Just 9 months ago, the Los Angeles Rams defeated the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game to punch their ticket to Super Bowl 56. The game was an instant classic, and it also seemed as if it was the end of the Jimmy G era for the 49ers, as third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft Trey Lance was catapulted into the starting quarterback role basically immediately following the loss for the Niners.
However, Garoppolo and the 49ers figured out a deal to keep the QB in town for another season as an insurance option for their young QB Trey Lance, and boy are they happy they did so. Trey Lance ended up suffering a season-ending injury just one quarter into Week 2 this season, pushing Jimmy Garoppolo back into the starting job for San Francisco.
Now, all eyes are on the first meeting between the two squads since that Championship contest. The Rams (2-1) have the best record in the West while the 49ers (1-2) have the same record as both the Seahawks and the Cardinals, so Monday night is a shot for the Rams to take control of the division. Here are 3 reasons why they WILL win and make the most of the opportunity, as well as 3 things that could lead to a disappointing loss.
3 REASONS THE RAMS WILL WIN
1) DEFENSE DOMINATES RUN GAME
There are absolutely zero secrets as it pertains to the San Francisco 49ers offensive philosophy under coach Kyle Shanahan. They want to run the football, then run the football, and then run the football some more. In last season's Monday night football meeting between the Rams and Niners, San Francisco did just that, as they ran the ball a whopping 44 times for 156 yards during the 31-10 win against Los Angeles.
In the second meeting, the 49ers had 31 rushing attempts for 135 yards en route to a regular season sweep of the Rams. When the Rams defeated San Francisco in the Championship game, SF only had 20 rushing attempts for 50 yards, providing a clear cut recipe on how to beat the 49ers.
In the off-season the Rams added Bobby Wagner, and now have one of the best run stuffing linebackers in NFL history at their disposal. This acquisition was made purely for football games like this one, contests where physicality and toughness reign supreme in terms of deciding a winner. When the Rams win on Monday night, expect for the run defense to have a night similar to that of the NFC Championship game.
2) PASS RUSH TAKES ADVANTAGE OF QUESTIONABLE O-LINE
Last week against the Denver Broncos, the 49ers lost perhaps the best offensive lineman in football in Trent Williams. With the loss of Williams, the 49ers have an extremely inexperienced offensive line not including right tackle Mike McGlinchey. The man expected to start in Williams’ place will be Colton McKivitz, a third year guy who has only made 4 starts in the NFL. The rest of the O-line for the Niners (not including McGinchey) entered the 2022 year with 3 total starts, all by the current starting center Jake Brendel.
The experience factor becomes extremely relevant for offensive linemen when it comes down to blocking the greatest defensive tackle of all-time in Aaron Donald. Donald often makes all-pro offensive linemen look silly, so it is easy to imagine him absolutely dominating players who are now starting players in this league for the first time this season.
Each and every time Jimmy Garoppolo drops back on Monday night, expect the pass rush to get there early and often. If the Rams secondary and linebackers can take away the quick passing game from the Niners, Los Angeles could easily have a multiple sack game, leading to another big divisional win on the road.
3) COOPER KUPP
In all three match-ups against the 49ers last season, Cooper Kupp dominated his counterparts. In the two regular season games against San Francisco, Kupp amassed 18 receptions for 240 yards and a touchdown, absurd numbers for the reigning offensive player of the year and Super Bowl MVP.
In the NFC Championship, Kupp destroyed the Niners once again, racking up 11 receptions for 142 yards as well as the only 2 touchdowns L.A. had in the massive victory. Clearly, the Rams have an advantage with the star receiver, an advantage I am sure they will capitalize on once again. When the Rams beat the 49ers, expect for Cooper Kupp to put up more video-game numbers we have become accustomed to seeing.
3 REASONS THE RAMS COULD LOSE
1) DEEBO SAMUEL RUNS WILD
In 49ers regular season sweep of the Rams last season, Deebo Samuel went absolutely nuclear. Combining both games, Samuel racked up 273 yards from scrimmage to go along with 3 touchdowns. In fact, the Monday night game in San Francisco last year was the first game where Deebo started to line up at running back more than usual, adding a layer to the Niners offense that is tough to combat.
If the Rams allow Deebo Samuel to have his way this Monday night, it will be a long night once again for the defense. The success of the 49ers offense runs mostly through Samuel, meaning how impactful he is in a game usually determines whether or not they win or lose. If the Rams do lose, expect Samuel to have stellar performance.
2) JIMMY GAROPPOLO GETS FIRST OPTION IN PROGRESSION
If there is one thing that is certain, it is the fact that Jimmy G does not do so well when he is forced to sit in the pocket and go through his progressions. However, if he has his first read available, he is very efficient and effective when it comes to neutralizing a pass rush by getting the ball out quickly.
In last season’s two losses the Rams were handed by San Francisco, Jimmy Garoppolo got rid of the football in an average of 2.29 seconds on pass plays. For reference, Jimmy averaged 2.57 seconds in all other games last season. The former is incredibly fast, so fast that it does not allow for players like Aaron Donald to make the most of their pass rushing opportunities. If the Rams lose on Monday, expect for Jimmy Garoppolo to get the ball out quickly on a majority of passing plays for the Niners.
3) STAFFORD GETS CARELESS
In the two regular season meetings between L.A. and San Francisco last season, Matthew Stafford threw a total of four interceptions, two in each of the contests. Stafford has always been known to take chances, as he was tied for the league lead in interceptions last season with 17. However, when playing a team that likes to take the air out of the ball offensively, giving the 49ers extra possessions can be devastating to the chances of winning.
If the Rams expect to come out on top against San Francisco, Stafford will need to be on the top of his game. The 49ers have one of the best run defenses in the NFL, meaning the Rams will most likely need to move the ball largely through the air. Stafford limiting mistakes often equates to a Rams win, while when Stafford makes mistakes, the Rams often lose. If the 49ers beat the Rams for a 7th consecutive time in the regular season, expect for Matthew Stafford to have a rough outing.