San Francisco 49ers (12-7, 11-8 ATS) at Los Angeles Rams (14-5, 10-9), 6:30 p.m
Brolley’s 49ers Stats and Trends
San Francisco moved ahead of Pittsburgh with their NFL-best 17th Conference Championship Game appearance since the merger.
The 49ers are coming off a miserable offensive performance in the Divisional Round, totaling just 212 yards and averaging just 4.1 yards per play — they had -10 yards through four series.
They went 0-for-3 on their red-zone opportunities against the Packers, but they pulled out the victory thanks to their special teams, which included a pivotal touchdown return on a blocked punt with under five minutes left in the game. Robbie Gould drilled the game-winning 45-yard kick as time expired to run his perfect postseason career to 20-for-20 on field-goal attempts.
The 49ers are 9-2 outright and ATS in their last 11 games.
They’ve played under the total in six of their last seven games. The lone exception came in their Week 18 matchup against the Rams, in which they needed a last-minute touchdown to force overtime and to go over the total.
Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers have recently owned Sean McVay’s Rams with a six-game outright winning streak dating back to the 2019 season. The 49ers also own a four-game ATS winning streak over the last two seasons.
San Francisco stunned Los Angeles in a 27-24 overtime victory as 3.5-point road underdogs just three weeks ago. The 49ers erased a 17-point deficit to hand Los Angeles its first loss in 46 games with a halftime lead under McVay. The 49ers crushed them on a yards-per-play basis (6.7 to 4.1) and they sacked Stafford five times in that contest.
San Francisco also dominated the Rams 31-10 as 3.5-point home underdogs when these teams met back in mid-November. Jimmy G attempted just 19 passes and the 49ers finished with 44 carries in that game, which resulted in the 49ers nearly doubling the Rams in time of possession (39:03 to 20:57).
Jimmy Garoppolo completed just 11/19 for 131 scoreless yards (6.9 YPA) with an INT against the Packers last week. He’s failed to hit multiple TD passes in five straight games, and he’s been rough in the postseason with 303 scoreless yards while averaging 6.9 YPA. Jimmy G completed 18 of his final 25 passes for 277 yards (11.1 YPA), one TD, and one INT in the final 39 minutes against the Rams in the season finale.
Deebo Samuel failed to find the end zone like the rest of San Francisco’s offense last week, which is just the second time he didn’t hit paydirt in his last 10 games. He did see 10 carries for the second straight game in the playoffs — his previous season-high in carries was eight — on his way to 10/39 rushing and 3/44 receiving. Deebo scored 28+ FP in each of his matchups against the Rams this season, posting a combined 9/192/1 receiving and 13/81/2 rushing for 59.3 FP — he also threw a 24-yard TD pass in Week 18.
George Kittle finally made an impact as a receiver last week after failing to hit 30+ yards in five straight games. He dropped his first target of the game, which would’ve gone for a big gain, but he rebounded to finish with 4/63 receiving on six targets. Kittle posted 5/50/1 receiving against the Rams in Week 10 before averaging a career-worst 2.0 YPR (5/10 receiving) in their Week 18 showdown. Rob Gronkowski went for 4/85 receiving on 11 targets in this matchup last week.
Brandon Aiyuk was a non-factor last week with Jimmy G attempting just 19 passes. He failed to catch his only target against the Packers after running off 4+ catches and 11+ FP in four straight games. His only 100-yard game of the season came against the Rams in early January.
Jauan Jennings has cooled off in the postseason with just 4/35 receiving on seven targets. He had the biggest game of his professional career against the Rams in the season finale, posting 6/94/2 receiving on seven targets, including the game-tying score with under a minute left in that contest.
Elijah Mitchell saw a seven-game low 17 carries last week after seeing 21+ carries in his previous six games, but he still reached 20 touches thanks to 3/18 receiving. He managed just 53 rushing yards against the Packers for 3.1 YPA, which was his second-worst average in a game this season. He failed to reach double-digit FP in either game against the Rams this season, finishing with 48/176 rushing (3.7 YPA) without a target.
