NFC Rams-49ers Championship: The Good, The Bad, And The Difference

Not a single person from the Los Angeles Rams front office has been interviewed for a general manager position this year. Eh?

The number of Rams who will play for Sean McVay in 2019 superbowl and Super Bowl 2022 is a short list: Andrew Whitworth, Rob Havenstein, Tyler Higbee (if he’s healthy enough to play), Aaron Donald and Johnny Hekker. Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen each had two shots on special teams that day.

That means Les Snead and McVay have practically built two different Super Bowl rosters in less than five years, both centered on Aaron Donald but essentially different in every significant way.

Even the Detroit Lions had the good sense to hire Brad Holmes as general manager last year. No one realized the Rams had something good in LA? All those moves to acquire star players, all those ‘radical ideas’ to trade first-round picks for proven talent, all the ‘nerf’ it took to give Jared Goff a huge contract extension – only to Trade him for someone a lot of people said wasn’t better than Jared Goff?

The Rams have had a lot of people against them throughout the season, and a good number of others have chosen the San Francisco 49ers win the NFC Championship game on Sunday afternoon. But LA isn’t worried about who picks them – it definitely won’t be Jaquiski Tartt – they’re only worried about who will return to the Super Bowl outside of NFC West…

It’s the LA Rams.

Here’s the good, the bad, and the difference from Rams 20, 49ers 17.

Good

Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr.

Ever since I’ve been writing about the NFL, I’ve expected players to regress. My early days of writing were about baseball and analysis and one of the first things you learn is that hot streaks are followed by regression, just like meltdowns used to do too. Yet here we are in “Week 21” and Cooper Kupp is still dominant week after week.

Players aren’t supposed to be that great. It just doesn’t happen.

Kupp had 11 catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns. It’s his 18th game of the season with at least 90 yards. This is his ninth game with at least 120 yards. His sixth game with at least two touchdowns. the Arizona Cardinals were the only team all of the 2021-22 season to hold Kupp within 90 yards. Nobody else can do it. This time, Odell Beckham also got involved.

OBJ had nine catches for 113 yards, his best all-around game in three years. Beckham is going to the Super Bowl for the first time, as is Kupp in a big way, as he was injured the last time the Rams went to the Super Bowl.

If the MVP award doesn’t go to a Rams player, that’s fine, but I still think they voted wrong.

Kendall Blanton

The only tight end remaining on the active roster after Higbee’s injury, Blanton had five catches and 57 yards. He look at great too. Between Blanton, Jacob Harris, Ben Skowronek, the Rams have some scary receivers running through the pipeline.

Blanton had four catches for 37 yards in his pre-playoff career. He’s had more career fumbles than touchdowns. He’s going to the Super Bowl now and the LA Rams are going to need him.

offensive line

I don’t expect perfection against Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead and Fred Warner. It’s a great defense that almost made it to the Super Bowl. Almost. The important thing is that the Rams won and the offense got to do what it needed to do in the fourth quarter. They even held up well in the first half and the Rams wore Bosa and company down getting first down after first down. Given the left tackle uncertainty before the game and the question marks surrounding the offensive line all offseason, it’s now a Super Bowl-related offensive line.

Eric Weddle

This guy could have really retired when he retired, but he stayed in shape and he entered the field for a brand new defensive coordinator from his last stint in Los Angeles and on Sunday he led the team in the tackles. Good bad? He plays. That’s crazy.

A’Shawn Robinson

Six tackles and eat the middle. The 49ers had 20 carries for 50 yards.

Matthew Stafford of course

I never doubted the Rams’ decision to trade for Matthew Stafford. I always considered it the best shot of 2021 and now Stafford, Les Snead, Sean McVay are going to the Super Bowl. But it would be hard to deny feeling a little skeptical when the Rams lost three games midway through the season and Stafford was surely to blame for some horrific pitching and decision making along the way.

However, that’s what ALL quarterbacks do on their way to the Super Bowl. We can paint a narrative that quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are “perfect,” but they’re not, and they’ve had their chances of winning people over the years. Few people were so lucky when Stafford was with the Lions — Detroit only played in a handful of prime-time games during his 12 years and all three playoff games were in the wildcard round — but that changed as soon as he went to LA

Now over 100,000,000 people are going to watch Matthew Stafford in the Super Bowl.

