Rams, 49ers settle their differences while seeing similarities – Daily News



Any game between the Rams and the San Francisco 49ers arrives with an air of importance, of intrigue, of sometimes-bitter rivalry.

On a Rams-49ers battlefield, a sense of empathy is less common.

But if it ever were to come up, it would be Sunday night at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara when the teams renew a series that has been fought twice a season since 1950.

The 49ers (2-3) come in playing like a team suffering from the proverbial Super Bowl hangover since losing the championship game in February. The Rams (4-1) understand what that’s like, having struggled early and missed the playoffs last year after their own Super Bowl loss. Only six of the past 47 losers made it back to the Super Bowl the following season, and only one won it.

Rams coach Sean McVay and 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan share the hangover sufferers’ wish that everyone would stop talking so loud, at least about this topic.

“The Super Bowl hangover is just questions you have to answer all the time,” Shanahan said this week, noting that the cancellation of offseason training because of the COVID-19 pandemic meant he couldn’t bat away those annoying questions until training camp.

“As far as going through it, it has no correlation with anything. We’re trying to figure out our team now. We’ve battled through a number of injuries. We’re trying to play better football.

“We have a different team every year. It’s something we’re working through. We’re not at our best right now. We’re trying to get there.”

That sounds like what McVay said in 2019, or what he said Wednesday.

“Every single year presents new challenges, and that’s definitely something that I’ve learned in a short amount of time,” McVay said. “And I think all these guys would say the same thing.”

McVay and Shanahan have a lot in common, including four years (2010-13) on the Washington staff early in their NFL careers. McVay coached tight ends and Shanahan was the offensive coordinator under his father Mike. McVay succeeded Shanahan in running the Washington offense. Each got his first head coaching job in 2017, and they’ve split six meetings.

McVay acknowledges some similarities in the Rams’ and 49ers’ offenses, and when he first talked last winter about the Rams using a running backs “committee” (Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown) to replace Todd Gurley, he gave a nod to the Niners’ success in 2019 with three 500-yards-plus ball carriers (Raheem Mostert, Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman).

Right now, the coaches probably share some curiosity about how good their teams can be.

The Rams go into their first NFC West game of the season in second place, a game behind 5-0 Seattle, in the division that boasted the best overall record in the league in the opening month. Their four wins came against NFC East teams with a combined record of 4-15-1. Their loss came against 4-1 Buffalo.

The 49ers are last in the West, a game behind 3-2 Arizona after a Week 1 loss to the Cardinals, and 0-3 at home. Their two wins came against the New York teams, each 0-5. Their 43-17 loss to Miami last Sunday, with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo benched at halftime in his return from an ankle injury, was too bad to be believed.

In addition to trouble that sounds like the Rams’ problems in their year-after-the-Super-Bowl – opposing brain trusts catching up, offensive-line struggles, a quarterback slump, inconsistent defense – the 49ers have been crushed by injuries.

Garoppolo was replaced by Nick Mullens for two games and then by C.J. Beathard in the second half against Miami. Mostert, leading the league’s running backs with 7.0 runs per carry, missed two games. Most painfully, Pro Bowl edge rusher Nick Bosa (knee) and cornerback Richard Sherman (calf) are on injured reserve.

San Francisco’s offensive line is giving up the fourth-most sacks in the league, and the Rams had eight against Washington last Sunday. Those included four by Aaron Donald, matching a career high set against the 49ers in 2018, one of his six consecutive games with at least one sack against the Niners.

But the Niners still have George Kittle, the NFL’s highest-paid tight end, who led the offense in both of his team’s wins over the Rams in 2019. San Francisco’s running game and run defense rank among the league leaders. Both defenses are top-five in yards allowed.

The Rams profess total respect for their favorite least-favorite rivals. Which is better than sympathy, isn’t it?

“It’s still early in the season. They’ve had a lot of injuries,” Rams wide receiver Robert Woods said. “We know they’re a good team, obviously a Super Bowl-caliber type team that played well last year and is trying to pick back up where they left off.

“We know they’re a tough opponent.”