Week 6 finishes with a historic game on Monday night between the San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams. It is the 700th contest in the history of Monday Night Football, which debuted in 1970. The 49ers are 45-25 on MNF, the most wins of any team all-time in the primetime series.
Despite the recent off-field rumors about the status of head coach Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers are playing well and moved over .500 for the first time this season following their win against the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday. This season seems to be following a similar script to last year for the team, when it also started 1-2 before rebounding to win 11 of its final 13 games. San Francisco will go for its third straight win, needing to keep pace with the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals in what is shaping up to be a competitive NFC West race.
The Rams are trying to get back on track after two straight heart-breaking losses have dropped them to 1-4 on the season and in sole possession of last place in the division. Two weeks ago the Rams blew a 21-point first-half lead against the Dallas Cowboys, losing 34-31 at home. Last week, St. Louis nearly erased a 27-point deficit against the Philadelphia Eagles, scoring 21 unanswered points before falling short in Philly, 34-28. While those close losses are encouraging for a team that is using its third-string quarterback, the Rams need to play better down the stretch if they are going to climb out of the NFC West basement.
The 49ers have taken a ground-and-pound approach during their two-game win streak, rushing for a combined 389 yards on 82 carries while holding the ball for nearly 39 minutes per game. No team has rushed the ball more than the 49ers over the last two weeks, and only the Indianapolis Colts have a higher time of possession. The Rams will be challenged to keep the 49ers ground game in check, ranking 29th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (152.5).
San Francisco has thrived in the Monday Night spotlight recently, winning six straight games on MNF, the second-longest active streak in the league behind the Seahawks (9). The 49ers have dominated those matchups, outscoring their opponents by 19 points per game. The Rams have been at the other end of the spectrum in primetime, losing five straight Monday Night Football games, tied with the Miami Dolphins for the longest active losing streak.
The biggest concern for the Rams heading into Monday night is how to contain Colin Kaepernick, who can hurt you with both his legs and his arm. This will be an issue for a Rams defense that has failed to generate much of a pass rush this season. Despite blitzing on 48.6 percent of its opponents dropbacks, the highest rate in the league, the Rams have just a single sack this season. Last season the Rams had the third-most sacks in the league (53), including a team-high 19 by defensive end Robert Quinn. Despite playing nearly three-quarters of the team's snaps this season, Quinn has yet to record a sack and has just six quarterback hits in four games.
Who to watch
Frank Gore - The 10-year veteran got off to a slow start this season with only 139 rushing yards in his first three games combined. He has bounced back with consecutive 100-yard games for the first time since the 2011 season, and now ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing with 365 yards entering Week 6. If the 49ers can continue to move the chains with Gore running the ball effectively, their offense will be tough to stop this season.
Austin Davis - Davis had never thrown a pass in the NFL before this season, but the third-stringer became the Rams starting quarterback when Sam Bradford tore his ACL in the preseason and backup Shaun Hill was injured in Week 1. Although he has led the team to just one win, he has put up respectable numbers with an above-average Total QBR of 63.2 that ranks 16th out of 33 qualifying quarterbacks.
How to Watch
Where: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, Missouri
When: 8: 30 p.m. ET
Announcers: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters
Online Streaming: WatchESPN
The stadium originally opened in 1995 to serve as a convention center and to lure an NFL team back to the St. Louis area after the Cardinals left for Arizona in the late 1980s. According to the Rams media guide, it was the first stadium to dedicate an entire concourse to its stadium club; the Club Level has 42,500 square feet of bars, food service and hospitality space. The stadium was also the site of the largest indoor gathering held in the United States - the 1999 Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II.
The 49ers are 3-point favorites on the road, according to OddsShark.com, and the over/under is set at 43.5.
If the experts are to be believed, the Rams have no chance to beat the 49ers. All of the experts at ESPN and Yahoo picked San Francisco to win, while PFT Commenter was the only one here at SB Nation not to predict a 49ers victory (picked a tie).