ST. LOUIS -- A week before the rest of the nation caught onto the Colin Kaepernick phenomenon, the Rams saw firsthand what the new San Francisco starting quarterback is capable of doing on a football field.
Like many of the Rams, defensive end Chris Long was tired and frustrated after the Rams let leads of 14-0, 17-7 and 24-21 slip away in a 24-24 tie against the 49ers. And like just about everyone else on defence that Nov. 11 afternoon, he was a little numb over the scrambling and playmaking ability shown by Kaepernick.
"Kaepernick really played well," Long said in a quiet Rams locker-room after that game. "He's a good young quarterback. He might be a backup on this team, but I think he can start for some teams in the NFL, I really do."
Lo and behold, Kaepernick comes to town for today's rematch in the Edward Jones Dome as the 49ers' starter even though veteran Alex Smith -- who suffered a concussion in that Nov. 11 game -- is now healthy.
"I called it first," Long said, chuckling, on Wednesday.
Maybe Long has a career in scouting once his playing days are over. For now, the challenge is finding a way to keep Kaepernick in the pocket, and then making him as uncomfortable as possible in that pocket. No one has figured out a way to do that just yet.
In his two starts since coming on in relief in the first Rams-49ers matchup, Kaepernick has led the San Francisco to double-digit victories over Chicago and New Orleans. He scored a rushing touchdown against the Saints, but has had success throwing the ball the past two games, including more downfield passes than usually are seen with Smith as quarterback.
At least the Rams now have two games of film on Kaepernick.
"It certainly does help," Long said. "We saw him first-hand, but obviously for him to come out these last two weeks and put a lot of film out there, it does help us out. There's a lot to prepare for (against) this offense no matter who's at quarterback."
While it may be a stretch to say Kaepernick is the least of their problems, he's far from the only problem posed by San Francisco (8-2-1).
"It's about their whole team," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "Obviously, they're getting excellent quarterback play out of Kaepernick. But their run game -- as we said three weeks ago, there's nobody in the league that's as creative and executes better in the run game than the 49ers. And of course they're very difficult to run against because of the talent they have across the board on defence."
The Rams moved the football against the 49ers unlike any team has this season, both running and passing. And the Niners have faced some high-powered offences this season, including those of Green Bay, the New York Giants and New Orleans'
In the first meeting, the 49ers' coaching staff might have underestimated the quickness and speed of wide receiver Danny Amendola, who even after subtracting an 80-yard reception called back because of a penalty, still logged 102 yards on 11 catches.
How much -- or even if -- Amendola plays today because of his foot/heel injury remains to be seen. He's listed as doubtful again, but the fact that he wasn't in a walking boot while watching Friday's practice is positive.
But even if Amendola is on the field for just a handful of plays, as was the case last week in Arizona, the 49ers almost certainly will give him extra attention.
The 49ers also will see three Rams starters that weren't on the field three weeks ago -- wide receiver Chris Givens, cornerback Janoris Jenkins and center Scott Wells. Givens and Jenkins were suspended for the Nov. 11 contest for violating team rules; Wells wasn't back yet from his fractured foot.
The Rams (4-6-1) aren't thinking playoff picture at this point, and they shouldn't considering the mettle of their foe today and their own ups and downs.
"What we basically are thinking on, is taking it week-to-week so we can get a string (of victories)," left tackle Rodger Saffold said.
-- St. Louis Post-Dispatch