The NFC title runs through the west as the San Francisco 49ers descend upon SoFi Stadium on Sunday evening to face the Los Angeles Rams.
It will be difficult to replicate the dramatics that both teams went through in the Divisional Round, but with a trip to Super Bowl LVI on the line, along the tensions of a division rivalry, it will obviously make for great theater.
The 49ers once again used their brand of bully ball and the reliance on the entire team — rather than a few star players — to pull off a second-straight road upset in the playoffs; this time against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
With 4:41 left in regulation and down 10-3, the 49ers blocked a punt, scooped up the loose ball, and tied the game which led to Robbie Gould’s game-winning field goal in overtime.
It’s rarely pretty; it isn’t marketable for the NFL, but the 49ers are simply finding ways to win and this road-warrior mentality that they’ve adopted ensures that they can never be counted out despite being underdogs.
They also swept the regular-season series against the division-champion Rams — a 31-10 beatdown in Week 10 followed by a 27-24 overtime victory in Week 18 to guarantee a playoff spot.
But Los Angeles is clicking, even if it needed its fair share of lunacy to get into the NFC Championship Game.
After blowing out another division rival in the Arizona Cardinals during the Wild Card Round, the Rams went into Tampa Bay and shocked Tom Brady and the defending-champion Buccaneers.
The Rams blew a 27-3 lead, allowing the tying score with 42 seconds left, but Matthew Stafford — who continued his career resurgence in his first-ever Divisional Round game — hit Cooper Kupp for a 44-yard bomb to set up the game-winning field goal as time expired.
The 33-year-old has been exceptional this postseason, as has his No. 1 receiver in Kupp. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Odell Beckham Jr. and a healthy running back in Cam Akers is rounding out a lethal-looking attack.
The Niners’ defense, however, has been immovable, allowing a combined 27 points in two playoff games against two of the league’s best offenses in the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers.
49ers vs. Rams NFC Championship Game Tale of the Tape
|No. 6 49ers||Stat||No. 4 Rams|
|12-7 (3rd, NFC West)||Record (including playoffs)||14-5 (1st, NFC West)|
|25.1 (13th in NFL)||Points/game||27.1 (8th in NFL)|
|248.3 (12th in NFL)||Passing yards/game||273.1 (5th in NFL)|
|127.4 (7th in NFL)||Rushing yards/game||99.0 (25th in NFL)|
|21.5 (9th in NFL)||Points allowed/game||21.9 (15th in NFL)|
|206.5 (6th in NFL)||Passing yards allowed/game||241.7 (22nd in NFL)|
|103.5 (7th in NFL)||Rushing yards allowed/game||103.2 (6th in NFL)|
49ers vs. Rams NFC Championship Game Players to Watch
- Matthew Stafford, QB, LAR: 41-of-55 (74.5%), 568 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT in playoffs
- Cooper Kupp, WR, LAR: 18 targets, 14 receptions, 244 yards, 2 TD in playoffs
- Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LAR: 12 targets, 10 receptions, 123 yards, 1 TD in playoffs
- Von Miller, OLB, LAR: 10 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble in playoffs
- Deebo Samuel, WR, SF: 192 yards from scrimmage, 1 TD in playoffs
- Elijah Mitchell, RB, SF: 149 rushing yards, 1 TD in playoffs
- Arik Armstead, DE, SF: 3.0 sacks, 9 tackles, 3 tackles for loss in playoffs
- Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, SF: 27-of-44 (61.4%), 303 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT in playoffs
A version of this first appeared on AMNY.com