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"No better stage" for Rams than taking on division rival 49ers in NFC Championship

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – The regular season series went to the 49ers.

Now, the Rams meet them again in the postseason for the right to play in Super Bowl LVI.

"There ain't no better stage than this," Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald said Thursday. "This is the type of game you train for during the offseason. All that extra grind, all that extra film is to play in big games like this. I feel like there's no better stage than what we have right now."

Los Angeles will be taking plenty of lessons learned from both of those games into Sunday's NFC Championship. Chief among them: A consistent physicality throughout the entire game.

"I would say we have to be extremely physical," Rams defensive back Jalen Ramsey said. "We gotta try to set the tone and not just set the tone, because I feel like we set the tone the last game and we started off really well, but we have to maintain it through all four quarters. That's kind of becoming a theme for us right now, is making sure we maintain playing the game on our own terms, at our own pace, with that same energy and effort and execution and all that good stuff throughout all four quarters, not just two quarters."

San Francisco had one of the most potent rushing offenses in the NFL during the regular season, finishing seventh with 127.4 yards per game. In the midst of that, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan introduced a new wrinkle that the Rams saw in Week 10 and became more prevalent as the season wore on by lining up and using wide receiver Deebo Samuel in the backfield.

"They move him all round, everywhere from outside to in the backfield," Donald said. "When they have certain guys getting the ball, we just got to swarm and tackle. I think last game we missed a lot of tackles, and we can't allow that this time. We got to swarm, and we got to wrap up."

The Rams are also mindful of the importance of disrupting 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's timing and rhythm.

In that regard, Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris is pleased with what he's gotten out of the unit's pass rush. While not completely illustrative of the pressure generated, the Rams' five sacks are second-most of the teams that advanced to Championship Sunday.

"One of the things I've told you I do care about when it comes to stats is going out and dominating rundowns, going out and affecting the quarterback, and at the end of day getting the ball," Morris said. 'We've been able to do all those things the last couple of weeks, so it's been able to affect our rush, and our rush has been outstanding."

Knowing how opportunistic the 49ers defense can be based on how those previous two matchups went, protecting the football also sits high atop the priority list.

"We got to make sure that we are cognizant of that, trying to make sure that we're taking care of the football while still being aggressive and taking our chances and our shots when we get those," Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "It's a defense that the last few weeks has been really tough to move the ball against. So, we'll have our work cut out for us."

Toward the end of the regular season and throughout the playoffs, the Rams have leaned on strong resilience in the face of adversity, especially in the way the made it out of the Divisional Round and into the NFC Championship.

They'll need again against another familiar opponent on Sunday.

"There's going to be a lot of similarities in terms of the players, the personnel, some of the schemes, but we have to do a great job playing our best ball for a full four quarters," Rams head coach Sean McVay said. "And if we need another extra quarter to do that, then so be it. But, we're excited about it. We know it's a great challenge."

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