Rams face 49ers, who have had their number lately

When a smart young coach gets to the bottom of the NFL, sooner or later the league will get him picked.

It happened to Rams coach Sean McVay after his innovative offense was the rage in 2018.

It can happen to Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley any week, month, or year now.

“I think that’s something Brandon will definitely have to be ready for in the off season, when the whole league gets the special things that those guys are doing there (on the defensive side),” said Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O ‘ Connell, no doubt wishing he had that problem.

Or perhaps Staley should be ready for that, knowing that an opponent might find the antidote to the Rams’ defense at an inopportune time in the six remaining games of the regular season.

On Sunday afternoon, the Rams (7-3) play against the San Francisco 49ers (4-6) at SoFi Stadium, the current NFC West leaders facing a defending NFC champion overwhelmed by injuries and COVID-19.

A rematch of the Rams’ 24-16 loss to the 49ers at Santa Clara in October, this is the first of three upcoming games for LA that will be second encounters with division opponents, occasions that could be the laboratory for tactical inventions.

The 49ers, with coach and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, have caused the Rams more trouble than any other foe for the past two seasons. They beat the 49ers three times in a row, twice when the Rams were preferred.

In 2019, the Niners won a defensive battle at the Colosseum and a shootout to the north that led to two thirds-16 conversions against the Rams defenses, then coordinated by Wade Phillips. In week 6 of 2020, they accumulated the most yards a team recorded in a game against the Rams defense in Staley’s first year in charge.

Ram’s quarterback Jared Goff doubts the 49ers have found a formula to beat their rivals, given that San Francisco’s three wins were so different. But Goff did not cover up what happened.

“But they got our number the last three times,” Goff said. “Hopefully we can resist that trend this week.”

Teams began figuring out how to stop McVay’s onslaught late in his sophomore season, after the Rams often started playing prime time on their way to the Super Bowl in 2018.

The rest of the NFL has just as much watched Staley’s defense this season, with the Rams already on four national TV slots on Sunday and Monday nights.

The latest was their 27-24 win against Tampa Bay and Tom Brady on Monday. It was the second consecutive win over a playoff-bound team with a Hall of Fame-bound quarterback, following Sunday’s 23-16 win over Seattle and Russell Wilson. Two games before that, there was the Rams’ 24-10 victory over the Chicago Bears in a fight on Monday-evening with a ballyhoed defense.

Staley speaks of the need to “self-scout” to spot weaknesses in the Rams defense before opponents do.

“What’s very important as a coach is how others see you,” said Staley. “However much you study them, you have to know how they see you.”

It may be even more difficult for offensive coaches to find a lead defense than for defensive coaches to defuse a hot attack, as a good defense by definition differs slightly from week to week and adapts to the attack it uses. is confronted.

“I think you evolve as the season progresses. You never stay the same, ”said Staley. “Each week has its own life.”

The defense of Rams presents two specific challenges for the great minds in the competition.

One of these is Staley, 37, whose ability to adapt to opposition surprises is evidenced by the fact that the Rams only allowed three touchdowns in the second half in 10 games.

Another is his players. The defense is built around defensive tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey, stars in their positions. And it thrives on versatility among a host of players like cornerback Darious Williams, rookie safety Jordan Fuller and linebacker Micah Kiser, who people are just discovering – or edge rusher Leonard Floyd, who are rediscovering people.

No amount of brainpower prepares an offense for Donald.

“It’s about our players, number one, and then the opportunity to bring (Staley’s) philosophy to life,” said McVay.

Playing with the responsibility of taking first place in the division for the first time this season, the Rams have such an advantage in good health at this point that the 49ers’ attack may not be able to take even the best of Shanahan- the game plan.

With Jimmy Garoppolo among the 49ers stars on the injured reserve, Nick Mullens is the starting quarterback for the fifth time this season, losing double digits to Green Bay and New Orleans.

The Niners have also been hit hard by COVID-19 cases and learned about it on Saturday a Santa Clara health directive that bans sports could force them to reschedule their next three home games.

Meanwhile, the Rams partially canceled a practice Friday as what McVay called a “precautionary measure” after a player and staff member tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, but later tested negative twice.

The Rams enter the game as 6 1/2 point favorites but wary.

“They are the reigning NFC champions, a few games away from Super Bowl champions,” said McVay. “I know too much about these guys, their coaches and their players, to ever take anything for granted.”

REMARKS

Tyrique McGhee, a cornerback on the Rams’ exhibition squad, was banned for two games without pay for violating NFL’s performance-enhancing drugs policy. The undesigned rookie from Georgia has not played in a game. …

The Rams said linebacker Terrell Lewis (knee) is officially out of the game, a downgrade from questionable on Friday’s injury report. …

Linebacker Natrez Patrick and security JR Reed were elevated from the exhibition squad to the active roster. …

Defensive end Derek Rivers, recently claimed on waivers, was placed on the active roster. …

Defense back Jake Gervase came off the COVID-19 reserve list.