Super Bowl LVI at stake for Rams, 49ers

(News4usonline) – So it all comes down to this for the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers. The NFC Championship Game. One game. Win one more game and you punch your ticket to Super Bowl LVI. 

All the chatter. All the predictions. All the hype. All of that other outside noise doesn’t really matter now. It doesn’t matter one iota that the Rams gave away four fumbles and nearly coughed up a 27-3 lead to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC divisional round playoff game. 

What matters to Rams head coach Sean McVay and his team is lining up Sunday afternoon and trying to best their longtime NFC rivals. It’s been a while since the Rams have been able to do that.    

The Niners had beaten the Rams twice this season and have won the last six matchups between the two storied ballclubs. After beating Tampa Bay 30-27 to move on to the championship round, getting by San Francisco is going to be a big hurdle to climb, McVay acknowledges.   

“They’re a really good team,” McVay said. “They do a great job. So they’re a really good team. Those previous matchups they’ve found a way to get it done. And in a lot of instances, those second games each of the last few seasons, have come down to the wire. But they aren’t going to get any excuses out of me. 

“They’ve done a great job,” McVay added. “They’ve found a way to win in that window of time. And every single game is its own separate entity. There’s going to be a lot of similarities in terms of the players, the personnel, some of the schemes, but we have to do a great job playing our best ball for a full four quarters.”

January 9, 2022. Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) calling the shots against the San Francisco 49ers. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline
January 9, 2022. Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) calling the shots against the San Francisco 49ers. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

Playing all four quarters is not something the Rams were able to do in Week 18 when they staked San Francisco a 17-0 lead only to see the 49ers make a furious rally and win 27-24 in overtime. 

“We just started making plays, honestly,” San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said after the game. “It wasn’t anything crazy. It wasn’t a scheme or anything like that. It was just guys making plays and guys stepped up in big moments. (The) defense really gave us a shot. It was really a full team effort today. (The) defense holding them in crucial situations. (49ers CB) Ambry (Thomas) at the end with the big interception too, that was awesome.”

McVay was blunt in his assessment about what the Rams did or did not do in giving up their double-digit lead in the regular season finale for both teams.   

“You’ve got to finish,” remarked McVay. “Our guys came out ready to go but you’ve got to play four quarters or five quarters in this instance. Credit them, they did a good job. I have to do a better job, we can all do a better job, and fortunately, this isn’t the end for us.”

What was critical for the Rams in that game as well as in their Week 10 contest against San Francisco was the team’s inability to run the football. In their Week 10 game, the Rams rushed the football for a grand total of 52 yards. 

San Francisco, on the other hand, gained 156 yards on the ground in their 31-10 win. There was very little difference in the two team’s second dance. The 49ers rushed for 135 yards, while the Rams could only generate 64 yards running the football. 

“Yeah, we weren’t able to run the ball at all. We didn’t get any efficiency running the ball and then we were having trouble protecting,” said McVay.

January 9, 2022. A Los Angeles Rams defender makes an attempt to derail San Francisco wide reeiver Deebo Samuel from finishing off a 16-yard touchdown run in a game played at SoFi Stadium. Samuel and the 49ers prevailed with a 27-24 overtime win against the Rams. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline
January 9, 2022. A Los Angeles Rams defender makes an attempt to derail San Francisco wide receiver DeeboSamuel (19) from finishing off a 16-yard touchdown run in a game played at SoFi Stadium. Samuel and the 49ers prevailed with a 27-24 overtime win against the Rams. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

Speaking of protection, the Rams have been one of the best units in keeping their quarterback Matthew Stafford out of harm’s way. During the regular season, the Rams’ offensive line only gave up 31 sacks. They surrendered seven to the 49ers in the two games they played against their Bay Area opponent.  

Five of those seven takedowns took place during the last time the two teams played each other. And in those two games, Stafford threw four interceptions. But that’s yesterday’s news. 

McVay has shown unwavering faith in Stafford, whom the team traded for in the offseason last year. That faith paid off for McVay and the Rams in a big way when their season teetered a bit when the Buccaneers roared back from their early deficit to tie the ballgame up at 27-27 with 42 ticks remaining in the fourth quarter. 

Following a failed attempt to make a run for it on first down, all Stafford did was complete the equivalent of a base hit and a home run on back-to-back throws to Cooper Kupp to set up Matt Gay’s game-winning 30-yard field goal with no time left on the clock. 

January 9, 2022. Los Angeles Rams cornerback Darious Williams (11) makes an assist on the tackle against the San Francisco 49ers. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline
January 9, 2022. Los Angeles Rams cornerback Darious Williams (11) makes an assist on the tackle against the San Francisco 49ers. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

“On the first play, he thought he was going to be (former NFL QB) Mike Vick for a second and then he realized, ‘Let’s go ahead and move and manipulate the pocket and find (WR) Cooper (Kupp) on the second down,’” McVay said. “And then, what an amazing play that those guys made and he made to be able to get us into field goal range and get it clocked.”

Besides Stafford affirming to his teammates why the Rams went out and got him, McVay also learned a thing or two about his team and how they were able to navigate through some really rough waters.   

“I think I learned that a lot of the things that they’ve demonstrated continues to ride true in some of the biggest moments of the season,” said McVay. “(They’re) mentally tough, resilient. All the adversity and all the different things that we did, (I) give them credit. 

“They forced some of those plays to allow them to get back into the game and I never sensed any sort of panic,” commented McVay. “I think there was some frustration, which is understandable, but I thought the guys just kept playing. They kept battling.”

Feature Image Caption: January 9, 2022. Los Angeles Rams running back Sony Michel (25) looks for running room against the San Francisco 49ers. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline