Rams-Niners study session: Defense

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- After a two-game in five days sprint last week, we fell a bit behind on our study sessions, but we’re back despite some troubles with the All-22 film on the San Francisco game.

Considering we’re dealing with two Rams’ games -- at Dallas and home against San Francisco -- this week’s version of study session will be condensed, with a bit more overarching thoughts buoyed by examples from those games.

On to the defense:

  • The first thing that stands out from the Dallas to the San Francisco game is the increased aggressive approach by the defense against the Niners. The Rams played more man coverage, and early in the game it seemed to be working. Eventually, the Niners were able to hammer away with the run game and it opened some things up for San Francisco.

  • Cornerback Janoris Jenkins is playing better than the penalties that have been going against him might indicate. He’s been victimized by some borderline calls, the type of calls that second-year players don’t normally get against veterans like Anquan Boldin. But Jenkins was sticky in coverage and seems to be timing his attempts at pass breakups better. It was actually a bit surprising the Rams didn’t shadow Boldin with Jenkins given the Niners’ lack of other pass-catching threats.

  • The other player who showed up against San Francisco was middle linebacker James Laurinaitis. He had probably his best game of the season with 12 tackles, and broke up a pair of deep passes down the field.

  • Unfortunately for the Rams, there wasn’t much more to write home about, especially in trying to stop running back Frank Gore.

  • The Rams greatly missed William Hayes (knee injury) in this game. Ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn struggled to set the edge, and tackles Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford didn’t get much push up the middle.

  • On a pair of Gore’s long runs, including his 34-yard touchdown, Brockers and Langford get wiped out and it allows a blocker to get to the second level to remove the linebackers. Niners guard Mike Iupati pulls right on Gore’s touchdown, and is able to bury Alec Ogletree and open the path to the end zone, in no small part because the defensive tackles are taken out of the play.

  • In last season’s two meetings with the Niners, the Rams had great success against Colin Kaepernick by turning up the heat with the blitz. This season, not so much. The Rams blitzed 10 times, less than the 60 percent rate they did in 2012, and Kaepernick had success against it. Although the Rams got home for a sack once, Kaepernick completed seven-of-eight for 71 yards and two touchdowns.

  • The Rams don’t seem to be getting home much on the blitz at all this season, and many of the blitzes seem to be telegraphed. Slow-developing blitzes such as the one that came on Kaepernick’s first touchdown pass to Boldin seem to keep popping up. On that play, the Rams rushed just three down linemen, but then linebackers Ogletree and Laurinaitis circled around to the right side. Neither got anywhere near Kaepernick, who got the ball out quick as Boldin beat the struggling Cortland Finnegan for a touchdown.

  • We’ll add special teams in this space again with a nod to punter Johnny Hekker, who is quietly having a Pro Bowl caliber season.