The Rams finished their second day of preparation for the 49ers with a non-padded practice on Thursday. L.A. will hold one more practice on Friday before welcoming San Francisco to the Coliseum on Sunday afternoon.
WHO'S PRACTICING? WHO'S NOT?
In the week leading up to the playoffs, the Rams' main focus has been getting all of their players healthy and rested. As such, several of the team's starters continued to be held out of Thursday's practice.
Outside linebacker Connor Barwin was back to full participation in the session. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan were given another veteran rest day and were listed as non-participants. Linebacker Mark Barron (achilles), wide receiver Cooper Kupp (knee) and left guard Rodger Saffold (oblique) did not participate as well.
Outside linebacker Matt Longacre (back) was also listed on the club's injury report. He will continue to be listed as a non-participant until his transaction is processed to be placed on injured reserve.
THE JIMMY G EFFECT **
The Rams defeated the 49ers, 41-39, the last time the two clubs met in the Bay Area during Week 3 of the regular season. In the Thursday Night Football contest, Los Angeles' defense faced quarterback Brian Hoyer, who completed 23-of-37 passes for 332 yards and two touchdowns.
But a lot has changed since then.
Hoyer is now the backup quarterback for the New England Patriots. The 49ers — who went 0-6 with Hoyer as the head signal caller — have won each of their last four games. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has since taken over, reenergizing a once lackluster 49ers team.
"I think when you just look at what Jimmy's done since he's been playing these last couple weeks — he definitely instilled a confidence and energy on their offense," head coach Sean McVay said. "He's definitely given them a spark. They're playing really well [and] they've been playing really good football behind his leadership offensively."
The 49ers acquired the Eastern Illinois product in a trade with the Patriots back in early November. Through four starts this season, he has completed 69 percent of his passes for 1,250 yards and four touchdowns — boasting a 4-0 record with the 49ers and adding to his undefeated record as an NFL starter.
Most recently, Garoppolo led the 49ers to a dominant 44-33 win over the AFC South division champions, the Jaguars. But throughout his time with San Francisco, he has been credited as the missing piece to their offense with for his excellent ball placement and ability to mislead defenses.
"I mean they've won every game and he's played really well. So I'm very impressed with him," defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. "His poise, number one. I think head coach Kyle Shanahan and their staff have done a good job with him since he's been there. He's obviously ready to play, knows what they want to do and can execute those things.
With Garoppolo under center, the 49ers should present the Rams with a big challenge. Plus, L.A will be without several of their starters including defensive tackle Aaron Donald and middle linebacker Alec Ogletree who will rest on Sunday in preparation for the playoffs.
"Another challenge this week defensively. Obviously they've done really well and won every game with Garoppolo, so it will be a big challenge this week trying to slow them down," Phillips said. "You know they scored 44 points against a really good Jacksonville team last week. We have our work cut out for us."
RINGING IN THE NEW YEAR
The Rams will usher in 2018 with a New Year's Eve showdown on Sunday. And in the spirit of the New Year, we asked some of your favorite Rams players what their New Year's resolutions were. Check below for some of the best responses:
"Oh man, my New Year's resolution? I haven't figured that out yet. But my resolution every year is to be better than the previous year. So 2018 will be no different."
- Outside linebacker Connor Barwin
"My New Year's resolution is to stay positive, give love, to change all my flaws and just be a better person and a better man."
- Wide receiver Sammy Watkins
"My New Year's resolution is to read more books because I can't read very well."
- Kicker Johhny Hekker
"My New Year's resolution...OK, I got one. My New Year's resolution for 2018 is to eat more vegetables and eat healthier."
- Wide receiver Pharoh Cooper