INGLEWOOD – First they removed the Rams’ dignity, game by game, year by year, shoulder by mouthpiece. Then they took over their town.
Six consecutive times, the 49ers had treated the Rams like nettlesome little brothers, to be hung upside down from trees. They were the hammer and the Rams were the nail, no matter the margin, no matter the locale.
The Rams came to SoFi Stadium on Sunday morning and were immediately confronted by red jerseys, red beads, the names of Montana and Rice on the back. They realized that part was not going to be different, that Inglewood and Los Angeles had moved the heavens to bring back a football team before determining if their fans would really care enough to be witnesses.
The Rams could handle that. They had designated this as the day of the first punch. They threw that one and most of the middle ones and, conveniently, the last. The fact that it happened in front of all those Bay Area poachers was OK, too.
The Rams won, 20-17, after they had trailed, 17-7, and they did it after squandering timeouts and dropping passes and stepping on all kinds of rakes. If the Super Bowl was the automatic home of the best team in the NFC, then the Green Bay Packers would be digging out and flying west.
But it isn’t. It belongs to teams that survive, and remember.
“I’m just so proud of our offensive line,” Sean McVay said. “Every single snap, they battled them, against a defensive line that rotates eight guys,”
You lift weights and run steps and seethe over past slights so you can play a fourth quarter like the Rams did.
San Francisco, the same team that wiped out a 17-0 lead and won an overtime game with increasing energy here on Jan. 9, gained 28 yards in the fourth quarter and went 0-for-3 on third down.
After the Rams tied it, 17-17, Jimmy Garoppolo missed all three passes in a three-and-out. After the Rams went ahead, 20-17, San Francisco got it with 1:46 left and one timeout. Overtime, at the very least, seemed inevitable.
Instead, Von Miller and the Rams went after Garoppolo like the doors at Macy’s had just opened on Black Friday.
Miller forced the first incompletion, Travin Howard nailed Jauan Jennings for a 3-yard loss, and then Miller made a huge loop to threaten Garoppolo on third-and-12.
The issue-laden quarterback, who was sharp as he got the 49ers the 10-point lead, had to step to the middle, but that’s where Aaron Donald was pulling down the columns of the temple.
Desperate, Garoppolo fled to his left and flipped a hot bathcloth toward JaMycal Hasty. It bounced off his hands and into those of Howard, the 231st player picked in 2018, another one of Les Snead’s uncut gems.
It was Leonard Floyd and A’Shawn Robinson belting Deebo Samuel on the first play. It was Nick Scott laying out Samuel on a hard but not targeted hit, and Buddy Howell tagging Samuel on a kickoff return at the San Francisco 14.
This was accumulated payback for the indignities Samuel had dealt them this year and last, and Samuel was held to 26 yards in seven runs, although he did take Garoppolo’s pass for a touchdown.
Overall the 49ers rushed 20 times for 50 yards. They had gained at least 99 ground yards in each game of the streak.
“Our whole defense is like that,” Jalen Ramsey said. “We say, OK, you might not have made that play, but it was a fluke. Let’s go make the next one.”
The Rams converted 11 of 18 third downs. The 49ers only picked up three of nine. In the past two head-to-heads San Francisco was 18 for 34.
As the bruises mounted, 49er minds wandered. A taunting penalty on Azeez Al-Shaarir propelled a Rams touchdown drive. A late hit by Jimmy Ward and a flat-out drop of an interception by Jaquiski Tartt propelled the Rams to a field goal.
With 10 minutes left, McVay lost his final timeout on the second of two bad challenges. San Francisco had fourth and 2 on the 48. Coach Kyle Shanahan chose the high school ploy of trying to draw the Rams’ offside, and eventually punted. The Rams tied it and then won it against a defense in severe need of Advil.
The Rams now play Cincinnati, a little bit of heaven for Bengal alum Andrew Whitworth, but that’s a few million words away. What mattered is that the Rams are no longer bewitched.
“This was a separate entity,” McVay said. “The previous six didn’t have anything to do with this.”
Sure they did.
https://www.sbsun.com/2022/01/30/whicker-the-rams-grab-an-nfc-championship-by-going-right-through-their-nemesis/ The Rams grab an NFC Championship by going right through their nemesis – San Bernardino Sun