Brolley’s Rams Stats and Trends
Both the Rams and 49ers will be making their second NFC Championship Game appearances since 2018, but only one team will represent the NFC for the second time in that span — the Rams last did it in 2018 and the 49ers did it in 2019.
Los Angeles is 7-1 outright (6-2 ATS) in its last eight games with the lone loss coming at the hands of the 49ers in the season finale.
San Francisco fans flooded SoFi Stadium for the season finale, and the Rams were looking to avoid a repeat showing by restricting ticket sales for the NFC Championship Game to credit cards in the Greater Los Angeles region.
They’re coming off a dramatic 30-27 victory over the Buccaneers in the Divisional Round, but they made the game more dramatic than it needed to be with four lost fumbles. It was the first time in 50 games that Tom Brady lost when his defense forced four or more turnovers.
The Rams blew a 27-3 lead in the span of 18 minutes in the second half last week, but Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp saved the day in the final minute. They burned the Buccaneers for gains of 20 and 44 yards to set up Matt Gay’s game-winning field goal from 30 yards away with no time left.
Stafford finished with 366/2 passing, which was his eighth game with multiple TD passes in his last nine games. He started his current run after he posted 243/1 passing when the Rams mustered just 10 points against the 49ers in Week 10. Stafford rebounded with 238/3 passing in their Week 18 matchup, but he still averaged 6.6 YPA in this matchup for the season.
Kupp finished with a season-high 183 receiving yards last week, which was his 11th game with 100+ receiving yards. Two of his other 100-yard games came against the 49ers this season, as he finished with 18/240/1 receiving on 20 targets in two matchups with San Francisco.
Odell Beckham matched his season-high with six catches last week on his way to 6/69 receiving on eight targets. He’s reached double-digit FP in seven of his last nine games and he’s scored touchdowns in six of those contests. One of his down games in that span came against the 49ers when he posted 2/18 receiving on five targets in the season finale.
Tyler Higbee has emerged as a viable secondary option at the end of the season with 41+ yards in six straight games. He managed 4/51 receiving on seven targets last week, which gives him 4+ catches in five of his last six contests. Higbee went off for 6/55/2 receiving on eight targets in this matchup in early January, which gave him 9/75/3 receiving in two games against the 49ers.
Van Jefferson has been at 41 or fewer yards in five of his last six games with OBJ and Higbee pushing him down the passing-game tree. He musted just 2/29 receiving on three targets and he added a 15-yard carry against the Buccaneers last week. Jefferson finished with 2/31 receiving in his last matchup with the 49ers with OBJ fully integrated into the offense.
Cam Akers was responsible for two of Los Angeles’ lost fumbles last week, which put a slight damper on his extraordinary return from his torn Achilles in July. He managed just 2.0 YPC (24/48 rushing) in a brutal matchup against the Buccaneers, and he added 3/20 receiving. He played on by far a season-high 58 snaps (81% share), which was more than the 45 snaps he combined to see in his first two games. Sony Michel saw the other 19% of the snaps, and he finished with no yardage on three touches. He did play on the final drive of the game after Akers’ second fumble, and Darrell Henderson (knee) has a chance to return after the Rams opened his practice window last week. Michael and Akers combined for a miserable 26/46 rushing (1.8 YPC) when these teams met in the season finale.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 30.6 (30th)
Plays per game: 64.1 (25th)
Pass: 54.5% (Y) | Run: 45.5% (Y)
Pace: 28.3 (16th)
Plays per game: 64.1 (24th)
Pass: 62.9% (9th) | Run: 37.1% (24th)
Everyone in America knows what the 49ers want to do here. The 49ers have the formula – play slow and run a ton. Now, it’s time to execute it again. HC Kyle Shanahan has called a run on a whopping 67% of their 1st and 2nd downs in the postseason and, when they do throw it, they have gotten the worst QB play by a margin out of the remaining four teams. Jimmy Garoppolo is averaging just 6.3 yards per attempt on his early-down (1st and 2nd) throws this postseason while Burrow (8.1 YPA), Mahomes (9.2), and Stafford (10.1) have all been highly efficient on 1st and 2nd downs.
