NFL: 49ers-Rams preview

The Examiner breaks down the 49ers-Rams game.

THREE KEYS TO A VICTORY

1. While the Niners’ offense gave all but three minutes of less-than-inspiring football on Monday, fans and coaches got a real treat and saw what Mike Nolan’s revamped defense could do. Rookie linebacker Patrick Willis gave Arizona quarterback Matt Leinart fits and free-agent cornerback Nate Clements was able to keep the Cardinals’ receivers in check. More will be asked of the defense on Sunday as it faces a hostile road crowd for the first time this season.

2. Arnaz Battle’s end-around gave the 49ers the thrilling victory. What was equally impressive was his 22-yard reception the preceding play — before he fumbled it just outside of the end zone. Battle and fellow receiver Darrell Jackson had a few opportunities to make big plays in the air. And against a shaky St. Louis secondary, they must capitalize on such opportunities if they plan on winning one on the road.

3. For someone who was talking about abusing the Cardinals, Niners tight end Vernon Davis was really quiet in his 2007 debut (two catches, four yards). If Davis is supposed to revolutionize the position, he needs to catch more than two balls.

KEY MATCHUPS

Manny Lawson vs. Steven Jackson

Lawson: Niners’ sophomore linebacker had just two tackles vs. Cardinals. Will be active all day.

Jackson: Rams’ powerful RB had 58 yards on 18 carries in Week 1. Will carry heavy load once again.

Larry Allen vs. Adam Carriker

Allen: Star left guard must give more room for Frank Gore to run — not to mention protect Alex Smith.

Carriker: Rookie defensive tackle could be a menacing sack machine — someday.

Nate Clements vs. Torry Holt

Clements: Did great job containing Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, now the task gets tougher.

Holt: Game-changing WR is the main reason why Clements was signed in the first place. He’s that good.

COACHES' CORNER

The Niners’ Mike Nolan knows if his team is serious about winning the NFC West, it needs to claim victories on the road. Since his arrival in 2005, Nolan is just 4-12 away from home.

The Rams’ Scott Linehan would like to have one more shot at winning the division. But after a home-opening loss to Carolina, it’s getting apparent that the Rams’ window of opportunity is closing fast.

THE EXAMINER PREDICTS …

Though the Niners didn’t show much during a nationally televised game, we’re convinced that they do have enough to knock off an offense that’s still considered pretty darn good. We smell upset. 49ers 23, Rams 19

49ERS at RAMS

Sunday, 10 a.m.

TV: KTVU (Ch. 2)

Radio: KTCT (1050 AM)

NFLSan Francisco 49erssports

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