Rams Gear up to Face 49ers after Crushing WFT

The buzz stirring the hot autumn air is the Rams defense. In the aftermath of Aaron Donald and Co.'s relentless 31-10 assault on the Washington Football Team last Sunday, the Los Angeles Rams are preparing for another Division-rival clash up the 5 Freeway with the 49ers. With San Francisco still recovering from a 47-13 home-whipping courtesy of the Miami Dolphins, a prime opportunity is looming for the Rams at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara this Sunday.

The win over Washington gave the Rams a sweep of the NFC East Division this season to remain one game behind the NFC West-leading 5-0 Seattle Seahawks. The Rams beat the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Washington by a combined score of 104-55 to help run their season record to 4-1. The 49ers have lost their last two games at home to fall to 2-3 and last place in the Division.

"This is the reigning NFC champs, reigning Division champs. I don't care what happened yesterday," said Rams head coach Sean McVay. "This is a team that'll be ready to go. I know these coaches, I know the character of their players too well."

49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan addressed quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's status: "He's full-go today. So, we'll see him here in about an hour and evaluate how he looks." Garoppolo missed over two games with a high ankle sprain and returned against the Dolphins after limited practice leading up to the game. Garoppolo's start was rough, completing only 7 of 17 passes for 77 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and three sacks. This Wednesday, he fully participated in practice with no physical issues from Sunday's game.

He'll be facing a Rams defense that recorded eight quarterback sacks in Washington. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald was devastating with four QB sacks, three quarterback hits and three tackles for loss... just for starters. 2nd-year linebacker Troy Reeder had three sacks, the first three of his career and led the team with 11 tackles, eight of them solo. Rookie edge rusher Jachai Polite registered the other sack.

Washington starting quarterback Kyle Allen was knocked out of the game on a sideline hit by cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who was flagged on the play late in the second quarter. Veteran quarterback Alex Smith came in relief and scrambled for his life for the remainder of the game. Smith was sacked six times and completed nine passes for 37 yards. Washington's offense gained a total of 108 yards: 70 yards net passing and 38 yards rushing on 14 carries.

"There were some great performances, but not four. So certainly, Aaron had a performance to remember," said Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley when asked about other defensive standouts that played for him, including Khalil Mac while coaching at Chicago and Von Miller and Bradley Chubb at Denver.

"We do a lot of things to think about Aaron Donald and we have a lot of anticipation of how guys on the other side are going to try and game plan for him... Certainly, a player like him is always at the front of your game plans."

Coach Shanahan was asked about the problems Donald poses: "Pretty much every problem. I don't know when I've ever gone against him and he hasn't been coming off a great game (laughs), because that's what he does. I mean, he's as good as it gets in the run game and the pass game. So, whatever you want to bring him up, he's a problem."

Rams quarterback Jared Goff had an efficient game, completing 21 of 30 passes for 309 yards. He was intercepted in the second quarter, leading to a field goal by Washington kicker Dustin Hopkins before the half. Goff, who turned a year older on Wednesday, October 14, joked: "It's great. I'm over the hump now. I'm 26. So, I've heard it's all downhill from here."

"A lot of times in that first drive is some of our best runs, our best play actions, our best keepers, our best screens," responded Goff when asked about the Rams scoring an opening drive touchdown in four of the five games this season: "It's a mix and match of some of the stuff that we really have loved throughout the week. It's always good to start fast and something that we put an emphasis on."

Wide receiver Robert Woods had a 56-yard touchdown reception. Tight end Gerald Everett had 90 yards receiving on four catches. Starting running back Darrell Henderson had a one-yard rushing touchdown on the opening drive and an 11-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. Rookie running back Cam Akers returned, leading the team with 61 rushing yards on nine carries.

Staley, in his first year with the Rams, is instituting his 'star' position concept he helped develop at John Carroll University. He explained with cornerback Jalen Ramsey in mind: "It's a position that kind of combines several different skill-sets. You're a little bit of a corner, you're a little bit of a safety, a little bit of a linebacker, inside linebacker and outside linebacker because you're kind of a rusher too. So, it's a spot that you have to possess all those qualities of those four positions."

"I felt like his skills really are uniquely suited for that position. I think that the way that the game is in the NFL, where the passing game is a lot inside and so much more three-receiver groupings, even in the run game, he can provide a lot that way, too, in the perimeter run defense. Then as a rusher because he's such a good athlete."

The Rams defense is currently tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers in total quarterback sacks with 20. Surprisingly, the team is in the middle of the pack in blitzing, rushing the pocket on only 26.1% of the plays. The Steelers by contrast lead the league, blitzing on 48.8% of their defensive plays. The Rams defense is ranked fifth in points allowed with 90, 7th in passing defense with 1521 yards conceded and 11th in rushing defense, yielding a 532 total yards.

"I've got such a high level of understanding for these guys and respect goes through the roof because all of their coordinators, I know very well," said McVay in preparing for the defending NFC Champion Niners. "I've worked closely with a lot of these guys. They're excellent coaches. So much of the foundation of what I know is from Kyle, his dad and being around great coaches like this. They'll have their guys ready to go."

"There's no doubt that we have to be at our best, and this is going to be a big time game, a great opportunity for us against a team that, I don't care what yesterday says, they'll have those guys ready to go and this is a great football team... So, we have to have a huge sense of urgency being ready this week."

In head-to-head competition, McVay and Shanahan have split the six regular season games with three wins each. The Rams have a lifetime 67-70-3 regular-season record versus the 49ers. The Niners beat the Rams in the 30-3 in the only Playoff game between the two teams in 1990. History indicates Sunday in Santa Clara will further add to the continuing saga.


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