Credit where it's due, though: the plan has worked. San Francisco leads all of the remaining postseason teams in time of possession per drive (3 minutes, 10 seconds). However, this Rams run defense is gluing at just the right time. They’re now fifth-best in FootballOutsiders Run Defense DVOA and they’ve held the opposing backs to just 3.65 YPC this postseason. Not only is Von Miller a terror off the edge, he’s made a huge difference in their run defense.
After controlling the game on the ground in the Wild Card round against Arizona (30 carries, 113 yards), the Rams rushing attack regressed last week against Tampa’s stout front-seven as Cam Akers ran into brick walls all day (24 carries, 48 yards). Especially since their run game was stoned by these 49ers back in Week 18 (26 carries, 46 yards), I’m thinking we’ll see HC Sean McVay empty the call sheet with his best passing game plan of the year. San Francisco easily has the best run defense of the remaining teams as they finished the season second in FootballOutsiders Run Defense DVOA. The 49ers run defense has carried their success into the postseason as they’ve held Cowboys and Packers backs to just 3.17 YPC.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
It’s up in the air how the Rams will proceed in covering Deebo Samuel this week. But it is clear they will not use a Jalen Ramsey in full-on shadow mode since Samuel does so much work out of the backfield. And we can also count on seeing them dedicate at least 15 touches to The Professional Bully. It’s really quite simple for me concerning my approach to Samuel each week. Will we see enough Cover 3? And I like the answer. LAR has used Cover 3 on just under half of their snaps the last three weeks – including over 50% in their Week 18 showdown.
Do not take this lightly, no other WR has obliterated Cover 3 in the fashion Samuel has during his career. He leads all WRs in FP/Rt (0.65), is third with 3.35 YPRR, and he’s scored 50% of his career TDs against Cover 3 on only 32% of routes. I keep a healthy respect for all route percentages run inside Ramsey’s coverage. However, Deebo’s pre-snap alignment is simply too slippery for Ramsey to track, and Samuel has made it clear in the past that he saves his best for matchups across from Ramsey. In four matchups across from Ramsey and the Rams, Deebo has created at least 24 FPG in three, and averaged 23.8 FPG overall.
In two games against the 49ers and with Matthew Stafford under center, Cooper Kupp has generated an 18/240/1 combined line, and 24.0 FPG. No matter the final outcome, Kupp is going to blow up.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
Since these two teams are playing for the third time this year, there are a ton of stats we can look at, but I found this piece at The Ringer to be one of the most intriguing if you’re interested in the relationship between Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan, who come from the same coaching tree but have since taken divergent branches.
In 2017, the 49ers and Rams hired coaches from the same tree: Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay, innovators that would define NFL offense for the next 5 years.— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) January 26, 2022
Then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.
On two changed offenses and changed men:https://t.co/6nXo5kta3U
And if you’re looking for a big dive into the analytics and All-22 for this particular matchup… well, The Athletic has you covered. Sheil and Ted do a kickass job.
49ers vs Rams part 3: the Films and Analytics report with @SheilKapadia— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) January 26, 2022
- LAR tried to use the Belichick blue print against SF’s run game but the 49ers fight fire with fire
- What coverages does Stafford struggle with? https://t.co/5q7iuZMIsb
From a fantasy perspective, it’s probably worth pointing out that the Rams are expected to get LT Andrew Whitworth (knee) back this week, while the Niners are a little more uncertain on LT Trent Williams (ankle).
Meanwhile, at WR, Ram #3 option Van Jefferson is dealing with a knee injury, and on the 49ers’ side, Jauan Jennings has actually tied Deebo Samuel in receptions over the last three games, while he has the Niners’ only TD receptions over that span as well. He also has the juiciest matchup of all their receivers.