by Aydn Morris

The Los Angeles Rams took on division rivals, the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC (National Football Conference) championship Sunday where the winner would head to the Superbowl to face off against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Photo by Rams Wire

The last matchup of the 2021-2022 season for the two California rivals ended with a victory in favor of the Los Angeles as they finally get a win over the 49ers after being swept this season. In previous season matchups the Rams have struggled with defeating the Niners but finally got over that hump with a victory when they needed it most.

The quarterback for the Rams, Matthew Stafford, had a great performance and did an amazing job limiting his turnovers while only throwing one interception in the game which happened on the first drive. He had 337 passing yards on 31 of 45 completions with two touchdowns. This performance may not seem the greatest but there were a lot of miscues in the game with a few dropped passes and one that was a wide open touchdown pass to Ben Skowronek. 

In the week 18 game Stafford didn’t perform as well, he threw for three touchdowns, 232 yards but with two key interceptions including one to seal the game for the 49ers. Stafford has had this target on his back on whether or not he can be a quarterback for a championship caliber team ever since he got to Los Angeles.

Stafford has now silenced the doubters recently with this game and his previous playoff game against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. Where he threw two touchdown passes for 366 yards and led the Rams on a 63 yard game winning drive with only 42 seconds on the clock resulting with a Matt Gay field goal.

 This was one of Staffords most historic performances because not only did he eliminate Tom Brady and have a game winning drive, he seemed to have played flawlessly throughout the whole game and didn’t cause any turnovers. This is what Rams fans were hoping to get from Stafford again in the NFC championship and they got it.

Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., was the key determining X factor for the Rams. He had 113 yards on nine receptions and although he had no touchdowns he made countless big plays for the Rams on third downs averaging 12.6 yards per reception. Which was second highest for the Rams behind Cooper Kupp’s 12.9. Kupp had 142 yards on eleven receptions and got the Rams two touchdowns. 

In the Niners perspective their determining X-factor varied through many players as it has for most of the season whether it was the usual Deebo Samuel and George Kittle show, the big run game offence or just a pure defensive game for them. 

“When the Niners play the Rams they focus on the run game, so Deebo Samuel and Elijah Mitchell will have a good game, but our X- factor will be Brandon Aiyuk,” said lifelong 49er fan Nathan Corkhill. 

Mr. Corkhill said the X factor would be Aiyuk due to Deebo limited by Rams cornerback, Jalen Ramsey. Kittle has to block Aaron Donald, Von Miller, Leonard Floyd etc, which then leaves them with the third receiver Aiyuk to have the breakout game. 

Aiyuk may not have had a breakout game but he certainly did show up for the Niners with four receptions for 69 yards. Although Aiyuk had a good game, Deebo Samuel was still the dominant receiver in the game with four receptions for 72 yards.

Not only did Deebo have a good receiving performance but he also led the niners in rushing yards with seven carries for 26 yards and behind him is Elijah Mitchell with eleven carries for only 20 yards. The Niners had a poor run performance which they were somewhat expecting but it was a key factor to the result of the game.

Since the run game never showed up, all eyes were on Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. “Jimmy G” has not been the best quarterback in the playoffs, but he still held a big role for the Niners, as does every NFL quarterback does for their team. Garoppolo needed to focus on not turning the ball over against the Rams defense and this was one of Jimmy’s biggest tests this season while having to face the pressure of the Ram’s powerhouse defensive line it may have been what he needed to shut the haters up, but he was on the wrong side of the biggest plays of the game.

Even though the stakes were high for both teams the Niners fan base was just happy to have simply been in a deep playoff run after just barely making it in with the big week 18 win over the Rams which made this game even more special than it already was. 

Niners fans viewed this season as an overall success so far after dealing with their many key injuries but still would have wished to have finished it off with a Superbowl appearance.

The build up to the matchup was filled with conflict due to the new policies that had been rescinded that would limit the attendance to residents of Los Angeles to go to Sofi Stadium. This policy was originally set because there was an astonishing amount of Niner fans at Sofi in their last regular season game meeting in week 18, while the Rams supposedly were to have home field advantage. 

“The Niners had more fans in attendance because they still hold one of the top Los Angeles football fan bases with the Raiders, because of their team’s history here,” said senior Rams fan Isaac Aguilar.

Although the Niners may have packed Sofi Stadium with their fans, Rams fans still felt confident and ended up getting the win.

The Rams however view this season as a ring or bust season, after they just traded away maybe their whole future for five seasons all into this one season, there will be no better way to end it than with a championship.

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