Does 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo still have some of that magic vs. Rams?
He was cast aside for a younger quarterback regarded as the San Francisco 49ers’ future.
He had shoulder surgery. Did not participate in the team’s offseason workouts. Worked off to the side during training camp and waited in vain as the 49ers sought trade partners.
But on Monday night at Levi’s Stadium, the Rams once again will face the winning but oft-maligned quarterback who typically plays some of his best games against them.
That is only one of the challenges for the defending Super Bowl-champion Rams (2-1), who have not defeated the 49ers on the road since 2018 and enter Monday night’s game with an offensive line and secondary depleted by injuries.
Last season, Rams coach Sean McVay ended a six-game losing streak against mentor Kyle Shanahan when the Rams defeated the 49ers in the NFC championship game at SoFi Stadium.
But for all the familiarity among McVay, Shanahan and the key players who rekindled this NFC West rivalry the last five seasons, Garoppolo this time around is something of an X-factor for San Francisco (1-2).
Two weeks ago, he came off the bench after Trey Lance suffered a season-ending ankle injury and helped lead the 49ers to victory over the Seattle Seahawks. But during a 11-10 loss to the Denver Broncos, he struggled to find rhythm and became the butt of ridicule for accidentally stepping out of the end zone for a safety.
Garoppolo is “playing through a little rust,” Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said, but he is still the quarterback who led the 49ers to the Super Bowl in the 2019 season and the NFC championship game last season.
“The guy didn’t have an offseason, he didn’t have a preseason, I think he’s in his second full week of practice, just to put that in perspective for everybody that wants to be Jimmy haters,” Morris said. “When he is healthy and ready to go, he’ll be his best version of himself and they’ll get back to that, just not this week, I hope.”
Rams receiver Cooper Kupp catches passes, is adept at running after a catch and now has added the jet sweep to his arsenal. The 49ers concentrate on him for Monday showdown.
Rams veteran linebacker Bobby Wagner is in his first season with the Rams but he is familiar with Garoppolo. He played against him multiple times when he was helping lead Seattle’s defense.
“Everybody thought he was gone,” Wagner said of Garoppolo. “But he stayed ready, stayed prepared, and he’s got an opportunity to start winning again like he always did.
“So, he’s a guy you got to respect, just how he handled that whole situation.”
Shanahan helped make Garoppolo successful against the Rams by deploying a punishing rushing attack and a quick-release passing game devoid of drop-backs.
In the first game between the teams last season, the Rams gave up 156 yards rushing in 44 carries in a 31-10 beatdown on “Monday Night Football.”
“It was a cloud of dust,” Morris said, adding, “That’s a tough day.”
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford did not have a touchdown pass in a game for the first time since 2020 with the Detroit Lions. He also finally had a 2022 game without an interception.
In the season finale at SoFi Stadium, the Rams gave up 135 yards rushing in 31 carries in a 27-24 overtime defeat.
“Those things were all learning lessons to build up to what we did in that NFC championship game,” Morris said.
The Rams held the 49ers to 50 yards rushing, and Garoppolo completed only 16 of 30 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception as the Rams won, 20-17, and advanced to Super Bowl LVI.
The Rams appear poised for another strong defensive effort after limiting the Arizona Cardinals to four field goals in a 20-12 victory last Sunday.
But the Rams offense has yet to play consistently well. And it will be a challenge Monday night against a team that ranks first in passing defense, third in scoring defense and fourth in rushing defense.
With starting guard David Edwards out because of a concussion, Matthew Stafford will operate behind a line that will feature a fourth different lineup in four games.
Peyton is in a vintage car garage in Denver and Eli is at home in New Jersey, but together they enter NFL fans’ living rooms on ‘ManningCast.’
The line — left tackle Joe Noteboom, left guard Bobby Evans, center Coleman Shelton, right guard Alaric Jackson and right tackle Rob Havenstein — must protect Stafford, and clear the way for running backs Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson to establish an effective rushing attack.
And the defense must neutralize running back/receiver Deebo Samuel, tight end George Kittle and running back Jeff Wilson Jr. to put Garoppolo in tough situations.
“Our job is just to find a way to get him down or affect him, make him uncomfortable, and try to make him have a bad day,” Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald said. “That’s why we’re out there.
“We don’t want him happy. We don’t want him to be able to step up in the pocket. We want him to be antsy, uncomfortable, and if we do that, we can have a good day.”
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