Rams’ Sean McVay finally gets the best of 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan in comeback win – Daily Breeze

INGLEWOOD  — Rams coach Sean McVay made a puzzling decision to put his last timeout on the line by challenging whether San Francisco 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk was down by contact with less than 11 minutes left in the NFC Championship Game.

While McVay was arguing with the officials about a possible fumble, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan wasn’t considering going for the kill shot on a fourth-and-2 from the Rams’ 45-yard line with a three-point advantage. That was Shanahan’s chance to hand his close friend McVay a seventh straight defeat and keep his team in Los Angeles for Super Bowl LVI.

“We were never thinking about going for that,” Shanahan said.

Shanahan said the two plays prior and a dropped interception soon after the decision to punt will eat at him for weeks. Perhaps if Shanahan went for it on fourth down, then he wouldn’t be regretting the missed opportunities after the 49ers held a double-digit lead.

“Thought that was the game we exactly wanted up until that second-and-1,” a disappointed Shanahan said after the Rams defeated the 49ers, 20-17, at SoFi Stadium. “I’m going to be thinking about that for a long time, and then the third-and-2 on that next play.”

Once again, it didn’t matter how many aggressive moves the Rams made to add star players because Shanahan had the Rams where he wanted them and all he had to do to advance to the Super Bowl was make one aggressive move on the field.

“We had our opportunities and we didn’t come through on those three plays, and after that it turned into a game we didn’t like as much,” Shanahan said.

Shanahan and the 49ers pulled the trigger in the spring by trading picks to draft rookie quarterback Trey Lance. But Shanahan couldn’t bring himself to do it Sunday when his current starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was on the field with fourth-and-2 from the Rams’ 45-yard line and a 17-14 lead.

Plenty occurred after the 49ers took the delay of game and opted to punt, but that gave McVay and the Rams an opening to rally. McVay finally got one against Shanahan to end a six-game losing streak, and now his Rams will represent the NFC in their home stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals for the Super Bowl on Feb. 13.

As they say, it’s never easy to beat an opponent three times in a season, but the 49ers had a 17-7 advantage heading into the fourth quarter. The Rams’ pass rush had no answers for Garoppolo’s quick throws with screens to Deebo Samuel and slants to Brandon Aiyuk.

Then Shanahan decided to play not to lose and gave McVay an out for his head-scratching decisions to burn all three timeouts with nearly a quarter to go in a tight game. Rams kicker Matt Gay made the eventual game-winning 30-yard field goal for a 20-17 advantage with 1:46 left in the fourth quarter.

McVay had his own game-managing blunders, but he had Rams wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. on his side – and a few lucky breaks. 49ers cornerback Jaquiski Tartt dropped an interception a play after Shanahan decided to punt.

Suddenly, the Rams had momentum after Gay made a 40-yard field goal and tied the game 17-17 with 6:49 left in regulation. Later, the Rams found their pass rush when star defensive tackle Aaron Donald got a hold of Garoppolo and forced him into throwing an interception to Travin Howard to seal the game.

“For the defense to be able to close it out, especially after the last time we played them,” McVay said referring to the Rams blowing a 17-point lead in Week 18 to allow the 49ers to enter the postseason. “The way that went. There were so many great plays today by great players. Just happy to be associated with these guys. We have one more.”

McVay praised Kupp’s performance and sidestepped a question about finally getting the best of Shanahan, his former colleague when the two were assistant coaches for Washington nearly a decade ago.

“The previous six games when we didn’t find a way to finish, had nothing to do with what’s going to occur at 3:30 p.m. when we kicked this thing off,” McVay said. “Those are separate entities. … Short memory and reset.”

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