Week 1 Game Recap: St. Louis Rams 25, San Francisco 49ers 28
What you need to know
Marc Bulger put up some big fantasy numbers for owners this week but found it difficult to find the end zone until the fourth quarter. Bulger completed 34 of 56 attempts for 362 yards and two touchdowns in a come from behind effort that fell short for the Rams.
The Rams started the game backed to their endzone due to KR Chris Johnson, who was playing for injured KR Aveion Cason, stepped out of bounds at the one yard line on the opening kickoff. Coach Martz balanced the play calling with Bulger and Steven Jackson sharing the load on what appeared to be a successful 13 play drive leading the Rams into 49ers’ territory. But Bulger could not find an open receiver on third and five and was sacked, forcing the Rams to punt.
St. Louis dominated the game statistically with 405 total yards to the 49ers 205 total yards. The Rams also had a huge advantage in first downs with a total of 26 while the 49ers managed just 12. And lastly, the Rams held the ball for over 39 minutes in time of possession. Unfortunately for the Rams, this was one of those games when the statistics were meaningless to the outcome of the game.
Torry Holt had ten receptions in the game for 125 yards but unfortunately for his owners, did not find the end zone. Holt did have one target in the end zone late in the third quarter but Bulger overthrew the pass.
Coach Mike Nolan had a successful debut to his NFL coaching career as QB Tim Rattay threw for two touchdowns in the first half and the 49ers’ defense did not break and held off a late rally from the St. Louis Rams.
Tim Rattay did not put up dazzling numbers like Bulger but he was able to recover from a sack and fumble on the 49ers’ second play from scrimmage and played mistake free for the remainder of the game. Rattay finished the game with just 11 completions on 16 attempts for 165 yards but avoided an interception - something that plagued him last season.
Defense played a key role in the 49ers’ victory over the Rams. The change from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense for the 2005 season appears to have rejuvenated DE Bryant Young and the entire 49ers’ defense. Young had three sacks in the first half of the game equaling his total for the entire 2004 season. In addition LB Julian Peterson, who is returning from a torn Achilles’ tendon last season, appears healthy and contributed with two sacks in the second half.
On special teams, Rookie Otis Amey, who until this week went by his first name Fred, made his debut a success with a 75 yard punt return for a touchdown. Amey’s return for the touchdown really put the momentum in favor of the 49ers and extended the lead to 14-6.
What you ought to know
|QB Marc Bulger, Pass: 34 - 56 - 362 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - 8 - 0|
Bulger had a great game statistically, but found himself under pressure often from the 49ers’ pass rush throughout most of the game. Bulger completed 34 of 56 attempts for 362 yards and two touchdowns in a come from behind effort that fell short. He was successful in spreading the ball around during the game as he connected with nine different receivers. Bulger was not able to find the end zone until the fourth quarter when he found a wide open Isaac Bruce for a 29 yard touchdown pass. Later in the fourth quarter, Bulger orchestrated a 19 play drive for 78 yards that was capped by a six yard scoring pass to TE Brandon Manumaleuna on fourth down. Bulger had one last chance to put the Rams in position to tie or win the game with less than a minute to play but he threw behind his intended receiver Isaac Bruce and the pass was intercepted.
Feeley entered game in garbage time, due to Bradford’s hand injury, and was adequate but relied mainly on short passes.
Jackson started the game running hard, breaking tackles and bouncing outside for positive yardage but never seemed to find a rhythm after the first quarter. On the first drive for the Rams, Jackson rushed seven times for 36 yards but things went down hill from that point on during the game. Jackson had less than 20 yards in the second half and finished with 60 yards rushing for the game as the Rams attempted to comeback through the passing game. Jackson did attempt a two point conversion after the Rams’ first touchdown in the fourth quarter but was stopped well short of the goal line. Jackson caught three passes out of the backfield for 13 yards with one of the receptions going for a five yard loss.
Faulk saw most of his action on third down passing situations for the Rams. His carries all came in the second half with one of those going for 14 yards. However, his other carries were for a loss or no gain.
Hedgecock caught one pass for seven yards. It was a check down pass when St Louis was backed up to their own goal line.
Cunningham got on the field a bit more than he usually did last year. He did a decent job of running on his 5 carries. Cunnigham has a bit more speed than Stacy, and can sometimes provide a bit of a change of pace to Stacy’s hard-nosed running. But aside from a nice 11 yard screen pass, that enabled Cunningham to turn on the jets, there really wasn’t anything there for Cunningham.
He’s a decent backup, but it doesn’t appear he brings enough to the table to consistently beat out Stacy in terms of running the ball. But if he can provide a more reliable receiving option, perhaps things could change. For now, he’s the backup on a horrible offense with a pretty bad offensive line. Probably not a guy you want to roster if you have limited space.
