Greg Roman acted almost as if the statistic was meant to fool the 49ers: After four games, the Rams have only one sack, the worst mark in the NFL.
“Oh, man, it’s almost a setup,” Roman, the 49ers’ offensive coordinator said. “Because when you watch the tape – I mean, come on – they’re this far away (from getting a sack), the quarterback’s getting rid of the ball or something happens or he just dishes it, it’s just getting out of his hand. … Make no mistake about it: We will not be lulled into that trap because all you’ve got to do is watch the film.”
St. Louis’ sack mark is the most surprising statistic of the upcoming contest not just because it’s so low but because rushing the quarterback has been the Rams’ strength in previous seasons.
When coach Jeff Fisher arrived in St. Louis two years ago, he said he thought his defensive front, led by Chris Long and Robert Quinn, had a shot at setting an NFL record for sacks in a season. The Rams didn’t make history that season, but they still finished tied for first with 52 sacks. Last year they finished with 53, which was third best in the league.
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“No, I don’t have anything for you,” Fisher said when asked why the number is so low. “I would think that with one sack over four games, we’re probably going to have more than four when the season’s over. We’re getting close, we’ve missed some opportunities, the ball’s coming out. … Obviously we have to do a better job.”
One explanation is Long is out after having surgery on his ankle. He may miss the teams’ Nov. 2 rematch as well. As a result, opponents are able to use more resources against Quinn, who finished first in the NFC last year with 19 sacks.
So far this season Quinn has no sacks, but Roman insisted the defensive end was having the best season of his career.
“He’s added to his repertoire,” Roman said. “He has a great understanding of formations, what’s around him, what he’s going to do vs. certain looks. When people try to double-team him he’s got different answers, more answers. Physically he looks better than ever.”
Quinn’s main opponent Monday will be 49ers left tackle Joe Staley, who held Quinn without a sack in last year’s game in St. Louis.
Staley agreed with Roman that the Rams’ sack stat is deceptive.
“Numbers don’t tell the whole story,” he said. “(Quinn) looks pretty good. He has a fast first step, and he uses his speed to his advantage. He’s also added to his change of movement.”
Davis iffy – Tight end Vernon Davis said he isn’t sure whether he’ll play Monday against the Rams as he continues to push through the pain of a back injury suffered Sept. 28 against the Eagles.
“I don’t feel like I’m where I need to be at the moment, but I’m getting there,” Davis said Saturday before the team left for St. Louis.
When the injury occurred, the pain was so sharp it stopped him in his tracks, Davis said. He was able to practice on a limited basis throughout this past week, and he said he’d decide by Sunday whether he’ll be able to play. He missed last week’s game and is listed as questionable this week.
“I’m definitely making progress,” he said. “Each and every day I’m getting better. That’s what it’s all about.”
Meanwhile, cornerback Tramaine Brock (toe) has been ruled out of the game against the Rams. Both he and tackle Anthony Davis (knee, ankle) missed every day of practice during the week. Davis is listed as questionable to play.
Perrish Cox will start for Brock while Jonathan Martin figures to start at right tackle for Davis.
New number – Special-teams player Ray Ventrone will wear No. 23, which formerly belonged to running back LaMichael James. Ventrone’s old number, 41, was taken by safety Antoine Bethea after Ventrone was cut before the regular season.