Are the San Francisco 49ers walking right into another trap game?
Their game against the St. Louis Rams this Sunday has already been written off as a sure victory for Jim Harbaugh and Co. by many, but the fact remains the last game that seemed like a cakewalk for them turned out to be anything but in Minnesota.
Should the 49ers plan to avoid losing at all costs or let it all loose and go for broke, lighting up the scoreboard?
Harbaugh let the media know Wednesday isn’t his day of the week to speak on things of that nature. When asked on how the 49ers’ get their influence for some of their creative running plays, he didn’t know where to go.
“It’s just not a real great time to be talking as a coach,” he said. “You’re worried, you’re nervous. You’re still kind of formulating just how are we going to get this done this week. So, you’re just kind of in those question-asking kind of modes.”
Since Harbaugh is still figuring things four days before kickoff, let’s play with some ideas.
For starters, they aren’t traveling, so they won’t be travel weary. In addition, they’re fresh off a bye week, not having played since Oct. 29, but this gives Harbaugh more time to plan for a team that isn’t really near the 49ers competitive level.
The Rams aren’t the same team they were in 2011. They should be slightly improved, though, as Sam Bradford is healthy and Stephen Jackson don’t have to be the main guy with a reliable quarterback. They started 3-2 and added to the debate that the NFC West could be the most competitive conference in the NFL early.
Three-straight losses and a blowout defeat against the New England Patriots in London later, those thoughts have long disappeared.
The only game the Rams were competitive in was a three-point loss to the Miami Dolphins. The Green Bay Packers picked them apart at home. St. Louis is on a down-hill slide facing a 49ers team which is coming off two big division victories.
This is a “why not” game, so what’s the formula to victory? Go big, go fast and often. Use the run when you have but prove Alex Smith’s near-perfect performance against the Cardinals was no fluke. Throw deep and often. Give 49ers’ receivers the best statistical day they’ve had in years.
Blitz often. Not every down, but say 50 percent of the time. Send Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman up the middle on alternating linebacker blitzes. Send Carlos Rogers or Tarell Brown on a corner blitz once or twice. Have Aldon Smith drop into pass coverage just for the sake of it.
But we’ll probably see the same old 49ers. Play to keep it close, have Alex Smith check down on third down time and time again and hope Frank Gore keeps finding holes to rush for 100 yards per game. Have Andy Lee show off his strong punting leg and settling for David Akers field goals inside the opponents’ 40-yard line.
Then again, you can’t argue with success, no matter how close it can tend to be. The suggestion here is that San Francisco practices building a lead instead of just maintaining one. Plan for a blowout instead of a nail biter.
Sunday will show what kind of plan Harbaugh has formulated. Maybe he’ll be ready to speak on the plan he made by then.
Reach Peter Fournier at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/p_fournier