SANTA CLARA – If the 49ers lose to the Rams on Sunday, you can forget about the 49ers.
The 49ers currently cling to the sixth and final NFC playoff seed. The 49ers can't afford to lose to the Rams and fall behind in the race for the final Wild Card spot.
The Rams have improved since the 49ers embarrassed them in St. Louis Week 4. The Rams actually have a running game now. Since they gained just 18 yards on 19 carries against the 49ers earlier this year, the Rams have rushed for 1,063 yards and 4.9 yards per carry.
And they can stop the run, too. The past four games when their defense has had a full week of rest, they have held opponents to a miniscule 2.6 yards per carry.
The Rams lost their starting quarterback, Sam Bradford, and that seems to have been a blessing. Bradford couldn't throw deep (58 passer rating on passes more than 20 yards downfield this season) and he couldn't convert third downs (80 passer rating on third downs). The Rams' backup QB, 30-year-old Kellen Clemens, has excelled on deep passes (118 passer rating) and third downs (134 passer rating) this season.
The Rams have an extra day-and-a-half to prepare for the Niners than the Niners have to prepare for the Rams. The Rams coaches started game planning for the 49ers last Sunday night. The 49ers coaches couldn't fully commit to the Rams' game plan until they landed in Northern California early Tuesday morning.
The 49ers' offense hasn't been this bad since the Mike Singletary Era. The past three games since the 49ers returned from their Bye week, the 49ers have converted just 29 percent of their third downs.
It gets worse.
The past three games, the 49ers have averaged just 3.3 yards per carry. They're a run-first team that can't run the ball right now.