Editor's note: This is the second part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Rams matchups to watch Sunday, 1:05 p.m., at Candlestick Park
[MATCHUP NO. 3: Jake Long vs. Aldon Smith]
49ers LT Joe Staley vs. Rams DE Robert Quinn
Tale of the tape
Staley (74): 6 foot 5, 315 pounds, seventh season, Central Michigan
Quinn (94): 6 foot 4, 264 pounds, third season, North Carolina
Robert Quinn recorded 10.5 sacks a year ago, but now he is truly experiencing his breakout season.
The St. Louis Rams’ right defensive end leads the NFC and is second in the league with 13 sacks. Indianapolis' Robert Mathis has an NFL-leading 14.5 sacks. But when 49ers left tackle Joe Staley talks about Quinn’s improvement, he does not focus on the pass rush.
“He plays the same since he got in the league,” Staley said. “He’s just having a lot of success this year, getting to the quarterback. The thing I see most improved -- his pass rush has always been there -- but this year he’s done a really great job in the run game, as well.
“Going against him for the fifth time, so I’m familiar with him and the athleticism he has and the way he plays the game. Particularly this year, he’s having a really good year.”
Quinn ranks far above the No. 2-rated 4-3 defensive end (Cincinnati’s Michael Johnson), according to Pro Football Focus’ grading system. In fact, Quinn’s only negative grade of the season came in Week 4 when he was matched against Staley.
“Joe handles everybody every week,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “He’s one of the top tackles in the league, and not only from pass-protection standpoint but also he’s an outstanding run blocker.”
Staley, a two-time Pro Bowl performer, is having the best season of any 49ers offensive lineman. He ranks as the top tackle in the NFL, according to PFF, with nearly equal success in pass protection and run-blocking.