Preview, predictions, what to watch for

A look at Sunday’s Rams-49ers NFC Championship game in Los Angeles:

Marquee matchup

49ers WR/RB Deebo Samuel vs. Rams C. B. Jalen Ramsey, et al.

If Samuel were a typical No. 1 recipient, then maybe the Rams would lock up Ramsey in a one-on-one fight. He can’t, though, as Samuel has more passes (20) than catches (six) in the 49ers’ first two playoff games, after regular-season numbers were close (77 catches to 59 carries). And he will run on third downs between tackles, not just around the edge on gadget movement.

“That’s a game plan in itself,” Ramsey said. “We have Cooper Kupp, who is one of, if not the most dominant attacking player in the league. But Deebo is right in that conversation with him. Whatever they ask him, he can do it at a high level. We have to find ways to limit his physicality, and meter after contact and meter after catch.”

Deebo Samuel and Jalen Ramsey
Getty Images (2)

Dunleavy’s decision

The best way to neutralize Aaron Donald, Von Miller and Leonard Floyd’s pass rush and Jalen Ramsey’s lock-down coverage is to run. Perhaps not to the extreme of Bill Belichick’s three-pass game plan that upset the Patriots at the Bills in the regular season… but close.

49ers 17, Rams 16

four downs

Blue Akers: What an incredible story it was when Rams driving Cam Akers back — who tore an Achilles tendon in July — shattered expected recovery time for such an injury by making his season debut in Week 18. Akers led the Rams in each of the first two playoffs. games and was not benched for losing two fumbles – one on the goal line – against the Buccaneers.

Darrell Henderson, who was No. 1 for most of the season, is on injured reserve. Sony Michel, who led the team in haste, has been minimized. But coach Sean McVay’s way is to ride his most talented players without losing confidence.

“Sometimes, if you’ve got the right kind of guys — like I’m sure Cam is — it can just lock you back in,” McVay said of the clunky stuff. “You can learn a lesson, but not the hard way where we don’t play anymore.”

‘Scary’ but true: The 49ers last week added a wrinkle to one of the most important runs in coach Kyle Shanahan’s playbook of the past 10 years by having All-Pro report left of Trent Williams as a qualifying tight end over scrimmage against the Packer gestured. With a head of steam, the 6-foot-5, 320-pounder flattened its targets both times.

Shanahan said Williams’ idea came as a “long ago” joke. There was only one practice for the match.

“He’s probably the best man you can ever imagine doing,” Shanahan said. “I can’t believe it’s legal. I even find it scary to see. … I thought it was one of the cooler plays I’d seen, just because of who was in it, not because of the play we played.”

Williams (ankle sprain) was injured later in the game and held back in practice. If he plays, as expected, watch out for the locomotive.

Do it for Donald: One of the motivations of the Rams is to win a Super Bowl for Aaron Donald, the future Hall of Famer.

Donald, 30, is a seven-time All-Pro and three-time Defensive Player of the Year with many good seasons to go if he wants to.

“This building wants to win for Aaron Donald to create more mystique for his legacy and what he has done,” said defensive coordinator Raheem Morris.

Donald had five tackles and one quarterback hit when the Rams lost to the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.

“I think I have achieved a lot in a short time in this competition,” said Donald. “Honestly, the only thing I think I’m missing is to be a world champion.”

Look, Mom! A hand!: Two masters of the one-handed catch will be on either side: Rams receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who made the most famous one-handed catch ever with the Giants in 2014, and 49ers tight end George Kittle, who has a highlight role full of one-handed catches. .

But Shanahan is a fundamentalist at heart.

“I know guys are working on it. I’m not a big fan of it,” he said. “When you work on one-handed catches, you train yourself not to run through the ball.

“And I’m about the mindset, that it’s never going to be a one-handed catch because I’m not going to slow down at all and I’m going to run through every ball and make sure I get there. If that’s your way of thinking about everything and you’re reacting to a catch with one hand because it has to be, I love that.”

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