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Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

49ers-Rams: Expect a ‘vanilla’ game plan from both teams

Jan 3, 2024 at 1:24 PM--

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The San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams are very familiar with each other. They face each other twice a season. After their 2021 regular-season clashes, they met for a third time in the NFC Championship Game. With another potential playoff encounter looming, both teams will likely keep their strategies under wraps in the Week 18 matchup at Levi's Stadium on Sunday.

The 49ers have secured the NFC's No. 1 seed and home-field advantage. Nothing on Sunday will change that. The Rams have also clinched a playoff berth, positioned as either the sixth or seventh seed, depending on this weekend's outcome.

Neither team will play its starting quarterback. Brock Purdy and Matthew Stafford will watch from the sidelines as Sam Darnold and Carson Wentz lead their respective offenses.

"Yeah, there's a good chance we're playing this team in two weeks, so I think both sides will be pretty vanilla on that (the game plan)," head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters ahead of Wednesday's practice in Santa Clara. "I'd be surprised if there's too much stuff, but we also know each other pretty well, both teams and the schemes. And when we play each other, I don't think a lot goes into that anyways.

"But every game affects the next game. So we've got to be smart [with] how we do everything."

Shanahan emphasized that the 49ers are preparing for the Rams "big-time" and not necessarily treating it as an exhibition game. The team has not faced their division rival since Week 2 and has noticed significant improvement since that earlier matchup.

"Where they've improved the most is how much their run game is going," Shanahan shared. "It's as good as any run game in this league. You put those together with that type of quarterback (Stafford), their defense started out with a lot of young guys, but they've played all year. That's what we had to do in '17 and '18.

"And when you have a generational player out there with Aaron Donald, with what they're doing on the other side, that gives them a chance to be just as dangerous as anyone in this league."

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