- Associated Press - Saturday, October 11, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Two straight wins might have quieted down talk about Jim Harbaugh’s future with the San Francisco 49ers. At least a little.

Another win on Monday night against a team prone lately to self-destruction would further distance the franchise from a shaky 1-2 start and bring the Niners closer to rejoining the NFL’s elite.

Not, mind you, that their prickly coach seems bothered by rumors about job security.

“No, that just seems like warmed-up oatmeal to me,” Harbaugh said on a conference call with St. Louis reporters.

The St. Louis Rams (1-3) still believe Year 3 under Jeff Fisher can be their breakthrough. But only if they stop beating themselves.

“I think we’re better than that,” quarterback Austin Davis. “We need to show it.”

Prime time seems to agree with the 49ers (3-2), who have won six in a row on Monday night. They’ll lean most on a defense ranked second in the NFL with no apparent weaknesses, one that has succeeded by going back to basics.

“I think the last couple years it’s kind of been the M.O. with us,” defensive end Justin Smith said. “We’ve come out, gone 1-2 and then we kind of just settle back to fundamental football.

“Basic, old school football.”

The Rams rank among the league leaders in penalties, many of them pre-snap infractions and many others reflecting a lack of discipline. They allowed three easy touchdowns last week at Philadelphia, including a blocked punt 27 seconds into the game, and a late flurry from 27 points down fell short.

One of the more persistent offenders on special teams, Ray Ray Armstrong, was released the day after the loss.

“This is not a scapegoat. You guys know me,” Fisher told reporters. “But we needed to make a change and go a different direction.”

Here are some things to watch for in 49ers-Rams:

SAN FRANCISCO TREAT: This weekend, the 49ers and Giants will be staying at the same hotel.

The Giants are seeking their third World Series title in five seasons and open their best-of-seven NL Championship Series against the Cardinals on Saturday night. Harbaugh took part in the 2012 World Series parade, but doesn’t know Giants manager Bruce Bochy well and wasn’t planning on attending any of the games.

“I haven’t had that many conversations with Bruce,” Harbaugh said, “but I’m a big fan. I would love to run into him, yes.”

ONE SACK, SO WHAT?: San Francisco’s offensive line doesn’t have much interest in discussing the fact St. Louis has managed just one sack so far - perhaps a sign of a lacking pass rush.

Not so, says Niners right guard Alex Boone. Not the way Fisher likes to mix things up and keep opponents guessing on both sides of the ball.

“I think it’s deceptive. That’s what they’re known for, their front four,” Boone said. “They can hurt you and it can be a long game. We have to shut them down early.”

The Rams had anticipated more sacks under new coordinator Gregg Williams and are getting pressure if nothing else.

“It’s about time we got that breakout game,” Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers said.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick counts on some new looks with Fisher running the show.

“They always have something up their sleeve,” he said. “They’re going to have different looks, different blitzes. Always something new you’re going to have to be ready for.”

DAVIS’ PROGRESS: Quarterback is not the problem for the Rams. Austin Davis, the fourth-stringer in August behind even rookie Garrett Gilbert, is coming off consecutive 300-yard passing games and almost brought the team back to a win last week.

“It’s for us to determine whether he’s a starting quarterback in this league or not,” 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis said. “All we know is he’s starting for them, that makes him a starting quarterback.”

It’ll be tough for the Rams to build on that momentum.

“It’s probably our biggest challenge across the board,” Davis said.

PENALTY PHASE: Rams players are well aware they’ve got to cut down on mistakes. They don’t need Fisher to take punitive measures like extra wind sprints.

“Week in and week out, we constantly shoot ourselves in the foot,” defensive end Robert Quinn said. “We have to eliminate those if we want to start putting Ws on the board.

“Some things you really can’t control, but we have to be a little more focused.”


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL



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