.

    Therefore, if the San Francisco 49ers can knock off the Rams this week then that would give their fans something to be optimistic about and would most likely prevent another edition of 'We Want Carr' chants. 

    Even if they do fall short of expectations this season, the franchise needs to ensure that they keep the loyal fan base that they've built over the years in tact and give them some hope to feed off of. 

Facing A Stifling Defense

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    SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 12:  Wide receiver Josh Morgan #84 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates with Vernon Davis #85 and Joe Staley #74 after scoring an apparent touchdown during the NFL season opener against the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field on September
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Life isn't easy, and in the NFL there will always be obstacles that a player or team will have to overcome if they aspire to be great.

    This week, the struggling San Francisco 49ers offense will face a St. Louis Rams team that ranks 10th in total yards allowed and 7th in terms of scoring defense. Even though they don't boast any flashy names, the Rams have been playing opposite of the 49ers--getting the job done.

    In order to beat them, the 49ers will need to play mistake-free football, keep the chains moving, and be efficient with their red zone offense.

    The 49ers season has been marked by inconsistencies but this is their chance to silence their critics with an impressive outing this week. 

Can They Walk The Talk?

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    SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 17:  Takeo Spikes #51 of the San Francisco 49ers is congratulated by teammates after he made an interception during their game against the Oakland Raiders at Candlestick Park on October 17, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Phot
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    It's good to have a vision of how you want your finished product to look like. However, that won't mean anything if you can't actually construct it and have nothing to show. 

    The San Francisco 49ers have preached how they are going to hit their opponents in the mouth, and how they want winners. 

    Now its time for them to Walk the Talk. In fact, thats rather similar to head coach Mike Singletary's mantra of 'Show Me. Don't Tell Me.'

    The 49ers seem to have set high expectations for themselves, yet so far they've fallen short this year. This a chance to turn that all around. 

Utilize Their Players

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    SAN FRANCISCO - SEPTEMBER 20:  Vernon Davis #85 of the San Francisco 49ers runs on to the field for their game against the New Orleans Saints at Candlestick Park on September 20, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Even if talent exists, it means nothing unless one is able to properly utilize it to its maximum potential.

    I believe that's one of the biggest mistakes the 49ers have done so far as they've been unable to deliver the ball to their playmakers.

    Vernon Davis only has 33 receptions, Michael Crabtree only has 31, and Frank Gore only averages 20 carries a game. Especially in the beginning of the season, the 49ers weren't getting the ball to their skill players enough.

    If they want to beat the St. Louis Rams this week, they'll have to do so. 

    Moreover, they need to spread the ball and get players like Brian Westbrook, Anthony Dixon, and Josh Morgan more involved

    Also realize that Mike Johnson was promoted to offensive coordinator after Jimmy Raye was fired. In his defense, Johnson took over in  Week 4 and hasn't had much time to get accustomed to his new job.

    How he responds after an additional week working with quarterback Troy Smith and the rest of the unit will tell us a lot about his ability as a coach. 

Can They Make A Statement?

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    SAN FRANCISCO - SEPTEMBER 20:  Takeo Spikes #51 of the San Francisco 49er celebrates a tackle against the New Orleans Saints during an NFL game at Candlestick Park on September 20, 2010 in San Francisco, California.(Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Those that are great possess the ability overcome adversity and are able to make comebacks in order to achieve their goals. 

    Even though the San Francisco 49ers have gotten off to a slow start, there's no reason to believe that they can't energize themselves in the back half of the season and finish with a .500 record or better. 

    Of course, it won't be easy and it starts with an overpowering victory this week. They need to play as a cohesive unit and fire on all cylinders.

    They need to make a statement.