The 49ers will finally face NFC West foe St. Louis on Sunday at Candlestick Park, in the first of two divisional meetings down the stretch. Much like the previous 49ers opponents, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo sounded impressed with the multiple looks the 49ers feature on offense.
But it all starts with 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, whose career year has caught Spagnuolo’s eye.
“He’s a quality quarterback; he’s got a lot of ability,” Spagnuolo said in his Wednesday conference call with the Bay Area media. “(49ers coach) Jim (Harbaugh) has obviously done a great job with him. It’s evident to me when you watch the film that the other 10 players with him on offense have a great deal of confidence in him.”
One of Smith’s former teammates, wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, has landed with the Rams after being traded from Denver in Week 7. Lloyd spent the first three years of his NFL career in San Francisco, including one with Smith, but said he won’t be trying to prove a point when he takes the field on Sunday.
“It’s just another game to me,” Lloyd said.
Lloyd said he’s matured mentally since leaving the 49ers following the 2005 season, while the stats show his game has also developed. Lloyd led the NFL with 1,448 receiving yards last year and totaled 77 catches and 11 touchdowns.
Lloyd will be a focus for the 49ers defense on Sunday. In his six games with the Rams, the 6-foot, 181-pound receiver has 31 catches for 396 yards and four touchdowns. Although franchise quarterback Sam Bradford was sidelined for Lloyd’s initial two games as a Ram, the veteran wideout said he feels like they’re building chemistry.
“I’m just trying to make it as easy for the quarterback as possible,” Lloyd said of his relationship with Bradford, who was limited in Wednesday’s practice with a lingering ankle injury. “I’m just trying to fit into what they have as opposed to try and them change what they’re doing to fit my game.
Though the Rams were picked my many media outlets to win the NFC West before the season, they are 2-9 and last place in the division. Spanguolo, however, sounds like a coach determined to keep his team working hard until season’s end.
“We embraced that,” Spanguolo said of the lofty preseason expectations. “I know the whole team did, staff did, I did. You’d much rather be in that role. Now certainly, you want to live up to it and exceed it and we haven’t done that for a lot of different reasons – some out of our control, some quite enough in our control. It didn’t happen. We’re trying to find a way to correct that and we’re hoping we can start doing that this weekend.”
Click here to listen to Spanguolo’s conference call
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