He went 31 of 45 for 337 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Stafford has been sacked twice. He scored eight touchdowns in three playoff games, helping the Rams score 34, 30 and 20 in those contests. Now consider the dominating St. Louis Rams in 1999: Kurt Warner had eight touchdowns and four interceptions in those three playoff games, with the Rams scoring 49, 11 and 23 en route to winning the Super Bowl.

Stafford is just one win away from his own Super Bowl win. He will be 34 next Sunday.

The bad

Tyler Higbee with knee injury

Higbee was helped off the field in the first quarter and did not return. Blanton took his place and played well, but without Higbee the Rams may have to activate Brycen Hopkins. Cam Akers and Van Jefferson left but returned. The severity of Higbee’s injury is still unclear.

Coincidentally, the Bengals lost tight end CJ Uzomah to a knee injury and with being carried off the field, his Super Bowl status is certainly in doubt.

Matthew Stafford near-interception

Jaquiski Tartt’s downfall will never be forgotten, certainly not by Stafford and McVay.

Stafford had a great playoff run, including in the NFC Championship, but moments and decisions like this keep showing up, even when he’s 3-0 in the playoffs. Hopefully it’s a much cleaner performance against Cincinnati.

Rams racing game

The good thing about the first half is that the Rams were able to control possession and the clock for most of it. That included a 97-yard touchdown. The bad news though is that those long possessions were partly down to an inability to get big chunks of yards, including on the turn.

Cam Akers finished with 13 carries for 48 yards and Sony Michel had 10 for 16, as the team combined for 70 yards on 29 carries. That’s an average of just 2.4 meters per stroke. The 49ers played great defense against the Rams in the regular season, will LA improve against the Bengals in two weeks? Cincinnati has been about “decent” against the run this season.

Drops

Ben Skowronek dropped a touchdown and we haven’t heard from him again. Cooper Kupp dropped a pass when he might have been able to take off for a touchdown…and we heard from him again. Lots of cons. And many more to come.

Skowronek has such an attractive frame and speed for a wide receiver and drops have been an issue all year.

The gap between Aaron Donald and everyone else in defense?

It was not a perfect day for Jalen Ramsey. Von Miller remained silent for most of the contest. Take nothing away from the Rams for picking up a huge win against the team they wanted to beat the most, but it’s just interesting to watch an NFC championship and Eric Weddle, Troy Reeder and Nick Scott start. And play well enough for LA to win the game and hold the 49ers to 17 points.

It’s even more credit to Donald, Ramsey, Von Miller — and Raheem Morris — that the Rams go to the Super Bowl with a defense that boasts a surprising number of starters that few had determined to start the season. In Weddle’s case, going to the playoffs!

Also, Deebo Samuel is a very talented player and we can’t take anything away from him either. With an unexpected cast of defensive characters, the LA Rams move on to the Super Bowl.

The difference

Aaron Donald always makes the difference. He made the difference.

Other than Tom Brady who won four other Super Bowls, Aaron Donald would be the NFL’s best player of the last 10 years. No one would have guessed that a defensive tackle would bear so much responsibility to help his team reach two Super Bowls in four years, but with practically a whole new roster around him, that’s what Aaron Donald did with the Rams.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Donald’s personal accolades, first-team All-Pro guarantees at the start of each season, four Defensive Player of the Year awards (five, if the NFL had the playoffs this year, no doubt), the “Annual MVP if only…” gossip, is a Hall of Fame resume-worthy thing that few in history can relate to. But going to the Rams in 2014, after 10 years without a winning season, then driving four trips to the playoffs and two Super Bowl appearances in the past five years is what makes Donald one. of the NFL’s most special defensive players. the story.

His numbers on the stat sheet will be modest (three tackles, two QB hits) but the game ended appropriately with Donald pressing Jimmy Garoppolo for a season-ending 49ers interception. In a team full of incredible talent, Aaron Donald remains on a level apart.

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