The LA Rams face their moment of truth on Monday Night Football

Mandatory Credit: Joe Rondone-Arizona Republic
Mandatory Credit: Joe Rondone-Arizona Republic /

Even as the 2022 NFL schedules rolled out to the fans of the LA Rams, there were two games that universally were marked as tough games. Those two games were the ones where the LA Rams would need to face off against their NFC West Division rivals, the San Francisco 49ers.

We know that the Rams had struggled to overcome the 49ers in the past. Whether the Rams were the healthier team, the more successful team, or simply the team with more to lose, the last six games played between these two teams ended up the same way. The 49ers came out on top.

Six games are more than a coincidence. They are more than a bad bounce of the football. The problem has been systemic, with a philosophical difference between what the LA Rams wanted to do against what the San Francisco team allowed them to do. Is that changing this year?  I think so.

The Rams had focused their defensive efforts on stopping big plays and putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. On offense, the Rams have gotten more and more away from running the ball to set up the pass, and relying more and more on the pass to set up the run.

Well, the winds of change are blowing.

What a difference a year makes

Difference I: Run defense

This year, the Rams’ defense has invested in stopping the run. Not only do the Rams have a pair of impressive ILBs in Bobby Wagner and Ernest Jones, but the team has three solid run stoppers on the line of scrimmage in Aaron Donald, Greg Gaines, and A’Shawn Robinson. The Rams have been a Top-10 run defense and continue to improve each week.

Difference II: Offense back to basics

While the Rams still route much of what they do on offense through the air in passes to Cooper Kupp, that is not the only source of positive yards gained. The Rams are distributing the ball to TE Tyler Higbee and to WR Ben Skowronek too. Meanwhile, it’s only a matter of time until WR Allen Robinson experiences his breakout game in this offense. As the Rams’ offense awaits that, they are beginning to run the football with authority, averaging 5.0 yards per run and scoring multiple touchdowns via the running attack in Week 3.

Difference III: The Rams know how to beat the 49ers now

Until the NFC Championship Game, the LA Rams had lost six consecutive games. It was a turning point for both franchises. For the LA Rams, it would catapult them to a win in Super Bowl LVI. For the 49ers, it would send them back home to regroup, rally around young quarterback Trey Lance, and all but tell quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo that his services would no longer be required.

But there was no NFL trade market for Jimmy G, and 49ers quarterback Trey Lance has been injured and lost for the season. Suddenly the 49ers are rallying behind Garoppolo as though everything is great and let’s let bygones be bygones?

I’m not sure it works that way.

While LA Rams fans are nervous and are not taking this first matchup for granted, the shoe of confidence is on the foot of the LA Rams now. The Rams have won the last game and had done so by holding the 49ers rushing attack to just 50 yards. That changes the dynamics of this confrontation.

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