NFL

Stafford insists Rams do not have mental block against 49ers

By Sports Desk January 28, 2022

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford insists his teammates do not have a mental block when it comes to beating the San Francisco 49ers.

The two teams will do battle on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game, with the winners to face either the Kansas City Chiefs or Cincinnati Bengals in the Super Bowl.

Stafford, who had never previously won a playoff game in the NFL, has led the Rams to victories over the Arizona Cardinals and defending champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to reach this stage.

The Rams finished ahead of the Cardinals and the 49ers to win the NFC West this season and go into the game at SoFi Stadium – which will also host the Super Bowl - as narrow favourites.

But that status comes despite the Rams having struggled against their divisional rivals in recent seasons. The Niners have won the last six meetings, including both of the regular season clashes in 2021.

In Week 18, the Rams led 17-0 before the Niners stormed back to win 27-24 in overtime and book their place in the playoffs as a wildcard team.

Stafford has only played in the two most recent games in the six-game streak but was asked if his teammates had a mental block against San Francisco.

"No, we just have got to go out there and play good football," he said.

"We had our chances last time we played them to win the game, whether it was a four-minute situation for us on offense, a two-minute situation on defense and we still had a shot in overtime as well. 

"It's a really good football team. It's two really good football teams going after each other, seen each other twice this year, we’re going to see each other for a third time. 

"Not a bunch of secrets. Just who can step up to the plate and make the plays when we need to make them."

Stafford has found the build-up to the NFC Championship Game more normal than for the Rams' previous two postseason clashes.

"Obviously excited about the opportunity, but going about it kind of as a normal week - it’s the first normal week we've had in a little bit," said the former Detroit Lions QB.

"We played the first playoff game on a Monday and the second one on a short week, so this one just feels like a normal week during the season.

"Obviously a lot at stake. We know that we’re playing a really good opponent that's playing as good a football as anybody in the NFL right now. So it'll be a big challenge for us."

Rams head coach Sean McVay was this week forced to deny Niners boss Kyle Shanahan – who worked with him in Washington - was in his head.

"No," insisted McVay. "What I do have is respect for these guys. They've done a great job. 

"You look at it, you got to play well in that three-and-a-half-hour window that we're allotted. You look at the last time that we played them, we didn't finish the game. 

"This is a really good football team. We have a lot of respect for them. We're competing and preparing to the best of our ability to go out and see if we can advance. 

"But this is a really good team. Kyle is an excellent coach. They have great players, great coaches, good schemes. It's why they're in the NFC Championship."

Shanahan, meanwhile, felt McVay should not have been asked the question.

Asked if he enjoyed the narrative, the Niners coach replied: "Not really. I think that's kind of silly. A question like that is giving Sean and myself way too much credit.

"We're coaches. Watch what's going on out on that field and some of the players out there and the people that are competing.

"To think that it's about Sean and I... I know that he doesn't feel that way and he knows that I don't feel that way.

"The entertainment of this business is cool and stuff, because it brings a lot of fans and makes a lot of money for everybody, but I think that's pretty ridiculous. I don't give coaches that much credit."

Getting wide receiver Cooper Kupp involved is likely to be key for the Rams after he became the first player to win the NFL receiving triple crown since 2005 this season. 

He followed that achievement by putting up 183 receiving yards against Tampa Bay, which was second-most in a playoff game in Rams history behind Tom Fears in the 1950 Divisional Round (198). 

Per Stats Perform data, the Rams have never lost a game, regular or postseason, when Kupp has at least 125 receiving yards (9-0).

Related items

  • Mbappe stays at PSG: Real Madrid reeling but still have options to net a superstar striker Mbappe stays at PSG: Real Madrid reeling but still have options to net a superstar striker

    Real Madrid will have been left shaken by Kylian Mbappe's decision to snub them in favour of a new contract at Paris Saint-Germain.

    It was common knowledge that Madrid wanted to bring in Mbappe and shape their team around the France striker for the next decade.

    The Spanish champions have been used to getting what they want, but this time they have failed to land their number one target, with PSG's financial muscle surely a major factor.

    Now Madrid president Florentino Perez must consider the club's next course of action. Do they rely on Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior next season, or has there been a back-up plan in case Mbappe reached this decision?

