Jeff Fisher and his St. Louis Rams consider the 49ers the blueprint for what so many NFL teams would love to be.
From a multifaceted, creative offense and dominant, shut-down defense to spot on special teams, and a coach who motivates in his own unique way to make a group go, the 49ers sure look to be rolling right toward another special January playoff run.
Hold all the praise, please. Jim Harbaugh doesn’t want to hear any of it — and nobody on his team much cares to, either. It’s still only early November, after all, and Harbaugh has said it’s not until well into December he truly takes stock of his team’s chances.
“We’d rather probably just try to kick them in the shins when people are saying things like that,” Harbaugh said.
His NFC West-leading Niners (6-2) will get that very chance today at Candlestick Park against the Rams (3-5). Both teams are returning from bye weeks, but with San Francisco striving to maintain momentum from a strong first half and St. Louis looking to snap a three-game losing streak and rebound from a 45-7 loss to the New England Patriots in London.
The Rams had a long flight home to think about that one — and then an entire bye week to ponder what went wrong.
“Obviously, the game against New England was an embarrassment,” linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “When you have that feeling in your gut from playing a game like that, you’re just anxious to get out there to the next game”
The 49ers, meanwhile, are eager to get back on the field and find the same second-half swagger that carried them all the way to the NFC Championship Game last season — and oh so close to a Super Bowl after a 20-17 overtime loss to the eventual champion New York Giants.
San Francisco has beaten Seattle and Arizona in its two previous games, and now St. Louis is next.
The Rams realize they will have to make their share of game-changing plays to have a chance against one of the NFL’s hottest teams in a hostile environment.
“They’re a blueprint for what you want to be as a football team,” Laurinaitis said. “They take the ball away extremely well and they don’t give it away.”
Quarterback Alex Smith is coming off one of his best performances yet since the Niners selected him No. 1 overall out of Utah in the 2005 draft.
In a 24-3 Oct. 29 road rout of the Cardinals on Monday Night Football, Smith completed 18 of 19 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.
Running back Frank Gore loves how well-rounded this offense has become.
“You see some other teams where one or two guys have so many big stats. This offense, it’s different,” Gore said.
“Crabtree gets the rock. Vernon gets some. Mario [Manningham]. Me. So there’s much talent out there. That helps us as a team, but it hurts people’s fantasy teams.”