With the 49ers and Rams set to play for the NFC Championship on Sunday, the most overused line in sports media will be, “It’s hard to beat a team three times in one year.” For the record, history says that isn’t the case.
Since 1970, the team that won the first two games has also won the third game more than 60% of the time. Nonetheless, Kyle Shanahan was asked about playing the Rams a third time during his Monday conference call.
“We’ve been through this so much over the last few years, so it’s not much new seeing them the third time as it was the second time, it almost was the first time, just with the coaching staff being the same. I don’t think there’s many secrets. There’s not much things we can surprise them with and same with them with us, which I think is kind the most fun way. It’ll be two really good teams and a really good football game where you can’t really trick each other. You have to go out and beat somebody.”
Both teams can come into this game with a ton of confidence. The Rams can say they’re a team of destiny because they lost four fumbles last week and still survived Tom Brady’s best shot. The 49ers can say they’re the team of destiny because they went into the likely future MVP’s house in the freezing cold and beat him without scoring a single offensive touchdown. I have no idea who has the stronger argument.
I do think there’s a psychological advantage to beating a team six times in a row, however, and I think we saw it in Week 18. For no reason, Sean McVay wasn’t celebrating in the end zone when they went up 17-0. He also wasn’t huddling his team up on the sidelines during the 49ers’ comeback for no reason. The Niners are in the Rams’ heads, and that advantage can pop up again Sunday if the 49ers gain some momentum in the game.
Speaking of Sean McVay, yesterday was his 36th birthday, and Kyle Shanahan was asked if he called his friend to wish him a happy birthday.
“No, we’re not big birthday guys. He never communicated with me, so I held a grudge over it. Just joking. We don’t do birthday things, but I didn’t know about that. I don’t even know what date it is. To tell you the truth. Hopefully, he’s celebrating.”
I think I can speak for all of us when I say I hope McVay had a wonderful birthday. I hope it was filled with friends, family, and good health. And I hope it’s the last thing Sean McVay is celebrating for a long, long time.