    Here, Stats Perform looks at players that Madrid could consider if they remain intent on bringing in a forward in the close season.

    Richarlison (Everton/Brazil)

    After five years spent fumbling around mid-table and the lower reaches of the Premier League with Watford and latterly Everton, Richarlison seems long overdue a move to a club where he might challenge for honours. The 25-year-old has previously been linked with Madrid and Barcelona, and more recently Manchester United, and he would bring a roving threat to any side he joins. Capable of playing wide or in the centre, or flitting between roles, Richarlison has reached double figures in Premier League goals in three of his four seasons with Everton, and in a World Cup year this could be the ideal time to move for the striker. Should he dazzle at Qatar 2022, that price tag could go skywards.

    Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain/Brazil)

    PSG were desperate to retain Mbappe, but would they feel the same way about Neymar? Five years into his PSG career, Neymar is now 30 years old and this is the first season when he has managed more than 20 league appearances for the Parisians. Injuries have disrupted his stay at the Parc des Princes, and while he remains a wonderfully gifted player and a joy to watch at times, if PSG want to recoup a chunk of the huge outlay that brought him to Paris from Barcelona, now might be the time for that. It would be an impudent approach for Madrid to make, and Neymar's Barcelona history adds a further complication, given the rivalry, but the player himself may be tempted.

    Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich/Poland)

    If Madrid have a statement signing in mind to ease the pain of missing Mbappe, then joining the race for Lewandowski and gazumping Barcelona would be one way of going about that. Lewandowski has told Bayern he wants to leave, and ideally before next season. Barcelona are certainly interested, but their financial problems are well known. Could Madrid be better placed to land the highest scorer from Europe's top five leagues this season? Lewandowski hit 50 goals in 46 games across all competitions for Bayern, with Madrid's Benzema second on the list and Mbappe third. Whether Madrid would want a player who turns 34 in August when they already have a 34-year-old frontman in Benzema is a moot point.

    Paulo Dybala (Juventus/Argentina)

    Mbappe would have arrived in Madrid on a free transfer, given his contract at PSG was coming to an end. If their priority is to pick up a forward without an initial transfer fee outlay, then Dybala becomes an option. Roma and a host of Premier League clubs have been linked with the Argentina international, whose Juventus contract is expiring. He has scored at least 15 goals in five of his seven seasons with Juve, and would bring a creative presence to Madrid, and bundles of trophy-winning experience.

    Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig/France)

    If Madrid cannot have Mbappe for now, then his and Benzema's France team-mate Nkunku looks like a strong alternative option. With 34 goals in 51 games for Leipzig this season (prior to Saturday's DFB-Pokal final), Nkunku has proven himself in Germany and in European competition, and the obvious next step is a move to a super-club. The 24-year-old PSG academy graduate pipped the likes of Lewandowski and Erling Haaland to be named the Bundesliga's player of the year, underlining his status as a growing force in the game.

    Mohamed Salah (Liverpool/Egypt)

    Would they want Salah, or would they prefer his team-mate Sadio Mane? Either way, a Madrid approach could be Liverpool's worst nightmare. Both Salah and Mane have contracts that run to the end of next season, and they have again been tearing it up this term for the quadruple-hunting Reds. They are hot property and are coming to the point where they are considering probably the last bumper contracts of their careers. Would they fit in at Madrid? Both have the flair and finishing class that suggest they would be ideal acquisitions, and Madrid will get a close-up look in the Champions League final.

  • Mbappe stays at PSG: The numbers behind his career in the capital so far Mbappe stays at PSG: The numbers behind his career in the capital so far

    Speculation over Kylian Mbappe's future is finally over as he will be staying at Paris Saint-Germain.

    The 23-year-old had widely been expected to join Real Madrid as a free agent, but it was confirmed on Saturday that the France forward has signed a new three-year contract with PSG.

    Mbappe joined the Ligue 1 champions from Monaco, initially on loan, in 2017 and has become the capital club's leading light, despite playing alongside Neymar and, as of the 2021-22 season, Lionel Messi.

    PSG were desperate to keep hold of the World Cup winner and have now got their wish.

    Here, Stats Perform breaks down the key numbers and records behind Mbappe's PSG career to date.

    The headline numbers

    217 - As he featured in PSG's starting XI against Metz, he has now made 217 appearances so far, more than any other player in the period since he joined the club. Of those appearances, 190 have been starts.

