OK, so it's a weak pun (mining, 49ers, get it?), but all of the sudden Sunday's game looms huge. The 49ers are perhaps one of the biggest surprises in the league this year at 3-1. I was watching the NFL Network's pregame show on Sunday and Marshall Faulk, picking up on how Michael Irvin always uses the royal "we" in reference to the Cowboys, used the royal we in reference to his Rams, whom he picked to beat San Francisco. Ouch. Thirty-five to nothing later, Faulk might one to reconsider that one.
I was going through the statstics trying to figure out how the 49ers won that game by such a lopsided score. Here's why:
Rushing yards: St. Louis 95; San Francisco 96 *
Rushing plays: St. Louis 28; San Francisco 29 *
Passes completed: St. Louis 13 of 24; San Francisco 14 of 24 *
Passing yards: St. Louis 82, San Francisco 132 *
Times Sacked: St. Louis 5 for 26 yards; San Francisco 4 for 20 yards *
Punts: St. Louis 8, San Francisco 7 *
It took just a little more scanning to figure this one out.
Fumbles lost: St. Louis 2, San Francisco 0. *
Interceptions: St. Louis 1, San Francisco 0. *
More than turnover ratio, the real whopper was in the scoring summary. The 49ers turned all three of those turnovers into defensive scores -- 21 points. (If only I had their defense on my fantasy team, I would have won this weekend.)
Do you think it's safe to say that turnover margin will play a big role in this game? St. Louis' defense is ranked 14th in the NFL in yards allowed per game (359.5), so if the Rams can hold the 49ers to 96 yards rushing and 132 passing, I think the Falcons have a good chance of producing a similar effort. (Incidentally, the Falcons are yielding the third-most yards per game in the league at 381.3, but that is skewed by allowing 445 against New England and having played one less game than most other teams.)
I don't think anyone would confuse the 49ers' offense with New England's. As mentioned last week, the 49ers should be without top running back Frank Gore. The Rams held Glen Coffee to 74 yards on 24 carries. If the Falcons win the turnover margin against Mike Singletary's bunch, they probably win the game, especially with an offense that should be far superior to the 49ers (the Falcons are averaging 303 yards per game -- again, skewed by only 78 in the second half against New England -- to the 49ers' 264).