The one carry Darby was given speaks volumes for the
difference in level of play amongst RB’s in St. Louis. Jackson got 22
carries and there was left little over for anyone else. Darby should
not even be thought of a starter unless Jackson goes down.
Holt saw the most targets from Bulger and made the most of it with ten receptions for 125 yards. He had four catches over 15 yards in the game with the longest a 44 yard grab in the second quarter that set up a field goal. Holt did have one target in the end zone late in the third quarter but the pass was overthrown by Bulger.
McDonald received a lot of playing time and a lot of targets from Bulger in the game. He finished the game with seven receptions for 73 yards with one endzone target in the fourth quarter. McDonald also had an end around play that went for a seven yard gain.
Curtis had a very good game as the Rams third receiver with seven receptions for 63 yards. He got a lot of looks from Bulger and came up big as three of his seven catches were for first downs. Curtis had three endzone targets from Bulger in the game but each were overthrown or deflected by a 49er.
Bruce had a nice game for the Rams with 61 yards on just three receptions. He scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 29 yard pass from Bulger. On the play, Bruce beat the defenders with a fake to the inside then broke outside turning the safety around leaving him wide open on his way to the corner of the endzone. Bruce was also an endzone target in the second quarter but the pass was defended by the 49ers. It’s been heading this direction for a while, but it was abundantly clear that he’s a secondary target in this offense.
Looker was not really a factor in the game and caught his only pass of the game in the second quarter for a five yard gain.
Austin didn’t get a touch until the 2nd quarter, but then he figured prominently into the gameplan. His first NFL reception was a short gain, and he looked to have a lot of field, but Tyronn Mathieu came flying into the picture and took him down for a short gain. Later on in the drive, however, Bradford threw it deep to Tavon in an attempt to get a long play. Mathieu was the defender on this play as well, and their feet tangled up long before we could see how the play would turn out. Mathieu was called for pass interference which help setup a field goal.
At the end of the first half, Bradford hit Austin streaking out of the backfield after being in motion, he made the catch and got upfield for 9 yards. In the third quarter, Austin came across the middle and Brinkley visibly bumped him off his route. Austin rebounded and caught the pass, but Brinkley and another defender had him blanketed.
At the beginning of the 4th quarter, Austin started in the slot, made a move on Mathieu, cut across the middle and pulled in a pinpoint pass from Bradford for a first down. The matchup with Mathieu will obviously be fun to watch for the next few years. Austin got him for this play and for the pass interference, but Mathieu was physical with him as well.
As defenders devote extra resources to Cook, it will be interesting to see if the Rams are able to get Austin in space. But it was encouraging to see him already developing as a steady part of the passing game in his first NFL start.
On the first play of the second half, Stedman Bailey came across the field and caught a play action pass for a 28 yard game. Later in overtime, he caught a perfectly placed Foles pass for a 22 yard reception while running an out-route.
Britt’s first game was a huge bust. Britt really didn’t get a target until late in the game. Davis threw up a ball to Britt late in the game against backups, but Britt couldn’t make the reception. Overall, he finished without a reception despite being on the field most of the game. His inability to provide anything was a shocking start to the season for a guy who has had a good training camp, from what we’ve read.
If Bradford were here or if the offense as a whole performed well, than perhaps you wouldn’t need to panic. But when you consider where this offense is right now, it’s tough to manage any sort of optimism for Britt after that performance.
Burton did not make a reception on his lone target.
Quick only had one reception, but he made a very physical play that is worth discussing. Bradford rolled to the right and hit Quick who was in the middle of a zone. Quick too the pass, turned upfield and steam-rolled three defenders but his knee just touched down right at the goalline, so he didn’t get the TD. It was a very athletic and impressive move, and Quick’s physical skills are something to watch as the season goes on.
Manumaleuna had a six yard touchdown catch with just over two minutes left in the game. Manumaleuna was wide open as Bulger threw to his left and with a blocker in front, he managed to score easily. He also had one carry in the game as he lined up at fullback on a fourth and one in third quarter.
Williams caught his only pass of the game in the first quarter that went for 11 yards. The catch was significant for Williams since it was his first catch since the 2002 season.
Kendricks dropped a sure TD – he was wide open, the ball perfectly thrown, he had separation, with only 15 yards to the end zone – it was perfect. Until he dropped it. One notable play was his outstanding blocking and receiving/running work on a perfectly executed screen pass, which he turned into an 18 yard gain.
Wilkins was perfect on the day connecting on all four field goal attempts and his only extra point attempt. Wilkins field goal attempts were from 30, 41, 33 and 41.
The Rams held the 49ers to just one yard rushing in the first half on a mere seven attempts. The rush defense held Kevan Barlow to 22 yards rushing in the game and a 1.6 yard average. Barlow was able to score on a nine yard run in the third quarter.
