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After impressive debut, Rams & Niners clash in home opener | Week 2 Game Preview

The NFL world had questions.

The 2023 Los Angeles Rams had answers.

Sure, it was only one win. But what a way to debut.

After an offseason of uncertainty, doubted and discounted, the Rams were resounding in Seattle. It wasn't just that they won, but how they won.

Poised despite their youth, while the Seahawks boiled over.

Comfortably keeping Matthew Stafford clean, a year removed from catastrophe.

Unbothered by the absence of a Triple Crown winner, with a trio of offensive stars all 23 years or younger producing.

Dominant on defense despite the lack of name recognition.

Well, the quickest way to becoming a household name in Los Angeles is to send the 49ers back to Santa Clara, and seize control of the NFC West in the process.

Great Expectations

In the NFL, beware of the whiplash from Week 1 to Week 2.

With that caution, what did the opening win in Seattle mean?

Based on what I observed this summer, it felt like general manager Les Snead and his staff had drafted several rookies who were ready to be professionals. Steve Avila, Puka Nacua, Kobie Turner, and Byron Young confirmed it. (Even more is just around the corner from Tre Tomlinson  and Ethan Evans, and hopefully some others, if necessary.)

Going into the season, I thought that with a healthy Aaron Donald and a well-protected Matthew Stafford, the Rams had reason to believe they could hang with any opponent on their schedule. The way they handled their business at Lumen Field confirmed it.

Going into the season, I thought the best version of the Rams would be an NFC playoff team. What they did to the Seahawks confirmed it.

No Name Rams

We spoke a bit with corner Derion Kendrick this week about maintaining the chip on the Rams shoulder, and how having the 49ers in next will prevent the L.A. locker room from riding too high at 1-0.

"The Real D.K." bounced back from allowing a touchdown reception to D.K. Metcalf, and he helped the Rams pitch a second-half shutout in Seattle. Now, he gets to test his growth against Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. His thoughts on that matchup in this week's Rams Revealed.

Rock Brock

Per NFL Research, Sunday will be the first matchup between quarterbacks drafted first overall (Matthew Stafford in 2009) and last (Brock Purdy in 2022).

That checks out, given that Purdy is the only Mr. Irrelevant to throw a pass in the Common Draft Era. But still, great framing for a massive NFC West collision.

Perhaps more informative? The fact that Purdy and Stafford rank one-two in QBR coming off the opening week.

The way I see it, the only thing irrelevant about the Niners quarterback is where he was selected. Purdy's 117.5 career passer rating is the second-highest through six starts in the Super Bowl era. The only man ahead of him, historically? Some guy named Kurt Warner (131.5).

At this point, if you're waiting for a rookie clunker, it ain't gonna happen. Some opponent has to take it to Purdy and drag him down to Earth. Maybe his first encounter with Aaron Donald will be his welcome to the NFL moment.

This isn't rocket surgery, but for the Rams to get to 2-0, they first have to bottle up Christian McCaffrey and the 49ers rushing attack. Unfortunately, the All-Pro back is coming off the highest rushing total of his time with San Francisco and has averaged more scrimmage yards against NFC West opponents than any player in NFL history. McCaffrey has scored a touchdown in 10 straight games (including playoffs) dating back to last season. And the last time he was at SoFi Stadium, well… let's move on.

If the Rams can somehow get the game on Purdy's shoulders, then they'll have a chance to go to work against an offensive line that isn't stellar, outside of future Hall of Fame left tackle Trent Williams. Last week, right tackle Colton McKivitz got picked on by T.J. Watt to the tune of three sacks and a forced fumble.

As for Stafford and the Rams, they were extraordinary from the pocket in Week 1. The offensive line built a wall up front, even while facing 20-plus reps in known passing situations (second-and-third down and long). Operating with a silent count, on the road, with three new pieces starting, they didn't allow a sack and Stafford was only hit twice. The Rams went 11-of-17 on third down and scored a fourth down touchdown, as well.

That was astounding, but also completely unrepeatable. There is no chance that formula will be successful against Nick Bosa, Drake Jackson, Arik Armstead, and Javon Hargrave.

The Niners generated 23 pressures at Pittsburgh, tied for the most in the NFL, per NextGen Stats. And they've sacked Stafford 16 times in his four regular season games as a Ram.

2.3 yards per carry and a -2.37 rushing EPA (what L.A. generated in Seattle) is no way to win against the best defense in the league. The Rams will have to be much more efficient on early downs in their home opener.

37 Going On 100

Sunday, Sean McVay hits the century mark.

He's 61-38 in his career, and still the youngest in the game.

In six seasons (and really these accomplishments were all generated through the first five), he's been decorated as the NFL Coach of the Year, directed the Rams to four playoff berths and two NFC Championships, plus that indelible Lombardi Trophy.

McVay had never experienced a losing record – not at any point of a season – until the opening defeat versus Buffalo in 2022, the outset of his sixth campaign.

Sure, San Francisco has been the exception that proves the rule. It would be amazing to put that all to rest with win number 62 on Sunday at SoFi Stadium against the bitter rivals from the North.

But no matter the outcome, here's to the next 100 for Sean McVay.

Snap the Streak

Take a look at what the Niners have after this visit to SoFi Stadium:

A home opener on Thursday Night Football against the New York Giants, who were just embarrassed at the Meadowlands by Dallas.

Then another home game against the Arizona Cardinals, who you'll find at the bottom of every power ranking in the NFL.

Point being, if the Rams don't put a dent in San Francisco now, don't be surprised to see the 49ers sitting at 4-0 when they host a third straight at Levi's Stadium, versus the Cowboys in prime time.

Can the Rams break their eight-game streak of regular season losses against the 49ers?

If they are serious about contending for the NFC West in 2023, they better.

Take a look through photos of Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, defensive back Cobie Durant, running back Kyren Williams & more Rams players getting ready for their home opener against the San Francisco 49ers.