(CBSLA) —The Los Angeles Rams (8-6), believe it or not, are still alive for a playoff spot. If they win out and the Minnesota Vikings lose out, they’re in. The 49ers and Arizona Cardinals are their next two opponents. (The Vikings face the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.)
The Rams will be looking to rebound from an ugly 44-21 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. While the defense held Dak Prescott to just 212 yards passing, it allowed Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard to combine for 248 yards on the ground. On the other side of the ball, Todd Gurley was a non-factor, as the offense had to play catch up. It’s not surprising that Jared Goff, given his track record on the road, was unable to mount a comeback in Dallas.
The Rams will struggle again this week in San Francisco against a 49ers team looking to rekindle its fire. “they’re going to need to win this game [against the Los Angeles Rams] to be right there at the end and have a chance at the number-one seed,” says CBS 13 Sacramento sports director Marshall Harris. “Because, if you look at the tiebreakers, they’ve beaten the Packers, they’ve beaten the Saints… they did that in New Orleans. So certainly they’re capable. And I see a Rams team that’s just not the Rams team that we saw [last year].”
This San Francisco 49ers team (11-3) is also not the same team we saw last year. They’re better. The 49ers have enjoyed a surprising season, filled with quality wins, often over good teams. The defense has grown into an elite unit, and the offense can put up points when it has to. But the surprises don’t always go their way, and they didn’t last Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. After two reversed calls, Atlanta scored in the closing seconds to take the lead and then scored again to pad the lead. The loss dropped the 49ers into the top NFC wild card spot, even as the team clinched a playoff spot.
It started out as a game the Niners were supposed to win handily and ended as a disappointing loss that people might point back to after the season. While that reflection will come later, the last-second stumble likely still stings.
“I expect an angry 49ers team after the way that game went down last week, playing against the Falcons,” says Harris. “Where it looked like they had the game won, and then, not one, but two overturned calls within the final 10 seconds makes them now a wild-card team. If you’ve seen how this team has played, if you look at the teams that they’ve even beaten, this Falcons game stands out as that big loss.”
This 49ers team is intimidating even when they’re not angry, at least on defense. They give up just 269 yards per game, the second fewest in the league. The 18.4 points per game they allow ranks fifth. They’re particularly good at defending the pass.
Jimmy Garoppolo and company will need to revert back to their form in Week 14, when they put up 48 points. Garoppolo found the end zone four times, piling up 349 passing yards on 26 completions against a tough New Orleans Saints defense. The Falcons held him to 200 passing yards on 22 receptions in their Week 15 loss. More than half of those receptions went to tight end George Kittle. Expect a more balanced attack from the 49ers this week.
The Rams play the 49ers Saturday at 5:15 p.m. PT.