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The Shanaplan: How perception isn’t reality when it comes to the Rams and 49ers

These two teams are a lot more alike than you’d expect

Los Angeles Rams v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

On NFL Network’s Good Morning Football, insider Ian Rapoport said 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is a longshot to play Sunday against the Rams.

Kyle Shanahan will provide an injury update as to whether or not Garoppolo throws during Wednesday’s practice. If Garoppolo can’t suit up, that means Trey Lance works with the first-team offense for the second week in a row.

Remember, he’s been working with the scout team all season. That means Shanahan hasn’t been working with Lance and coaching him during practice. The more reps Shanahan gets with Lance, the better he’ll begin to understand his skill-set.

The perception of the 49ers offense is that — to varying degrees depending on who is under center — they’re limited and inconsistent. Since Week 10 — and I reference Week 10 and on since that tells us who these teams are — the 49ers are fifth in EPA per play offensively while the Rams are 12th. The Niners are also two spots ahead of Los Angeles in success rate as they rank eighth.

It doesn’t stop there. Cooper Kupp has a chance to crack 2,000 receiving yards with a 171-yard performance Sunday. Matthew Stafford and Odell Beckham make for a dangerous trio, and Van Jefferson is no slouch.

Yet, since Week 10, the 49ers have more passing plays over 20 yards than any team in the league, with eight more than the Rams at 32. They also have ten more explosive running plays than Sean McVay’s offense and are seventh in the NFL. Of course, the Rams will score, but are we sure they can slow down the Niners?

The line on the game was 6.5-points a week ago. Monday, it came down to 5 points. As of Wednesday, it’s been bouncing back and forth between 4 and 4.5 at DraftKings SportsBook. Why? Because the Rams haven’t been able to block the 49ers for five games in a row.

The play above is the best proof of why numbers will never explain the full context when you use them to compare players. It’s also a perfect example of what the Rams look like against an athletic line.

Will Aaron Donald and Von Miller get the best of Daniel Brunskill and Tom Compton? Undoubtedly. Stafford isn’t running out of sacks and converting those into first downs routinely. This week, we’ve been highlighting the defensive line as somewhat of a preview of what’s to come.

Speaking of pressure, the 49ers' quarterbacks have been known to turn the ball over. Stafford is no stranger to turning the ball over — especially when pressured.

Stafford’s turnover-worthy throw percentage jumps over 5% when pressured. His adjusted accuracy drops 17%. It’s not about blitzing Stafford; it’s about making sure he’s under pressure. When he’s kept clean, Stafford's touchdown to interception ratio is 31-to-9. When under pressure, it’s 7-to-6.

The play highlighted above is what makes Stafford dangerous. When he’s kept clean, Stafford is one of the best in the NFL. When under pressure, he crumbles more than the usual star quarterback.

The 49ers are one of the few teams in the NFL that consistently get after the quarterback with four rushers. Kris Kocurek and DeMeco Ryans have gotten creative with their personnel, and it’s paying off.

The stunts, twists, and movements used are in an attempt to create the mirage of pressure. So, even if you’re not truly getting after the quarterback, he might drop his eyes because he sees the opposite color flash.

During today’s episode of The Shanaplan, Akash and I preview the Rams game and the different perceptions from this game. You can listen to the full episode below:

Other topics include:

  • What did Lance do against Houston that is transferable to the Rams game
  • How the defensive line beyond Bosa has become one of the best units in the league
  • Who starts at CB, WR3, and QB
  • Which team do you trust to overcome turnovers
  • Predictions + Playoff predictions