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Kyle Shanahan reveals how 49ers will plan for new-look Rams

Rohan Chakravarthi
Sep 13, 2023 at 5:30 PM--

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The San Francisco 49ers had a dominant Week 1 performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers, kicking off the 2023 NFL season with a 30-7 win, picking up right where they left off with quarterback Brock Purdy healthy again following a torn UCL that ended his season in the NFC Championship Game last year.

The 49ers were dominant to begin, shutting out the Pittsburgh Steelers on their first five drives with three-and-outs, while scoring on each of their first four opportunities, creating a quick 20-0 lead in the second quarter.

However, the 49ers weren't the only team in the division to start strong, as the Los Angeles Rams easily defeated the Seattle Seahawks 30-13, riding the wave of quarterback Matthew Stafford, who, like Purdy, is back healthy for the 2023 season.

Coincidentally, the two division rivals are playing each other at SoFi Stadium in Week 2, and it's a different Rams team than the 49ers have seen over the past few seasons under Sean McVay, setting up a potentially tough divisional bout early in the season.

How will the 49ers plan for the new-look Rams in Week 2?

Speaking with reporters ahead of the game on Wednesday, head coach Kyle Shanahan pointed to the history between the two teams, as well as the coaching staffs, with Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay sharing a history in the past, and the former dominating the latter during the regular season throughout their tenures with their respective teams.

"[The 49ers and the Rams] have such a history, with the coaching staffs being similar for so long and the players being similar for so long," Shanahan said. "There's a lot of new guys out there, them playing in one game and trying to figure out some of their new players that you don't have a history with. But, once you turn on the tape and try to see it, yeah, you don't know some of the guys, but you definitely know 99 [Los Angeles Rams DL Aaron Donald] and you know the quarterback and then you watch the schemes and nothing's really different. It's two really good schemes on both sides of the ball and two great players and looks very similar and the result was very similar with what they've had in the past."

Aaron Donald is clearly at the forefront of the 49ers' minds, as head coach Kyle Shanahan pointed to the star defensive tackle as the most challenging part about facing the Rams.

"Aaron Donald being on it would be the number one [challenge in facing the Rams]," Shanahan said. "They've got some really good players but they're always going to be sound. They're always going to have a good scheme. They're always going to put their players in good positions. Starting with the offense, which is where it starts with [HC] Sean [McVay], but it's been no different with the defense and special teams either. Those guys are always coached up well, they're ready to go and they know how to put their really good players in real good situations."

Another player earning high praise from Kyle Shanahan? Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who threw for 334 yards in Week 1 while targeting a plethora of unknown receivers with star wideout Cooper Kupp with a hamstring injury.

"[Stafford's performance was] as good as it can be. That was evident why they played so well. He looked like Matt Stafford, which is one of the best quarterbacks to play over the last couple decades."

Stafford and Shanahan also have some indirect history, as the head coach infamously tried to trade for the quarterback back in 2021 before his coaching counterpart, Sean McVay, swooped in at the last hour to secure a deal with the Detroit Lions for the signal-caller's services.

The 49ers have still gotten the better of Stafford and the Rams since the trade, but the quarterback got the last laugh back in 2021 when defeating the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, en route to a Super Bowl appearance, where Los Angeles secured a ring over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Stafford's main targets in Week 1 were former second-round pick Tutu Atwell and fifth-round rookie Puka Nacua, who each had 119 receiving yards in a massive day through the air.

Shanahan praised the different dynamics of both players, pointing to Atwell's speed, which is coveted within the offensive scheme that both teams employ, and Nacua's physicality, comparing the rookie to Jauan Jennings, who has become a fan-favorite in San Francisco for his energy and physicality.

"Yeah, looked at him a lot in college. Tutu is as fast as anyone. He's one of those premier play-action top-level guys. Everyone in this type of offense, ours, theirs, play-action offense, they really want a guy like that. You can tell that's why they took him. He's premier at that. When you look at Nacua, he's a very tough physical football player. He reminds me a lot of [WR] Jauan [Jennings]. He's going to get after it on every play. The game's not too big for him. And when you can put those guys in the right spots and you've got a quarterback like they do, it can be pretty lethal."

While the new-look Rams may not have seemed as strong on paper to most analysts at the beginning of the season, they clearly showed they could play in Week 1 with a dominating victory on the road against a division rival, leading to a highly-anticipated matchup with the 49ers this Sunday.

Heading into Week 2, head coach Kyle Shanahan is looking to start strong on the road with two consecutive wins, which would set the 49ers up well for later in the year, when they face a larger share of home games.

"Yeah, there's team building stuff when we go, we've sometimes stayed a week away in these times. We haven't done that this year," Shanahan said. "But I think when you start on the road and if you can start out two-and-zero there's only so many road games and you'd always rather them be at home. So, when you have that good of a record to start, it's just more momentum going forward."

It all comes to a halt on Sunday afternoon when the 49ers travel to SoFi Stadium to face the Rams in a tough Week 2 matchup, where the former is seen as overwhelming 8.5-point favorites heading into the game.

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