The Rams allowed just 165 yards passing in the game to Tim Rattay although they gave up two touchdown passes from Rattay in the second quarter. DE Leonard Little had two sacks in the game and a forced fumble.
|QB Tim Rattay, Pass: 11 - 16 - 165 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - -2 - 0|
Rattay was very efficient and effective in leading the 49ers to a victory. Although he only completed 11 passes in the game for 165 yards, Rattay did not make the same costly mistakes that haunted him last season. After a fumble on the 49ers’ first possession, Rattay settled down and gained confidence as the game continued. Rattay had two touchdown passes in the game; his first was a 35 yard strike to WR Brandon Lloyd in double coverage, the second a six yard pass to WR Arnaz Battle over the middle. Rattay threw for just 63 yards in the second half as the 49ers held on for the win.
Riding the wave of a highly successful first season, there were questions about whether Colin Kaepernick was a complete quarterback. The prevalence, yet relative newness, of the read-option offense begged the question of whether NFL defenses would be able to catch up with one full offseason and a library of game-tape to study, thus exposing Kaepernick as more of a successful system quarterback than a top-level, dominant passer. Green Bay came to San Francisco after focusing squarely on stopping the read-option offense, selling out to stop the run and making sure Kaepernick would not be able to beat them with his legs. Instead, Colin Kaepernick unleashed a dazzling display of passing prowess, attacking a strong Green Bay secondary with hard, accurate throws. In the first quarter, Kaepernick led a 13-play scoring drive where he made quick decisions behind good pass protection, throwing fast and accurate when his receivers or check-down targets were able to find space. When the protection broke down, Kaepernick scrambled out of the pocket but kept his eyes downfield, as the 49er receivers were most successful gaining separation when given time to run away from coverage or find the soft part of the zone. From the Green Bay 22-yard line, Kaepernick scrambled right and threw to Anquan Boldin in the end zone, but the pass was a bit too high, forcing the wide receiver to make an impressive adjustment to complete the catch but ultimately land out of bounds. But a few plays later, Kaepernick ran play-action and the Green Bay defense bit. This allowed Vernon Davis one-on-one coverage on a route to the corner of the end zone and Kaepernick threw a perfect pass over the tight end’s shoulder, landing squarely in Davis’ hands for the touchdown. With Green Bay’s insistence on stopping the run at any cost, Kaepernick was largely unsuccessful on the limited amount of read-option plays he ran, and he even misread the defense on one that resulted in Kaepernick being leveled by Clay Matthews on a keeper. When Kaepernick decided to tuck the ball and run for a first, he was hampered by Green Bay’s use of a defensive spy. With his long-term health in mind, Kaepernick slid when the spy or safety bore down, often short of the first down. On one play in the red zone, Kaepernick scrambled left, tried to turn the corner but there was no space and he ran out of bounds, only to be pulled down far out of play by a launched Clay Matthews. A melee ensued, and on the next play Kaepernick threw an accurate dart to Boldin on a slant and the wide receiver shrugged off a tackler for the second passing touchdown of the day. The Kaepernick-to-Boldin connection was wildly successful, as the new arrival caught almost every ball thrown in his direction. Kaepernick still had a tendency to only throw to open receivers, as opposed to throwing receivers open, but Boldin had the ability to consistently find the space in a zone defense or make perfect adjustments when Kaepernick scrambled. Because of Boldin’s innate ability to get open no matter the coverage, Kaepernick was able to parlay great pass protection (and some stunning pass blocking by Frank Gore) in to consistent completions. That’s not to say every ball Kaepernick threw was perfect, as on one deep throw Kyle Williams had beaten his man and streamed down the sideline, only for Kaepernick to underthrow his open receiver, allowing the corner to catch up and break up the pass. On a similar play, Boldin flew by the zone coverage and was open down the sideline. Had Kaepernick lead Boldin, a touchdown was very probable. Instead the ball was underthrown, forcing Boldin to stop and adjust. But for most of the game, Colin Kaepernick was a stunning force at quarterback. Green Bay was so traumatized by the rushing onslaught of last year’s playoff loss they spent an offseason drawing up a fantastic defense of the read-option that was executed flawlessly. But Kaepernick’s ability to throw the ball left Green Bay in a no-win position. With the 49ers on the goal line, Green Bay sold out to stop what they thought would be a power-run or scramble by Kaepernick. Instead, Vernon Davis slipped behind the defense and Kaepernick floated the ball right in to his hands for the third and final passing touchdown of the day.
|RB Kevan Barlow, Rush: 14 - 22 - 1, Rec: 2 - 17 - 0 (2 targets)|
Barlow did not have a productive game with just 22 yards rushing and 17 yards receiving. He was able to salvage some points for owners when he scored on the 49ers first possession of the second half on a nine yard draw play up the middle from the shotgun formation. Barlow did have one lost fumble in the game to add to his poor rushing performance.
|RB Frank Gore, Rush: 4 - 17 - 0, Rec: 2 - 21 - 0 (2 targets)|
Rookie Frank Gore saw all four of his carries in the second half. Gore managed 17 yards and provided a different look in the backfield for the 49ers. Gore also caught two passes out of the backfield including an 18 yard gain that help set up Barlow’s touchdown.
Hicks caught his only target for seven yards. His main contribution came in the return game where he averaged over 25 yards per return.
Hetherington caught one pass for no gain and was not otherwise involved in the offense.
Hyde flashed in his first NFL game, showing explosive speed and good leg drive. He looked like a quicker Gore clone when he burst through the hole on his first carry and delivered the hit at the end of his 13 yard run. On his second carry he quickly hit the hole on a read option and finished the run in the end zone for a four yard touchdown. Like Gore, Hyde finished well in the fourth quarter, including a 15 yard run that included a stiff arm and another broken tackle. Hyde also showed well in pass protection when given the chance.
Keasey caught two balls out of the backfield, but fumbled one deep in San Francisco’s own territory giving the Cardinals a golden opportunity.
|WR Arnaz Battle, Pass: 2 - 2 - 27 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - -3 - 0, Rec: 5 - 59 - 1 (6 targets)|
Battle was very versatile for the 49ers, catching passes, throwing passes and running the ball as Coach Mike Nolan tried a few trick plays in the game. Battle caught his first career touchdown pass in the second quarter on a six yard strike over the middle from Tim Rattay. Battle had two pass completions in the game on two attempts for 27 yards. Battle took a lateral pass from Rattay and connected with WR Brandon Lloyd for a 24 yard gain. He also lined up at QB for a play in the second quarter and threw a pass to RB Frank Gore for three yards.
Lloyd came up big for the 49ers on their first scoring drive in the second quarter with consecutive catches of 24 yards and 35 yards. On the second of his catches, Lloyd managed to haul in the pass from Rattay in double coverage in the endzone.
Morton had just one catch in the game for a 30 yard gain. Unfortunately for Morton, he took a hard hit from the Rams’ defender as he leaped to make the catch and needed assistance leaving the field. The report from the 49ers was he had suffered a concussion but is expected to be ready for the game next week.
Amey was not a factor at the wide receiver position but did score on a 75 yard punt return that sparked the 49ers’ team.
Smith's lack of involvement in Week 1 is potentially troubling. Yes, the 49ers were particularly run-heavy against Minnesota, but Smith only played 44 of 73 offensive snaps, only had 1 legitimate target on 22 routes run, and that target came on the third play of the game. Later on, he was the "target" of a deep pass, but Kaepernick actually threw the ball well out of bounds because he was outside the pocket and Smith was double-covered. His other "target" was a smoke route that was deflected at the line of scrimmage. It did occur in the red zone, however. if there's an optimistic view of Smith's Week 1 non-involvement, it's that he was signed to blow the top off of opposing coverages, and San Francisco's short-passing success could be attributable to Smith doing that job well. That said, his fantasy value relies on actually getting targeted on deep routes, not being a successful decoy.
Bush was playing for injured TE Eric Johnson but was not a factor in the game.
If the 49ers' passing game is going to heavily involve the tight end, and there's the possibility that another tight end besides Davis has the potential to be fantasy-viable, then Celek appears to be a better option than Vance McDonald given their different usage rates against Minnesota: Celek played 52 snaps to McDonald's 36, he ran 15 routes to McDonald's 9, and he had 4 targets to McDonald's 1. Celek was also the second tight end in the formation for almost all of the 49ers' two touchdown drives, which is something coaches notice. The only problem seems to be that Celek is a well below-average blocker, and so it's possible coaches will lose trust over time given San Francisco's reliance on the running game, and their need to keep Colin Kaepernick healthy. That said, if something were to happen to Vernon Davis, Celek's receiving ability and usage suggests he's the likely replacement, not McDonald.
The rookie from Rice managed to make one big play for the 49ers, catching a pass in the soft middle of the zone defense and going straight upfield, sprinting for a 25-yard gain before anyone could pull him down. For most of the game, McDonald was used as a blocker when he saw the field, allowing Vernon Davis to play in the slot.
Nedney was perfect on the day making all four extra point attempts.
The 49ers’ rush defense was solid throughout holding RB Steven Jackson to 60 yards in the game and the Rams to a total of 89 yards. The 49ers’ defense was penalized just twice in the game.
Although looking at the statistics the 49ers’ pass defense gave up well over 300 yards passing and two touchdown passes from Marc Bulger but somehow came up with a key stop when they needed it. The pass rush was relentless on Bulger and managed a total of seven sacks in the game. Safety Mike Adams sealed the 49ers’ victory as he intercepted a pass with 52 seconds remaining in the game and the Rams in 49ers’ territory.