    168 - Before the Metz game, the forward had scored an incredible 168 goals for PSG, 72 more than Neymar, who was second on the list since Mbappe made his PSG bow.

    77 - Prior to the Metz game, he was also the leading assister since he joined PSG, creating 77 goals. 

    775 - As expected, he also topped the PSG squad for shots, having had 775, with 398 of those hitting the target. Magnifique.

    42 - No player had contributed to more goals across Europe's top five leagues this season heading into Saturday's match than Mbappe, who has been involved in 42.

    The records

    15 - This season, Mbappe became the first player to score at least 15 goals and provide at least 15 assists in a single Ligue 1 campaign since Eden Hazard did so for Lille in the 2011-12 campaign.

    100 - When he scored against Lyon in March 2021, Mbappe became the youngest player to rack up 100 goals in Ligue 1, at the age of 22 years and 91 days. He is also the youngest player to net a century of goals in the top five European Leagues in the 21st century.

    2 - Mbappe is already the second-highest Ligue 1 scorer since the turn of the century, having scored 132 times in the competition before Saturday's game. Only PSG great Edinson Cavani, with 138, has netted more.

    1 - He is hoping to become the first player to finish as the highest goalscorer and the leading assist provider in the same Ligue 1 season since Opta began collecting such data in 2008.

    8 - Ever consistent, Mbappe had scored at least one goal and delivered at least one assist in eight different Ligue 1 games this season, the highest tally of his career in the same top-flight campaign, prior to the final match of the 2021-22 campaign.

    3 - Mbappe is aiming to be the third player to finish as the highest goalscorer in four consecutive Ligue 1 seasons, after Carlos Bianchi (four in a row with Reims and PSG) and Jean-Pierre Papin (five in a row with Marseille). 

    50 - It is not just domestically that Mbappe has thrived. Since Opta collected such data, starting in the 2003-04 season, he is the fastest and youngest player to have reached 50 goal involvements in the Champions League, doing so in 51 matches, by the age of 22 years and 352 days.

    32 - As of kick-off against Metz, Mbappe was 32 goals shy of matching Cavani's club record of 200 for PSG.

  • Capitals fall to Mumbai to hand RCB final IPL play-off spot Capitals fall to Mumbai to hand RCB final IPL play-off spot

    Delhi Capitals missed out on the Indian Premier League play-offs after Tim David capitalised on a reprieve in a five-wicket win for Mumbai Indians on Saturday.

    The Capitals, requiring a victory at the Wankhede Stadium to make the last four, were limited to 159-7, with Jasprit Bumrah (3-25)  the pick of the bowlers.

    Rovman Powell (43) and Rishabh Pant (39) fell short of half-centuries, but Delhi's total looked competitive as the Indians made a slow start in response.

    Mumbai struggled to 27-1 at the end of the powerplay after Anrich Nortje dismissed captain Rohit Sharma, who managed only two off 13 deliveries.

    Ishan Kishan offered more attacking intent, scoring 48 off 35 balls before falling to Kuldeep Yadav (1-33) in the 12th over and Dewald Brevis (37) followed to Shardul Thakur soon after with 65 runs still required.

    Pant failed to review when David, on nought, edged behind and the Australian capitalised by blasting an 11-ball 34 before he was removed by Thakur (2-32) to leave Mumbai needing just 15 from 13 balls.

    Ramandeep Singh (13 not out) saw Rohit's side over the line with five deliveries to spare, which meant Royal Challengers Bangalore took the final play-off spot and will face Lucknow Super Giants in the eliminator on Wednesday.

    Brilliant Bumrah

    Bumrah has been somewhat off the pace for the struggling Mumbai in this year's competition, barring his excellent 5-10 against Kolkata Knight Riders.

    However, the India quick was in imperious form in the first innings of this game, removing Prithvi Shaw (24), Mitchell Marsh (nought) and Powell to take his tally to 15 in the 2022 IPL.

    Pant's reviews

    Pan dropped a simple chance when Brevis skied Kuldeep on 25. The skipper then ignored Thakur's advice and opted to not review when David edged behind.

    The Capitals captain followed that up by reviewing a Nortje delivery to Tilak Varma that pitched well outside leg stump, capping a miserable day for the India wicketkeeper.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.