4 questions 49ers must answer vs. Rams in NFC Championship

Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers scrambles away from Troy Reeder #51 of the Los Angeles Rams (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers scrambles away from Troy Reeder #51 of the Los Angeles Rams (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
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Sony Michel, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers
Los Angeles Rams running back Sony Michel (25) against the San Francisco 49ers  Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

42. Sunday, Jan. 30. 2-0. Rams -3.5. 2-0. Fox. 51. 6:40 p.m. ET

If the 49ers hope to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LVI, they’ll first have to answer these four questions in the conference championship against the Rams.

The San Francisco 49ers are just one game away from their second Super Bowl appearance in three years, and they’re banking on continuing what’s been a Los Angeles Rams six-game losing streak to head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co.

There are plenty of legitimate threats LA poses to the Niners. Any team with a perennial first-team All-Pro defensive tackle like Aaron Donald will have a good defense, wide receiver Cooper Kupp is a legitimate stud and Los Angeles can easily put up points in a hurry.

Just as San Francisco found out when it got off to a 17-0 deficit against the Rams back in Week 18, a game the 49ers ultimately won in overtime.

Yet this game will be of a much greater magnitude, outweighing whatever success the Niners have had over their NFC West rivals in recent years.

In order to pull off the win, San Francisco will have to answer these four questions on Sunday’s conference championship weekend.

Question No. 4: Can 49ers continue their run-defense dominance?

It was shaky during the first half of the year, as the 49ers surrendered at least 100 yards rushing to opponents in seven of their first eight games.

But take a look at the stretch of games since, which includes giving up a 100-yard rushing effort only once:

49ers Schedule & Game Results Table (Weeks 10 – divisional round)
Scor Scor Defe
Week Day Date OT Rec Opp Tm Opp RushY
10 Mon November 15 8:15PM ET W 4-5 Los Angeles Rams 31 10 52
11 Sun November 21 1:00PM ET W 5-5 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 30 10 54
12 Sun November 28 4:25PM ET W 6-5 Minnesota Vikings 34 26 67
13 Sun December 5 4:00PM ET L 6-6 @ Seattle Seahawks 23 30 146
14 Sun December 12 1:00PM ET W OT 7-6 @ Cincinnati Bengals 26 23 86
15 Sun December 19 4:05PM ET W 8-6 Atlanta Falcons 31 13 62
16 Thu December 23 8:20PM ET L 8-7 @ Tennessee Titans 17 20 90
17 Sun January 2 4:05PM ET W 9-7 Houston Texans 23 7 86
18 Sun January 9 4:25PM ET W OT 10-7 @ Los Angeles Rams 27 24 64
Wild Card Sun January 16 4:40PM ET W 11-7 @ Dallas Cowboys 23 17 77
Division Sat January 22 8:15PM ET W 12-7 @ Green Bay Packers 13 10 67

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
Generated 1/28/2022.

The Rams, too, had their own stretch of troubles earlier in the year, perhaps related to head coach Sean McVay getting away from LA’s own run game a bit and focusing too much on quarterback Matthew Stafford‘s passing prowess.

Yet the run game, so vital in Los Angeles’ return to form in the second half of the year, might be its biggest X-factor towards keeping McVay’s offense balanced, as our friends over at the Ramblin’ Fan pointed out leading up to the game.

However, based on the recent trends for the Niners defense, one might guess another solid run-stopping performance is in the cards.

And that bodes well for San Francisco if it can hold the Rams to less than 100 yards rushing.