Rams eye road not conquered: No win at 49ers since 2018
Coach Sean McVay and the Rams ended a six-game losing streak against the San Francisco 49ers when they finally beat them in last season’s NFC Championship game at SoFi Stadium.
Next Monday night, the Rams will attempt to end another streak.
The defending Super Bowl champions have not defeated the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium since 2018.
“The main thing is they’re a really good football team,” McVay said Monday when asked why it’s been tough to win in Santa Clara. “They’ve done a good job — which year do you want to talk about?
“We can talk about all those different games, but I think … what it boils down to is they played well, they’ve made the plays in crunch time.”
The Rams can’t seem to find any consistency through three games, but luckily for them they are 2-1 after a 20-12 road win over NFC West rival Arizona.
The Rams (2-1) are coming off a 20-12 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in an NFC West opener Sunday. Several young players stepped up in place of injured starters, the Rams got a no-turnover performance from quarterback Matthew Stafford and limited the Cardinals to four field goals in a win that improved McVay’s record against the Cardinals to 11-1.
It’s been a different story against the 49ers. McVay has a 4-7 record against mentor Kyle Shanahan.
“San Francisco plays us tough like how they play everybody tough,” Stafford said Sunday.
Going into this season, the Rams anticipated they would have to contend with versatile 49ers running back and receiver Deebo Samuel, tight end George Kittle and other staple stars.
But quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo probably was not one of them.
With Trey Lance installed as the starter, Garoppolo was thought to be on the move, either by trade or release. But the 49ers retained a quarterback who helped lead them to the Super Bowl in 2019.
Jimmy Garoppolo stepped up last week to lead the 49ers to a win, but the issues the team had with him before still exist. Can he turn that around?
Lance suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the second game, so Garoppolo once again is the starter.
On Sunday, he completed 18 of 29 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown, with an interception, in an 11-10 defeat to the Denver Broncos. Garoppolo also mistakenly stepped out of the back of the end zone on a pass play, resulting in a safety.
But Garoppolo, who has a 31-15 record in regular-season games he has started for the 49ers, has played well against the Rams several times.
“I don’t think it’s like he’s only played good against the Rams and he’s never played good against anybody else,” McVay said. “You just look at his career record when he started for the 49ers since he and Kyle have been together … and it’s a pretty good movie for those guys …
“They have a lot of confidence and swag with him at the switch.”
Rookie cornerback Derion Kendrick remains in the concussion protocol, McVay said. Kendrick started against the Cardinals and had nine tackles. ... Receiver Van Jefferson was placed on injured reserve last week but not because he suffered a setback in his recovery from knee surgery that was performed during training camp, McVay said. Jefferson designation will be short-term, McVay said, adding that several “layers” went into the decision, including the timing of the Rams’ open date after an Oct. 16 game against the Carolina Panthers.
Also what was learned from the Rams’ victory:
Defense is developing effective depth
With several key defensive backs sidelined because of injuries, the Rams prevented quarterback Kyler Murray from making explosive plays and limited the Cardinals to four field goals.
Kendrick, Robert Rochell, Grant Haley and Terrell Burgess stepped in and complemented star cornerback Jalen Ramsey and safeties Nick Scott and Taylor Rapp.
Edge rusher Takkarist McKinley, who signed with the Rams last week, played for the first time since an Achilles injury last December while playing for the Cleveland Browns.
Aaron Donald reaches 100 sacks
Aaron Donald joined the 100 club by sacking Murray for a 15-yard loss in the first quarter.
The NFL made sacks an official statistic in 1982. Donald and Andre Tippett are tied at No. 39 on the league’s all-time list.
By the count of Profootballreference.com, which tabulated sacks since 1960, Donald is tied for 59th with Tippett and Alex Karras.
Defensive lineman Aaron Donald is one sack short of 100 entering the Rams’ next game against the Atlanta Falcons, a feat unheard of for an interior lineman.
Cam Akers can still run, but he must not fumble
Against the Cardinals, Akers rushed for 61 yards and a touchdown in 12 carries. McVay put the ball in Akers’ hands six times during a third-quarter scoring drive.
Later in the game, with a chance to seal the victory, Akers fumbled at the goal line. It harkened to last season‘s playoffs when Akers fumbled twice in a divisional-round victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The mistakes were largely overlooked because of the Rams’ dramatic comeback in the final minutes.
Stafford eliminates turnovers
After entering the game with a league-high five interceptions, Stafford played without a major error.
He completed 18 of 25 passes for 249 yards.
Stafford’s best play came in the third quarter when he escaped a sack and completed a third-down, sidearm pass to Cooper Kupp to ignite a pivotal scoring drive.
Receivers Skowronek and Powell are weapons
The absence of receiver Van Jefferson was supposed to create pass-catching opportunities for Ben Skowronek and Tutu Atwell.
Skowronek caught four passes for a team-best 66 yards, including one for 32 yards. Atwell was targeted once, but the long pass fell incomplete.
Matthew Stafford and Sean McVay both agree that the Rams’ 20-12 win over the Arizona Cardinals had a strange feeling to it, but they’ll take it.
Brandon Powell, primarily a kick returner last season, caught three passes for 27 yards.
Rams should not have released Kendall Blanton
Kendall Blanton was cut in August, the Rams opting to keep Brycen Hopkins as Tyler Higbee’s backup.
But after Hopkins was suspended last week for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, the Rams signed Blanton from the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice squad.
On Sunday, Blanton was targeted once and turned the catch into a 28-yard gain that helped set up a field goal.
Special teams make big strides
Michael Hoecht, a reserve defensive lineman, blocked a punt on the first series, giving the Rams good field position for a scoring drive.
Powell averaged 14.3 yards for three punt returns and had a 31-yard kickoff return.
Kicker Matt Gay kicked two field goals. He has made all four of his attempts this season.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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