The San Francisco 49ers have won six straight games against the Los Angeles Rams and seek to maintain that mastery in the postseason when they travel to Inglewood, Calif., to face the fourth-seeded Rams in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.
Sixth-seeded San Francisco recorded wins of 31-10 at home and 27-24 in overtime on the road in this season’s two regular-season meetings with the Rams. The latter meeting, in Week 18, saw the 49ers overcome a 17-0 deficit to clinch a playoff spot at SoFi Stadium.
The stakes are higher now with San Francisco in its fifth NFC title game in the past 11 seasons and Los Angeles in its second in the past four.
The Rams reached the title game despite blowing a 24-point lead against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round. Matthew Stafford’s crucial 44-yard pass to Cooper Kupp led to Matt Gay’s decisive 30-yard game-ending field goal in a 30-27 victory.
The 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers 13-10 in the divisional round Saturday without scoring an offensive touchdown, and Robbie Gould’s game-ending 45-yard field goal elevated San Francisco.
As for the Rams’ issues with the 49ers, Kupp said it will be a non-factor on Sunday.
“The Niners have done a great job against us the past few years,” Kupp said after Wednesday’s practice. “You learn from the past and you have to be ready to move forward. We don’t live in a world where we need past motivations.”
San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t see the streak giving his team an advantage.
“Every game’s different,” Garoppolo said. “So the feel of it, the flow of it, last time we played the Rams when we were down (and) it didn’t feel like we were in control of that one. So I think each one has its own flavor to it.”
Stafford is aiming to give the Rams a better showing after throwing two interceptions in each of the losses to the 49ers.
Stafford was picked off eight times over the Rams’ final four regular-season contests. He has turned that around in the postseason by not tossing any during wins over the Arizona Cardinals and Bucs.
Stafford engineered his 43rd career winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime of his 13-year career against Tampa Bay, but it was his first in the postseason. He went 0-3 in the playoffs with the Detroit Lions before being dealt to the Rams last offseason.
“It means a lot,” Stafford said of the game-winning drive that began with 42 seconds remaining. “That’s a lot of hard work for a lot of years going into a short amount of time. A lot of hard work this year, too, with some great teammates.
“That’s the thing I’ve loved, and I’ve really appreciated in being a part of this team is how many guys we have pulling the rope in the right direction, doing everything they can to be prepared for those moments.”
Kupp has put together a wide receiver season for the ages. He led the NFL in receptions (145), receiving yardage (1,947) and touchdown receptions (16) and has tacked on 14 catches for 244 yards and two scores in the playoffs.
But San Francisco star defensive end Nick Bosa and his mates shut down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last weekend after beating the Dallas Cowboys in the opening round of the playoffs.
The 49ers also have top-level confidence after recovering from a shaky 3-5 start, while observing the manner Garoppolo handled things when there were calls for him to be replaced by rookie Trey Lance.
“Jimmy G, you can’t say enough about that guy,” San Francisco tight end George Kittle said. “The (bleep) that he takes, excuse my language, consistently, people just try to pull him down, and all he does is try to deliver. He leads this team, he has a sense of calm in the huddle, he has a sense of calm in the storm, and he allows us to play football at a high level.”
Garoppolo is still dealing with a thumb injury on his throwing (right) hand, but 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said his QB’s previous shoulder injury is no longer an issue. Left tackle Trent Williams (ankle) and running back Elijah Mitchell (knee) were among the players who missed practice on Wednesday.
For Los Angeles, safety Taylor Rapp (concussion) and left tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee) were limited practice participants. Rapp has missed both postseason games and Whitworth sat out versus the Buccaneers, but both appear in line to play Sunday.
The teams have met in the NFC title game once before when the Joe Montana-led 49ers routed the Rams 30-3 in the 1989 conference championship game at San Francisco.
–Field Level Media