Nick Bosa will be biggest reason why 49ers beat Rams in NFC Championship

Nick Bosa #97 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
Nick Bosa #97 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images) /

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

The 49ers need everyone to beat the Rams in the NFC Championship game, but Nick Bosa might be the most important one of them all.

It’s awfully tempting to suggest wide receiver Deebo Samuel as the No. 1 reason and X-factor behind the San Francisco 49ers pulling off a victory in the NFC Championship game over the Los Angeles Rams in order to advance to Super Bowl LVI.

After all, Samuel’s Niners have gone a perfect 6-0 over LA the last three seasons, and he’s played a massive role in each of those victories.

For the sake of this argument, though, it’s EDGE Nick Bosa and not Samuel who has to be the most critical player in ensuring San Francisco winds up winning on Sunday.

This isn’t an either-or situation. Both players need to be exceptional against a Los Angeles team, that despite that six-game losing streak to the 49ers, has still showed the potency to turn the NFC Championship game into a one-sided affair and an embarrassment for the Niners on a national stage.

Samuel can do all kinds of impressive things. But for San Francisco to ensure quarterback Matthew Stafford and a high-flying Rams offense doesn’t wind up breaking that losing streak and advancing to the Super Bowl, it’ll be Bosa who has to be on point the most.

Nick Bosa, 49ers pass rush will be a No. 1 X-factor vs. Rams

As noted in one of Niner Noise’s preview pieces for Sunday’s contest, pressuring Stafford is going to be the most vital of things for the 49ers to do.

Looking at Stafford’s numbers when pressured compared to when he isn’t, courtesy of Pro Football Focus, it makes sense why Bosa and his fellow crop of pass-rushers will need to be highly effective to ensure the Niners are building their lead while preventing LA from doing the same:

  • Without pressure: 112.4 passer rating, 73.1 completion percentage
  • With pressure: 81.6 passer rating, 50.3 completion percentage

San Francisco sacked Stafford twice during its 31-10 convincing win in Week 10, then got him five more times in a must-win Week 18 game to get into the NFL playoffs.

What was more impressive was how the 49ers pass rush got more effective as that Week 18 game wore along, directly impacting how Stafford lost his own effectiveness after halftime.

That’s what will be most vital on Sunday.

Nick Bosa has already been a 49ers X-factor vs. Rams

The Niners would ideally like the kind of Week 10 result instead of having to desperately stage a comeback, as they did in Week 18, and that defensive fortitude has to be at the forefront of San Francisco’s overall game plan in the NFC Championship game.

Bosa, a big part of that equation, has only 1.5 sacks over four career games against Los Angeles, which doesn’t suggest a lot. But those numbers came from this season, one sack back in Week 10 and half of one in Week 18.

While the stat geeks may be pulling for Bosa to post multiple sacks this game, just like he did against the Green Bay Packers in the divisional-round victory last week, it’s not always vital for him to be the one actually getting to Stafford.

Read More: 49ers history vs. Rams, will it carry over in NFC Championship?

Mere pressure, or at the very least, locking up blockers along the Rams offensive line will free up the 49ers’ other pass-rushers for more one-on-one opportunities.

Case in point, in Week 18, defensive tackle Arik Armstead had 2.5 sacks while nose tackle D.J. Jones had one of his own. Linebacker Fred Warner and EDGE Arden Key split another, too.

Bosa, despite being held to just the half sack, was nevertheless vital in opening up chances for his fellow defenders, and that might be just as crucial on Sunday against Stafford and Co.

So, while Samuel can be a massive X-factor in his own right, San Francisco’s hopes for victory in the NFC Championship game hinge on Bosa’s impact just a bit more.

Both teams kick off on Sunday, Jan. 30 at 6:40 p.m. ET from SoFI Stadium.

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