Sunday, January 30, 2022

L.A. Rams Must Snap Their San Francisco Losing Streak to Make It to the Big Rodeo

San Francisco's beat the Rams the last six times they've played, which is why I consider Los Angeles the underdog in tonight's divisional championship game at SoFi Stadium.

At LAT, "Rams determined to punch Super Bowl ticket and end losing streak vs. rival 49ers":

The Rams have done nearly everything to fulfill their mandate to play in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.

Before the season they traded for star quarterback Matthew Stafford and running back Sony Michel. At midseason they traded for star linebacker Von Miller and signed star receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who helped the Rams win the NFC West.

Last week, they defeated Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Now, here they are, in the NFC championship game.

All that stands in the way of the Rams playing in the Super Bowl is the San Francisco 49ers, a team that has beaten the Rams twice this season and six times in a row dating to 2018.

The Rams aim to end that streak on Sunday at SoFi Stadium — and take the final step to play in the Super Bowl at home.

“At this point it’s just a story,” Beckham said of the Rams’ struggles against the 49ers. “And either you choose to buy into it, or you choose to rewrite it …. What better way to rewrite the story than to win the NFC championship against the team who you’re 0-6 against, or whatever the record is?

“It just doesn’t seem to have a better ending than to make it to the Super Bowl.”

It’s been more than three decades since the Rams had the chance to defeat the 49ers in the NFC championship game. In January 1990, the 49ers routed the Rams 30-3.

Sunday’s game is not expected to be as one-sided for either team.

In November, the 49ers defeated the Rams 31-10 at Levi’s Stadium. Last month, in the regular-season finale at SoFi Stadium, the Rams blew a 17-point lead and lost 27-24 in overtime.

The 49ers have run the ball effectively against the Rams and kept quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo out of harm’s way with a quick-strike passing attack that features multitalented receiver and running back Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle among others. A pass rush led by ends Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead asserted itself in the finale against the Rams and in playoff victories over the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers.

The star-studded Rams rely on Stafford to trigger an offense that features record-setting receiver Cooper Kupp and Beckham, tight end Tyler Higbee and running backs Cam Akers and Michel. Three-time NFL defensive player of the year Aaron Donald anchors a defensive front that includes Miller and edge rusher Leonard Floyd.

“I don’t think there’s many secrets,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “There’s not much things we can surprise them with and same with them with us, which I think is kind of the most fun way.

“It’ll be two really good teams and a really good football game where you can’t really trick each other. You have to go out and beat somebody.”

Stafford agreed.

“Not a bunch of secrets,” he said. “Just who can step up to the plate and make the plays when we need to make them.”

So, what must the Rams do to beat the 49ers?