You could question the 49ers' killer instinct after a win against Seattle and a narrow loss to Minnesota. But not after this one. The Rams and Kyle Boller gave the 49ers many opportunities to put the game away today, and the 49ers took advantage of every single one. During the first half I wondered if the 49ers' Ambien offense would cause them to play to the level of their opponents. That might be the case, but the defense definitely was not interested in playing at the Rams level. They took advantage of Boller mistakes and an offense that was perhaps even more conservative than theirs, and they stepped on the Rams' throats in today's 35-0 win. The 49ers didn't allow St. Louis to venture any farther than the SF 22 yard line, Boller threw for just 108 yards and the Rams gained only 177 total yards, the lowest output by a 49ers' opponent since the 2002 season when the Bears mustered just 127 yards.
How did it happen? The 49ers got a gift at the end of the first half when Andy Lee's line-drive punt hit a Rams player and Scott McKillop pounced on it in the end zone. That, coupled with a few choice words from Singletary, fueled the second-half surge. "I just wanted our guys to remind ourselves that this is our house," Singletary said. "We want to set the tempo. We don't want any team coming in here and setting the tempo. We want to set the tempo and we were not doing that. I felt that they were taking a fight to us. Anytime that happens, that's not good and that's basically it for halftime."
Last year, the 49ers trounced the Rams at home after a devastating road loss in Arizona. This year, they walloped the Rams at home after a gut-wrenching road loss in Minnesota. Singletary's ability to motivate and focus his players is what makes him a good head coach, and it's games like this one where that ability really manifests itself. I'm sure there's also part of Singletary that is happy this wasn't a particularly pretty victory. Singletary likes to harp on shortcomings in order to keep his team from feeling content, and he already started hammering away at the offensive line after today's game. Look for that unit to bounce back next week against Atlanta.
Singletary: "The running game, our offensive line right now, we're just out of sync a bit. In order for us to get where we need to go, our offensive line is going to have to do a better job and they will. I've got every bit of trust in them that they will do that. They have a great coach, and they're a good group of guys. It's just a matter of continuing to work together. You look back and we had a couple of guys, Joe Staley and [David] Baas, really didn't practice this week, most of it. They got in on Friday, a little bit Thursday. It's just one of those things as an offensive line, we just have to continue. We're young, we're excited, and that also makes us a little vulnerable. We have to continue to get better and we will do that. Our offensive line, that's going to be a huge key to what we need to do and they're going to have to respond. I'm excited because I feel good about every one of them. Going forward, that's pretty much it."
First downs seem to be the root of the 49ers' offensive problems. They're not getting very big gains on first down, which often leads to third and long situations. The 49ers ran Glen Coffee 15 times on first down. Against one of the worst run defenses in the league, he either was held for no gain or stopped for negative yards on five of those runs, and he averaged slightly less than 2 yards overall on first down. That's got to improve.
-- Matt Barrows