Rams face tough 49ers test with home field in NFC playoffs at stake
The Rams built their star-studded showpiece roster with a mandate to play in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium — owner Stan Kroenke’s $5-billion showcase venue.
With one game left in the regular season, the Rams are positioned to possibly host multiple postseason games there.
If the Rams (12-4) defeat the San Francisco 49ers (9-7) on Sunday at SoFi Stadium, they will win the NFC West and clinch the No. 2 seed for the NFC playoffs.
The top-seeded Green Bay Packers will have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but as the second-seeded team, the Rams could play wild-card and divisional-round games at home.
The Rams are riding a five-game winning streak, including road victories the last two weeks against the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens.
“We’re taking some good momentum into this thing and hoping to continue to build on that,” receiver Cooper Kupp told reporters during a videoconference Monday.
The Rams moved a step closer toward clinching the NFC West title with 20-19 comeback victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
Since 2018, the Rams have not enjoyed momentum — or wins — against the 49ers. They have lost five games in a row, including a 31-10 defeat at Levi’s Stadium in November.
“They’ve had our number the last few times we’ve played them, without a doubt,” Kupp said. “We’ve just got to be able to play our ball.”
The Rams defeated the Vikings and Ravens despite three turnovers in each game by quarterback Matthew Stafford.
That formula probably won’t work against the 49ers.
In the first game between the teams this season, Stafford had two passes intercepted — one that was returned for a touchdown.
Stafford has passed for 38 touchdowns, with 15 interceptions, including four that were returned for touchdowns.
Most of Stafford’s miscues have occurred in the first half of games.
“I’m not concerned,” coach Sean McVay told reporters Monday.
Once again, McVay said that every interception has “a story,” and that Stafford executed without a passing error down the stretch against the Ravens.
Linebacker Troy Reeder, who had a team-best 10 tackles and a sack against the Ravens, said “it hasn’t been all smooth” for the Rams, but they will be ready to play for the division title.
“We’ve dealt with injuries, COVID, different random things along the way,” Reeder told reporters. “We figured out how to get five straight wins. ... That’s really the only stat or thing that really matters is those wins.
“And we’re just trying to get another one Sunday and keep it rolling through the playoffs.”
While some division titles were decided weeks ago, Reeder said it was fun to play in a division that comes down to the final game. The 49ers also are fighting for a playoff spot.
If the Rams earn the No. 2 seed, and the postseason plays out according to seeding, the Rams would not have to travel until the NFC Championship game at Green Bay.
“It would be nice to kind of roll through the playoffs in SoFi,” Reeder said, “but we’ll do whatever we have to do.”
In-season acquisitions Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller continue to show why the Rams wanted them in win over Baltimore Ravens.
Safety Nick Scott had surgery Monday for a broken thumb suffered on the last play of the game against the Ravens, McVay said. ... McVay said he spoke with cornerback Jalen Ramsey and safety Taylor Rapp about an incident during Sunday’s game, when Ramsey struck Rapp in the face during a huddle. “I don’t feel like it’s going to be anything that we need to worry about as we move forward,” McVay said. As he did after the game, McVay compared it to a family squabble. “You try to be empathetic to both sides of the perspective that each of those guys had, and then we keep it moving,” he said. “And that’s what families do.”
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