Plaschke: Rams vs 49ers will end like Dodgers vs Giants
A team is known for its grit, resilience, a hearty group of regular dudes who scrapped and shocked.
The Other Team is known for its glam, glitzy, stately collection of A-list stars who swaggered and steamrolled.
Three months ago, this described the playoff duel between the San Francisco Giants and the Dodgers.
Today, he describes Sunday’s NFC Championship game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Rams.
The 49ers, like the Giants, are the boldest performers. The Rams, like the Dodgers, are gifted rock stars.
Same different styles. Same dissimilar cultures. Same regional disparities.
And, yes, absolutely, the same ending.
The Rams will beat the 49ers like the Dodgers beat the Giants, only that will be decided well before the final pitch, and there will be no whiny finish.
No check swings here, just one big hit.
Rams 30, 49ers 17.
49ers fans can fill the entire SoFi stadium with every available Ronnie Lott jersey and it won’t matter. Kyle Shanahan can pin Sean McVay in midfield for a half and it won’t matter. crazier than all that, Jimmy Garoppolo can play a clean game and it won’t matter.
The Rams will win because they have a vastly superior roster in much better physical condition. The Rams will win because they are peaking as the valiant 49ers are finally gasping.
The Rams will win because they’re just better, period.
The Rams have Matthew Stafford. The 49ers don’t. The Rams have Cooper Kupp. The 49ers don’t. The Rams have a defensive line of Aaron Donald, Von Miller and Jalen Ramsey. The 49ers don’t.
The 49ers will have to win despite trailing Garoppolo and his 63.0 playoff passer rating. The 49ers will need to win by playing their third straight game on the road after hard-fought wins in the previous two. The 49ers will have to beat a hungry, healthy team that has waited all season for that chance to make a Super Bowl on home turf.
“I feel like there’s no better stage than this,” Donald said. “It’s the type of game you train for in the offseason. All that extra grind, all that extra film is to play in big games like this. I feel like there’s no there’s no better scene than the one we have right now.
Sure, the 49ers have had six straight wins over the Rams, and certainly they’ve physically overpowered the Rams each time on both sides of the ball, but, my goodness, things have changed dramatically since their last game earlier this month. -this.
Cam Akers had just returned from an Achilles injury in this last game. It is now complete. If he can hold the football, he can do a lot to undo the harassing defense of the 49ers.
“Lots of faith in Cam’s ability to be resilient,” Rams coach Sean McVay said.
Odell Beckham Jr. caught only two assists in this last game. He’s since found playoff rhythm — 10 catches, 12 targets, 123 yards and a touchdown — and will be a great complementary weapon against a 49ers secondary that was torched by Kupp for 240 yards. Contrary to what was predicted in this space at the time of his mid-season acquisition, Beckham has been a reasonably humble source of good.
“I feel like I affect the game and I can give a spark when you need it,” he said.
Also in that final 49ers game, Stafford was mired in a slump. He has since found himself with two starts in the playoffs with four touchdown passes while completing 75% of his attempts for a passer rating of 131.5.
“Not a bunch of secrets, just who can step in and make the plays when we have to make them,” Stafford said.
The Rams went to the cliche plate and knocked it out of the cliche park, entering Sunday with the momentum of two terrific playoff offensive performances. At separate times in the final two weeks of the playoffs, the Rams have led their opponents by a combined 55-3. The offense was matched by a Rams defense that didn’t allow a first-half touchdown in both postseason games.
The 49ers, meanwhile, have been hitting hard offensively, having scored no touchdowns in their past five quarters. They needed a brain cramp from the Dallas Cowboys to win one game and a special teams meltdown from the Green Bay Packers to win the other game.
“There’s a lot of confidence in our team, a lot of confidence in the guys in this dressing room,” Stafford said. “When we step onto the pitch, whatever the situation, we’ll have a chance to go out there and get things done.”
There is a growing strength in this step. The Rams have rarely been healthier, as the 49ers pulled away from Lambeau Field in Green Bay last week with apparent leg injuries to their two most important offensive players, left tackle Trent Williams and the gun. versatile Deebo Samuel. While Williams missed the 49ers’ last win over the Rams and it didn’t seem to matter, and despite Samuel not even being on this week’s injured list, both players are desperately needed now at full power against a Rams defense that barely blinked against Kyler Murray and Tom Brady.
“I think as the season progresses they’re playing their best ball right now,” McVay said of the 49ers.
Maybe they are. But Sunday will be an all-new game against another Rams team, resulting in a completely different outcome.
49ers fans will surely fill SoFi with chants of “Beat LA”
But they won’t. Again.