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Niners quarterback Alex Smith is coming off one of his best games as a pro. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
The St. Louis Rams come into Candlestick Park on a three-game losing streak and having gone 0-2 vs. the 49ers last season and 3-11 vs. San Francisco over the past 14 meetings.
At 3-5, the Rams are a team struggling to find some consistency – and now find themselves having to stop their skid against the NFC West-leading Niners, who are 6-2 and coming into the game rested after a bye week.
The Rams’ leading tackler, linebacker James Laurinaitis, said the matchup will be a test of how the Rams can respond and whether they can correct what’s gone wrong in consecutive losses to the Dolphins, Packers and Patriots. He told the media this week that the Rams better start doing their jobs, “Because this thing doesn’t get easier for us.”
St. Louis has some good offensive weapons in the former No. 1 overall pick, quarterback Sam Bradford, and veteran running back Steven Jackson and rookie Daryl Richardson, who has supplanted Jackson as the No. 1 back.
Defensively, the Rams rank 13th in total defense in the league.
Oddsmakers have made the 49ers 12-point favorites.
For San Francisco, it’s the end of a long spell of rest, having played just one game in 23 days. The Niners, who are coming off an impressive Monday night victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 29, lately have run the ball well, thrown it well – quarterback Alex Smith had a 157.1 passer rating in the win over Arizona – and played outstanding defense (they rank No. 2 in total defense and No. 1 in scoring defense).
This game kicks off San Francisco’s start to the second half of its season, and the 49ers are eager to get back to business and start working their way back to a playoff spot. As well as they’ve played in winning six of eight games, head coach Jim Harbaugh and his players believe they can play better.
“We all know what we’re capable of as a team, it’s a matter of consistently doing it week in and week out,” Smith told Pro Football Talk Live this week. “It’s not just showing up on game days. I think this team understands that. There’s a ton of work left ahead of us, a long season.”
Expect the 49ers to do what they do best against the Rams: pound the ball on the ground with Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter and a great run-blocking line, which will allow Smith to open up the offense on play-action passes to tight end Vernon Davis and wideouts Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss and Mario Manningham.
San Francisco is averaging a whopping 5.6 yards every running play, the best in the NFL.
New Rams head coach Jeff Fisher looks at the 49ers offense and sees a team that will be difficult to stop.
“There’s very few weaknesses on the football team, especially on the offensive side,” the St. Louis coach told Bay Area reporters this week. “There’s not mistakes. That’s the thing about (coach Jim Harbaugh’s) teams. They just don’t make mistakes.”