San Francisco has won six straight games against NFC rival Los Angeles, including two during this year’s regular season. The 49ers will still enter Sunday’s NFC Championship as road underdogs, though. Los Angeles nearly blew a 27-3 lead against Tampa Bay, but the Rams recovered with a late field goal to advance to Sunday’s title game. San Francisco has picked up road wins at Dallas and Green Bay to make it to the final four.
49ers relying on strong defenseSan Francisco struggled out of the gates this season, losing five of its first eight games. The 49ers recovered down the stretch, winning seven of their final nine contests. They entered the final week of the regular season with their playoff hopes hanging in the balance. San Francisco trailed Los Angeles by 17 points, but it responded with a comeback effort to win a 27-24 final in overtime. The 49ers were dominant in their first meeting with Los Angeles, beating the Rams by 21 points in mid-November, kickstarting their second half of the season run. Their defense has been the story in the playoffs, leading them to wins over Dallas and Green Bay.
The 49ers held the Cowboys—the league’s top offense—to just 17 points. They came up big on special teams last week, blocking a punt and scooping it for a touchdown to get past Green Bay at Lambeau Field. Their defense finished the regular season ranked third in the NFL, allowing 310.0 yards per game. San Francisco’s offense has not been too shabby either, ranked seventh in yards per game (375.7). Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has completed 61.4% of his passes this postseason with 303 yards, but he has zero touchdowns and two interceptions. Running back Elijah Mitchell has 149 rushing yards through the two playoff games, while wide receiver Deebo Samuel has nearly 200 scrimmage yards.
Rams looking to clean up mistakesLos Angeles lost both of its regular-season meetings with San Francisco, but the Rams have been extremely sharp besides that. They only lost three other games during the regular season, with two of those losses coming against the eventual No. 1 seeds in both conferences. Los Angeles opened the postseason with a beatdown against NFC West rival Arizona, recording a 34-11 win. The Rams followed it up with what started out as another blowout. They led 27-3 at reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay last week, but Tom Brady put together a shocking rally to tie the game in the final minutes. Los Angeles responded with a last-second field goal to advance to the NFC Championship.
The Rams finished outside the top 15 in team defense during the regular season, but they have been the second-best defensive team in the playoffs. They are allowing just 271.0 yards per game, putting them just ahead of San Francisco. Los Angeles is No. 3 in team offense during the postseason, averaging 401.5 yards per game. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has completed 74.5% of his passes for 568 yards and four touchdowns. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp led the NFL in receiving yards during the regular season and he has picked up where he left off in the playoffs, catching 14 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Cam Akers returned at the end of the regular season and has rushed for 103 yards during the two playoff games.