The Rams might have landed the first few punches on Sunday, but the 49ers landed the knockout.
A boxing metaphor seems apropos for the back-and-forth thriller, that saw San Francisco punch their ticket to the postseason with a 27-24 overtime victory.
Los Angeles spent much of the lead-up to the game talking about how they were going to bring the physicality, an emphasis for them after losing five straight to the 49ers.
Joe Staley could only chuckle when asked about the Rams’ attempt to win the toughness battle vs. the uber physical 49ers. Staley said being a physical football team isn’t something you can just turn on when you feel like it.
“That’s something that is built through the draft, through bringing guys in with the right mentality,” Staley said on Papa & Lund Monday. “You either are that or you’re not. You don’t just show up in Week 18 and say ‘alright, well the formula for today’s game is that we have to be the most physical team, so we’re just going to do that and that’s going to work.’
“It doesn’t work in the NFL like that. That’s either what your DNA is as a player and you go out and do that every single week and every single time you step on the field. So I think for the 49ers, they must have been watching that and laughing. ‘Oh, you want to make this a physical game, you want be that and match us? That’s what we’ve been not just this year but out entire DNA as football players have been that.’
“You go back and you look at the careers of George Kittle and Deebo and Elijah and the defense. You can put on highlight tapes of them not just being physical in the NFL but in college and I’m pretty sure in P.E. football they were knocking heads off too.”
The Rams were also acting like they had won the game far too early. George Kittle recounted that the Rams were talking smack throughout the first half.
Rams head coach Sean McVay provided perhaps the most egregious example, celebrating in the end zone with his team in the second quarter.
“The clip of McVay celebrating, when they were 17-0 in the second quarter like they had just won the Super Bowl, was priceless. I honestly think that was a turning point. You get juiced up over anything…You see a moment like that where you have 35 minutes left to play in a game, and the team is already celebrating like they’ve done something. You saw a perfect example of why you continue to play the game, you don’t celebrate when you’re up, you don’t celebrate until that final whistle.”
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