By Jerrell Richardson
Despite a week off to rest and game plan for St. Louis, the 49ers were outplayed by their division rival for most of the game and were unable to avoid another loss at Levi’s Stadium. San Francisco did see their defense play well, but the offense and special teams failed them and the result was a 13-10 defeat. With the rest of the division winning around them, San Francisco suddenly finds themselves in precarious situation and facing a lot of questions, mainly about their offensive line that will need to be quickly answered.
The offensive line allowed 8 sacks. There is very little that needs to be said past that. The 8 sacks does not count the hurries and rushed throws, but it sums up the awful performance by the 49ers in the trenches. BY getting beat so soundly up front, the San Francisco offense, was in a word, pathetic, but it’s hard to blame the quarterback. When allowed time to throw, for the most part Kaepernick was accurate, completing 22 of his 33 attempts for 237 yards and a touchdown, but it was clear that the Rams pass rush had him rattled at times.
Anquan Boldin was Kaepernick’s anchor, catching 6 balls for 93 yards and a touchdown. Stevie Johnson and Michael Crabtree also made plays when the balls got to them, but the problem was that neither was given the chance to really get involved. Johnson has 3 catches and Crabtree had 5 due to the Rams pass rush completely neutralizing the aerial attack.
With no passing game to speak of, the running game followed suit. The problem though, once again, was the lack of commitment to the run. Frank Gore had 14 carries for only 49 yards, and Carlos Hyde had 2 touches. The game was close throughout, and the offensive line could not pass protect so how the two backs had 16 carries is baffling. As a team the 49ers rushed for 80 yards on 21 carries due to the 5 times that Kaepernick was able to break containment and get up the field.
As evident by the scoreboard, the defense actually played well. If they had been told that they would hold St. Louis to 13 points they might not be happy, but they would assume it would be enough for a win. The Rams as a team were held to 193 total yards and if not for a shanked punt would not have scored in the second half. St. Louis quarterback Austin Davis completed 13 of his 24 passes for only 105 yards. He did throw a touchdown, but he was also intercepted twice. The only real big offensive play was his 21 yard touchdown pass to Kenny Britt that was wide open due to a blown coverage.
Rams running back Tre Mason took over the starting role and had his moments, but without Patrick Willis on the field he was still held to 65 yards on 19 carries. The star defensively for San Francisco was the man filling in for Willis, Chris Borland who totaled 18 tackles on the afternoon.
Perrish Cox added yet another inception as did Antoine Bethea who was also second on the team in tackles with 6. While the outcome game was a disappointment, the defense was not. They did get away with a few plays, but this was another dominant performance by an undermanned defense. That continues to get better each week, and still figures to not even be close to its potential with the amount of missing players.
Special Teams: D
The only unit that has held up their deal of the bargain all season had been the special teams, and even they failed to show up for this one. Kicker Phil Dawson connected from 34 yards out, and being asked to hit a 55-yard is asking a lot, but his miss at the end of the second half obviously was big due to the final score. The biggest surprise was how short it was, as well as a few of his kickoffs. Dawson didn’t have his worst game as a 49er, but he certainly can’t say he played well.
Numbers wise Andy Lee had a good game. He punted 7 times for a 44.9 average. However, lost in that average was the 23-yarder that set up the Rams winning score. Bruce Ellington had a decent day returning kicks, but as a whole the special teams laid an egg.
They Still Almost Won
With all the back and forth of this game, at the end, the 49ers still had a chance to walk away with a win, and in the worst case scenario a tie. Call it a fluke, bad luck, but you can’t ignore the fact that they essentially did play well enough to win the game. While it was more due to the play of the defense, there is still not a reason to hit the panic button just yet. This could be a devastating loss but with a lot of football left to be played, the playoffs are still within reach, which ultimately is the team’s first goal. They will need to quickly figure out the problems with the offensive line, but the rest of the mishaps were not the norm and should not be repeated. With the Saints up next, the 49ers face a must win or could fall under .500 for the second time this year.
For more 49ers news and updates, visit 49ers Central.
Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.