49ers preview: Week 11

Rams at 49ers; Sunday, 1:15 p.m.; KTVU (Ch. 2), KNBR (680 AM). STORY LINES: 1. The last time the Niners faced the St. Louis Rams, running back Frank Gore had an inspiring game, rushing for two touchdowns just days after his mother had passed away. It’s also the last time the defending rushing champion has reached paydirt. But this isn’t the sameRams team they faced in Week 2. With Steven Jackson and Marc Bulger now healthy, the Rams appear to have gotten their groove back. And that means a big game from Gore is needed.

2. Quarterback Alex Smith has finally admitted that he is not at 100 percent. But the interesting part is, he told the media before he told coach Mile Nolan. Now, Smith will hold a clipboard while Trent Dilfer goes under center. It’s evident there’s a lack of communication between the two.

3. The Rams have proven they can still show glimpses of being the Greatest Show on Turf. The Niners’ defense will want to try and keep quarterback Marc Bulger on his heels and force him out of the pocket, not to mention plug any holes Jackson may find.

MATCHUPS

STEVE JACKSON VS. ISAAC SOPOAGA

Jackson: Was able to carry the ball 22 times last week. No reason why he won’t be effective.

Sopoaga: Nose tackle fills in for injured Aubrayo Franklin and will be big part of stopping running game.

WILL WITHERSPOON VS. VERNON DAVIS

Witherspoon: LB leads team with 70 tackles and three sacks. Oshiomogho Atogwe is second with 38 tackles.

Davis: TE was a nonfactor against Seahawks. But if they need him to block, at least we know he can do it.

RANDY MCMICHAEL VS. JEFF ULBRICH

McMichael: Caught four passes for 41 yards and a score against Saints. Could be a dark horse.

Ulbrich: Veteran linebacker had standout game with 10 tackles (nine solo) against Seahawks.

COACHES' CORNER

One has to wonder if Mike Nolan is benching Smith so he can heal his shoulder — or if there’s a rift brewing between the two. Either way, Smith and Nolan need to get it together and figure out how to earn a victory.

Rams coach Scott Linehan has had his share of media scrutiny regarding his job, but a win over New Orleans has taken off some of that heat. And a win over the Niners may give him at least another year on the job.

THE EXAMINER PREDICTS …

Despite picking up just their first win last week, the Rams have always been a team that’s been able to move the football well. Funny how the little things can lead to success, eh? Look for more of the same this weekend.

RAMS 26, 49ERS 12

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