With the San Francisco 49ers playoff fate sealed and the Los Angeles Rams clinching a playoff spot last week, Sunday’s renewal of the NFC West rivalry will have a different look. Instead of Brock Purdy taking on Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, both teams will take their final snaps of the 2023 season with both backup quarterbacks playing.
That means it will be Sam Darnold vs. Carson Wentz with the 49ers’ nine-game regular season winning streak against the Rams on the line. While San Francisco may or may not give snaps to some starters - as of Thursday night, that’s yet to be seen - Rams’ head coach Sean McVay has already announced the team will be without Stafford, Aaron Donald, and Cooper Kupp.
With both backups in, Sunday might be the ultimate test in the McVay/Shanahan rivalry. And while McVay has had success against the NFC West, Kyle Shanahan is his kryptonite:
Record. Rams’ head coach Sean McVay has a 24-17 regular season record against the NFC West.
While the record against divisional opponents is impressive, McVay’s Rams are 21-7 against the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks. That leaves a 3-10 record against the 49ers entering Sunday’s season finale, with the 49ers accounting for more than 50 percent of McVay’s losses against the NFC West. After a hot 3-1 start against San Francisco in 2017 and 2018, Los Angeles has lost nine games in a row to its rivals up north.
Not only have the 49ers not lost to the Rams since 2018, but the games haven’t been particularly close. San Francisco’s average margin of victory over the Rams during the nine-game winning streak stands at 10 points, with four of the games won by two scores or more.
As the 49ers look to extend the regular season streak against Los Angeles to an even 10 - still seven games off San Francisco’s longest winning streak against the Rams (17 from 1990-1998) - the Rams will turn to a quarterback who has more wins (3 in four career games) against the 49ers than Matthew Stafford (1 in nine career games).
Record. Quarterback Carson Wentz has a 3-0 career record against the 49ers in games he started.
Sunday marks Wentz’s fifth career start against the 49ers on his fourth different team. Wentz was a member of the Eagles (twice), Colts, and Commanders in his previous four games against the 49ers, with Sunday’s tilt his first career start with the Rams.
The 49ers haven’t had much luck against the 2016 first-round pick, with the loss against the Colts in 2021 on a rainy Sunday night at Levi’s Stadium likely the standout. Wentz threw for only 150 yards but managed a pair of touchdowns in Indianapolis’s 30-18 win with a late 28-yard touchdown to Michael Pittman in the fourth quarter, putting San Francisco away.
Wentz’s six touchdown passes against San Francisco are tied for second-most in his career against non-NFC East or AFC South teams. Oddly enough, the two other teams he’s thrown more against are also in the NFC West, with six against Arizona and eight against Seattle. The only time Wentz has been handed a loss against San Francisco was last season, when Wentz came in as relief to Taylor Heinicke in the 49ers 37-20 win.
While San Francisco has a streak to continue against Los Angeles, Wentz will look to extend his streak against the 49ers in a game irrelevant to the Red and Gold.
Sack percentage allowed. The Rams offensive line has allowed a sack on 5.4 percent of dropbacks, the seventh-lowest rate in the National Football League.
That’s nearly half what the Rams allowed last season when their offensive line allowed a sack on 10 percent of dropbacks, ranking 31st in the league. In 2022, the Rams had nine different linemen take at least 30 percent of the offensive snaps, but that number dropped to six after the Rams reworked its offensive line.
Los Angeles brought back the likes of Joseph Noteboom and Coleman Shelton, while Alaric Jackson has missed only two games this season after missing the second half of 2022 with a knee injury. But the most significant addition to the Los Angeles offensive line was second-round pick Steve Avila.
Avila hasn’t missed a snap on the Rams offensive line this season, allowing only two sacks, seven quarterback hits, 22 hurries, and 31 pressures. His two sacks are tied for the third-fewest allowed by a rookie guard this year, behind Sidy Sow, Colby Sorsdal, and Anthony Bradford. It should be noted, however, that Sow, Sordsal, and Bradford have combined for 895 snaps this year, 137 fewer than the 1,032 snaps Avila has played.
Keeping Stafford upright has been a massive part of Stafford’s 2023 success and the Rams’ surprising season.