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On Wednesday, the press had an opportunity to participate in a conference calls with St. Louis Rams head coach Scott Linehan and quarterback Marc Bulger and ask them questions about their upcoming game with the San Francisco 49ers. Below are some key items hit during the conference calls.
Conference call with Rams head coach Scott Linehan:
What does it mean to this team to have Steven Jackson back?
"He is very important to what we do on offense. We were talking about it the other day. We had scored two touchdowns against Cleveland and four last weekend and he was in those games. So we basically were able to duplicate how many touchdowns we scored in seven or eight games. He is a big factor. We built a lot of things around him, but that doesn't mean that when he isn't in there we can't score or aren't supposed to. We just have to find ways to keep him fresh and have other guys step in and do the job as well."
What can you guys do to get Steven more production than he had in the first meeting?
"He is a big part of what we do, but if people are going to be keying in on him, we have to spread the ball around. Certainly running the ball more effectively has to be a goal of ours and the 49ers did a nice job of keeping someone on him, and I'm sure they will keep a similar plan as they had the last time. I think everyone else has to be that much more effective, so we don't just rely on Steven. But, he will be a big part of what we are trying to get done."
How does a guy like Nate Clements change a team's game plan?
"Nate is one of the elite corners in this league, which is why he was such a big time free agent coming out of Buffalo. I coached against Nate when I was at Miami, so I know he's a dangerous player. He made a key play against us forcing a fumble on Torry in the last game. We know what he can do, so we just have to limit the plays he is able to make, but that is easier said than done because he is a great football player."
What do you attribute to Marc's recent success in the past two games throwing for over 300 yards?
"We have played better offensively and protected the quarterback better and ran the ball more effective. When you can do those things, Marc is much more in his comfort zone. That is always the plan. It's not as easy as it sounds because the 49ers and other teams have done a good job of containing some of the things we are trying to get done. Hopefully we can improve upon that."
Who has the advantage with a team coming off its first win going against a team on a seven game losing streak?
"I don't know. I think the team that prepares for the game as if it's the first game of the year is going to be the most ready to play. I'm sure Mike (Nolan) and his staff are doing exactly what we are trying to do, which is get ready for this Sunday."
What is it about the match up between these two teams that makes it a one possession game every time?
"Well, it's a rivalry. Maybe it's because the Rams moved out here this way. From the old days, there was always going to be a heck of a game between the Rams and the 49ers. We don't forget about history around here. I watched many games between the L.A. Rams and the 49ers growing up, and the passion that those players had for those games regardless of the records always usually created a heck of a match up. Tradition in the NFL and tradition in the rivalry has more to do with it than people give it credit for."
What were you guys able to do against the Saints to contain them for most of the game that the 49ers weren't able to?
"We protected the ball, so we were able to sustain drives on third downs and score points. We were fortunate the way we played offensively and defensively creating a couple of turnovers early and got a lead. That is hard to do against that Saints team. They were on a roll, and offensively, we were up 34-7 in the fourth quarter, and at the end of the fourth quarter it was 37-29. We were just able to get a lead and maintain it, which is not easy to do against them."
How do you assess Alex Smith's performance the past few games?
"Gutty. I know he is hurting somewhat. I have a background somewhat with Alex. I know he is a winner. Some of the stuff that is going on with him probably has to do with the fact he isn't 100 percent. But the bottom line is that he is out there battling and fighting when there are a lot of people that might just as soon take another couple of weeks off. He's always going to be a guy who will keep his team in the game and give the team a chance to win. He played good enough to win against us last time and he has a pretty good record against us too. He's played through some tough times and he has a 3-1 record against the Rams, so we have all the respect in the world for Alex."
Conference call with Rams quarterback Marc Bulger:
How do you feel the offense is coming around right now?
"We're definitely getting better. I don't want to say that we're there yet, because we were 1-1 in those two games. Getting Steven (Jackson) back has been the difference. We got him for a quarter two weeks ago and he scored 14 points, then he went out. We got him for a full game last week and it just makes a huge difference. It takes a lot of pressure off our line and our receivers with the play action game."
For a team coming off their first win going against a team on a seven game losing streak, who do you think has the advantage?
"Probably neither team. If I had to pick one I'd say San Fran, because it's a home game and they've had our number lately. We haven't been playing well against them in the last three or four years. We've been struggling out there. We understand that fortunately, we got a win on the road last week, so we're going to build on that momentum. We take nothing for granted, we understand that it's a rivalry. We're going to have to be careful with the ball and try to get some field position and create turnovers."
Why do you think it's been a one possession game every time you've played the 49ers in the last few years?
"I don't know. I think this rivalry goes back twenty years. It's something I didn't understand, how big a rivalry it really was, especially in the L.A. days. I think it started back then. I think we had their number in the late 90's, but like I said, they have kicked our butts the past couple years."
What do you guys have to do better than what you did in the first meeting?
"I don't think it's a secret. We have to protect me a little better. We didn't finish in the red zone and took a pounding. We have to get our running game going, get better protection, and finishing in the red zone will be important. Not only that, we did give the ball away a couple times at critical points, so winning the turnover battle is equally important."
Would the season have been any different if you guys would have won that first meeting?
"You never know. We had a close game against Carolina the week before. If Steven Jackson doesn't get hurt or our line is healthy, there are just too many if's you can play, and you hate to point to one thing because it will drive you nuts. Maybe it would have got us going in a better direction, but I don't want to point to the one game."
What is the attitude in the locker room right now?
"It's the same as it has been the first nine weeks. We still understand we are a 1-8 football team, but it's a lot better this week than it was last week because we got a win. The building has a little more energy and we want to turn this thing around. And it's not just something we have been talking about, we actually got it done last week. There is a freshness from winning that has helped us right now."