By Keith Kuetemann @kkueteman
(KSDK Sports)-- Just a few short weeks ago, the Rams went out to San Francisco and did something that few expected; played one of their best games of the year.
Against one of the best defensive teams in the National Football League, the Rams scored more points than they had since Week 2 against the Washington Redskins.
The 49ers, along with just about everyone else, surely did not see that coming. Now that the element of surprise is no longer up the team's collective sleeve, the Rams will have to rely on other elements if they want to leave the Edward Jones Dome with a victory this Sunday when the 49ers and Rams rematch in St. Louis.
The Rams are not a passing team, even though they've tried to fight that claim at times this year. A developing quarterback, developing receivers, and a struggling offensive line are not optimal characteristics of a "passing team", and it appears that the Rams and their coaching staff are finally giving into that fact.
Last Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, the Rams' offense attempted only 17 passes; that's half the amount of times they attempted a running play. A similar ground-oriented offensive attack should be expected from the Rams this Sunday, especially with the improvement in play from their premiere running back Steven Jackson.
Jackson had his best game of the season last week in Arizona. He ran the ball 24 times and gained 139 yards. That's good for almost 6 yards per carry. This is part of a system that has worked for the Rams in recent weeks.
Jackson is averaging 22 rushing attempts over the last 3 games. In those 3 games, the Rams are averaging 22.7 points per game. In the season's first 8 weeks, Jackson averaged 13.5 carries per game. During those games, the Rams offense scored almost 6 points less per game, and for a team that averages only 18.6 points per game, that's quite a valuable amount.
Another reason to look for the running backs to carry the majority of the work load is that Bradford's favorite receiving target might not be quite 100 percent.
Wide receiver Danny Amendola, who has been plagued with injuries just about all year, missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday. He injured his heal 2 Sundays ago when the Rams lost to the New York Jets at the Edward Jones Dome and spent most of the subsequent week in a walking boot.
After a week of limited practice and doubt about whether or not he would even play, Amendola caught only one pass last Sunday against the Cardinals. Though he should play against San Francisco, look for his productivity to take a bit of a hit again this week.
Fortunately for the Rams, the 49ers have some injury problems of their own. San Francisco lost two offensive players on the very same play in the game last week against the New Orleans Saints.
Running back Kendall Hunter and wide receiver Kyle Williams both suffered season-ending injuries on the second-to-last play of the third quarter in the win over the Saints. Considering the 49ers have the 2nd best run game in the league (only 0.1 yards per game behind the Redskins), the Hunter loss should be especially damaging. Hunter had rushed for 5.15 yards per carry and 2 touchdowns before the injury and Williams was averaging over 15 yards per catch including a touchdown.
Although two very productive players will be watching the rest of San Francisco's games from the sidelines this year, the Niners offense is still not to be taken lightly.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was backing up Alex Smith until Rams linebacker JoLonn Dunbar knocked him out of that week 10 game a few weeks ago, has been nothing short of spectacular since taking over the starting quarterback job. In his 2 starts, Kaepernick has completed 32 of his 48 pass attempts (66.7%) and has thrown for 3 touchdowns and only 1 interception. Perhaps even more troublesome for opponents than his passing game is Kaepernick's ground game. During the course of the 2012 season, Kaepernick has run the ball 31 times for 214 yards (almost 7 yards per carry) and 4 touchdowns.
Kaepernick is dangerous with both his arm and his legs, but as the Rams found out last time these two teams matched up, he is not the only player the St. Louis defense has to keep an eye on.
Running back Frank Gore, who has been one of the best in the business for years now, ran for almost 100 yards and a touchdown against the Rams' defense. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree caught 5 balls for 70 yards and a touchdown of his own in that game that ended with the Rams and Niners tied. Like I said, it's not like this 49ers offense is something to laugh at.
The Week 10 encounter between the Rams and 49ers is still fresh in the minds of fans, players, and athletes alike. When the 49ers take the field at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday, they will be looking to take revenge on a team that caught them off guard just a few short weeks ago.
The Rams will be looking to prove that the game that ensued in San Francisco was more than just a fluke. Look for an epic battle to take place in downtown St. Louis this weekend.