Perhaps there’s no better tonic for a 49ers loss than having the Rams come to Candlestick Park this Sunday.
St. Louis, which is 2-9, has the NFL’s worst rushing defense (allowing 159 yards per game) and is 21st overall defensively, so the 49ers – coming off a loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Thanksgiving night – might be able to settle into a rhythm offensively by pounding the ball on the ground, which is what they do best.
It might be just the thing to get San Francisco back on track.
Because as Eric Branch pointed out in his story in the San Francisco Chronicle Thursday, the San Francisco offense seems to have stagnated.
Branch notes that in the past three games, San Francisco has scored just four TDs, converted just 13 of 44 third-down opportunities and scored three TDs (with four field goals) in nine trips into the red zone.
Though the 49ers are 2-1 in those games and, at 9-2, could clinch the NFC West championship with a win Sunday or losses by the Seahawks and Cardinals this week, Branch poses the question: Have NFL defenses started to figure out the Niners offense?
After the Ravens beat the Niners, Baltimore defensive end Corey Redding told reporters his team wasn’t confused by San Francisco’s multiple sets, shifts, motion and West Coast schemes, saying, “We dialed in on them real good about what they do.”
Baltimore, however, has an elite defense. The Ravens have dialed in on most every team they face. What about the rest of the NFL?
“I’m sure there are some things that they’ve figured out,” 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh told Branch. “That’s why we constantly look to evolve and continue that. That’s something we self-scout and you try to evolve as an offense and something we have been doing.”
Against the Rams, the 49ers likely will be handing off a lot to Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter out of those shifting formations.
Gore, in particular, has had good success against the Rams in his career. As Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group noted, of the eight games in which he’s rushed for at least two touchdowns, four have come against the Rams.
And Gore comes into Sunday’s game needing just 22 yards to pass Joe Perry to become the team’s all-time leading rusher, and 91 yards for his fifth 1,000-yard season.