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Rams face much harder test against 49ers than they had against Seahawks

The Rams were way better than expectations in Week 1, but now they face a real test of their readiness

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It’s never a bad idea to state the obvious, especially when maybe you haven’t seen someone or something for a while and perceptions of “the truth” are out of whack, so at the risk of being called out for it I’m going to state the obvious:

The San Francisco 49ers sure look a hell of a lot better than the Seattle Seahawks.

Not only do the 49ers look better, not only have the 49ers been better, but the 49ers have looked better and been better against the Los Angeles Rams ever since Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan became their respective head coaches. As opposed to the Seahawks, who the Rams always beat or play well against, Shanahan has owned McVay’s number since 2019 (eight straight regular season wins) and whatever L.A. is going to be this season, we better get a look at them in Week 2 first before making any judgments.

Just to get it out of the way once before we start previewing the 49ers over the next few days, I’m going to state the obvious about why the Rams are in for a much harder test this week than they had last week.

Brock Purdy > Geno Smith

In case you’ve somehow missed it, Brock Purdy has been a far better quarterback over the last ~9 NFL games that he’s played in than Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith. The Rams have done a good job of shutting Geno down recently:

61%, 1 TD, 2 INT, 65.7 rating, 3 sacks, 6.87 Y/A in Week 18 of last season.

61%, 1 TD, 0 INT, 84.1 rating, 2 sacks, 4.31 Y/A in Week 1 of this season.

When people say “Geno Smith is good now” what they mean to say is, “Geno Smith is good now compared to Geno Smith from the previous eight years.” But is Geno Smith actually “good”? He hasn’t been an above average or even average quarterback since the middle of last season.

Compare that to Purdy, who has been a top-10 quarterback since taking over in December, 2022: Purdy has completed 68% of his attempts with 15 TD, 3 INT, 8 Y/A, and a passer rating of 112 in his last seven regular season games. He also had 332 yards and three touchdowns in a playoff win over Seattle.

Of course Purdy’s numbers are boosted by system and supporting cast, but by any measure he’s been better than Geno Smith since he became an NFL starter and he should make life harder on L.A.’s defense than the Seahawks quarterback has over the last two games.

Nick Bosa could out-sack Seattle’s entire defensive line

The Seahawks didn’t get a single sack in Week 1 and only pressured Matthew Stafford three or four times. Nick Bosa will probably get at least one sack and he could have more pressures himself than Seattle’s entire defense.

In his last five games against the Rams, Bosa has 6.5 sacks, he’s gotten to the quarterback at least once in each game, and he’s had FOURTEEN QB hits.

It doesn’t need to be said that Nick Bosa is better than anyone Seattle has because Bosa is better than any edge rushing defensive lineman on any other team, but the Rams really didn’t even face a single top-20 pass rusher in Week 1. The gap between Bosa and the best Seahawks pass rusher is much wider than the average and really he may not be the only one.

The 49ers also have Javon Hargrave, who is better than any Seattle defensive lineman, and Arik Armstead, who might also be better than the Seahawks’ best defensive lineman. Even Drake Jackson is like, “I’m going to build a case too” because the second-year player out of USC had three sacks in Week 1 against the Steelers. Seattle is still figuring out if they have more than one or two players who will have three sacks all season.

Kyle Shanahan a better foe for McVay than Pete Carroll

Again, stating the obvious because you already know that McVay has owned Pete Carroll. Not only has he won eight of the last 11, but it very well could be 10 of the last 11 if not for last season’s games coming in the second half of the year when the key starters were on IR. The Rams kept those games against Seattle close, but lost 24-9 and 31-14 to the 49ers.

L.A.’s one win against the 49ers since 2018 came in the NFC Championship game, a contest that came down to the wire.

But five of San Francisco’s eight regular season wins since 2019 have been by eight points or more.

49ers get multiple on offense

The Seahawks have talented receivers but that’s what they are: Receivers. Also, Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf both have a habit of getting 100-150 yards and then disappearing for a month. The Rams haven’t really been bothered by those two and it didn’t take more than Ahkello Witherspoon and Derion Kendrick to shut them out in the second half.

What the 49ers bring on offense are receivers who are running backs, running backs who are receivers, fullbacks who are tight ends, and tight ends who do everything.

In the last five regular season games he’s played against the Rams, Deebo Samuel has caught 32 passes on 37 targets and gained 496 yards with three touchdowns. He has also rushed for two touchdowns.

After giving up 133, 97, 95, and 115 receiving yards to Deebo in the last four games he’s played in, I don’t see what the Rams changed on defense this offseason to stop him.

Remarkably, Deebo is probably not San Francisco’s best receiver anymore either. Brandon Aiyuk has ascended to the top and last season he caught 10 of 10 targets against the Rams. Overall, he’s caught 16 of 17 in his last three games against L.A. and his reported training camp dominance carried over to Week 1 with eight catches on eight targets for 129 yards and two touchdowns.

That’s just talking about the Niners top two receivers, but Christian McCaffrey led the NFL in rushing in Week 1 and last season he had 163 rushing yards + 144 receiving yards with two touchdowns in two games against the L.A. Rams.

George Kittle was quiet in Week 1, but is still one of the top-three tight ends in the NFL. He caught seven touchdowns in the last four games of the 2022 season and should be one of the leading scorers again this season.

You could argue that as of right now, the top-four weapons on the 49ers would be the top-four weapons on the Seahawks. Seattle just doesn’t have a rushing threat like McCaffrey, a tight end anywhere close to Kittle, and their receivers haven’t been consistently dangerous against L.A. like Deebo and Aiyuk have been. That’s not even talking about the fact that left tackle Trent Williams is going to do a much better job of protecting his quarterback than the Seahawks offensive line did in Week 1.

Rams face more blue chip talent this week

I don’t know that the Seahawks have a single blue chip player on the entire roster other than on their special teams unit. We’ve already talked about most, but not all, of San Francisco’s blue chip players: Trent Williams, Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffrey, Nick Bosa, Fred Warner, Javon Hargrave, George Kittle are all either All-Pro talent or could be All-Pro talent.

Then you’ve got Brock Purdy, Arik Armstead, Talanoa Hufanga, Charvarius Ward, Dre Greenlaw, Drake Jackson as the next level down, if not soon leveling up, and there are probably more I’m unaware of so far.

What will it mean for the Rams?

The Rams won 30-13 on the road against a team that made the NFC playoffs, which brings about good vibes and higher expectations. We’re just not sure yet how good the quality of that opponent is yet and we do already know that McVay hasn’t had nearly as many issues with the Seahawks as he’s had with the 49ers. It could be that San Francisco’s 30-7 win over the Steelers in Week 1 is an exaggeration of their formidability—we’ll find out later how bad the Steelers really are—but we already know that the 49ers have been to three of the last four NFC Championship games. So it’s not a stretch to say that the 49ers are probably a lot better than the Seahawks.

I know, it’s stating the obvious. Someone had to do it before Sunday.