Rams hope third time is a charm in NFC title game against 49ers

Matt Gay of the Los Angeles Rams throws the game-winning basket against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second half of an NFL Divisional Round playoff football game on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022 in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/ Mark LoMoglio)

Matt Gay of the Los Angeles Rams throws the game-winning basket against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second half of an NFL Divisional Round playoff football game on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022 in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/ Mark LoMoglio)

PA

The San Francisco 49ers will be hoping their recent regular-season dominance over the Los Angeles Rams extends into the playoffs.

The Niners have swept the all-season series against the Rams for the past three seasons and earned a six-game winning streak in the series in Sunday’s NFC title game.

A look at past history suggests that it’s uncertain whether regular-season dominance will carry over into the playoffs.

It will be the 24th time in the Super Bowl era that the division rivals have met in the playoffs after a regular season sweep. The team that won both regular season games is 14-9 in the playoff rematch – although last year Tampa Bay won a division game at New Orleans en route to a Super Bowl title.

The Rams-49ers game is the fourth time a team has appeared in the playoffs on a winning streak of at least six games in the series. The back-to-back team has won one of those three previous matchups: The Giants extended an eight-game winning streak against Philadelphia by beating the Eagles in the 2000 playoffs.

The Bears overcame a six-game losing streak against Minnesota when they beat the Vikings in the 1994 playoffs, and the Chargers did the same against the Chiefs in the 1992 season.

Sunday’s game is also the seventh time the division rivals will compete for a spot in the Super Bowl after a regular-season sweep; four of the previous six sweep teams won again to reach the Super Bowl.

CLOSE CALLS

There had never been a playoff weekend like the Divisional Round, when all four games were decided by a winning score in the final game for the very first time.

Kansas City’s three field goals in regulation and TD’s pass in overtime from Patrick Mahomes to Travis Kelce led to a combined winning margin of just 15 points – the closest division round since the merger, beating the 18 points that decided the four games of the 2006 season.

It comes on the heels of one of the most lopsided weekends with wild cards, when the average scoring margin of 17.2 points per game is the fourth-largest for the weekend with wild cards since the playoffs. playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990.

ROAD WARRIORS

A week after home teams won five of six playoff games, road teams dominated.

Cincinnati, San Francisco and the Rams were all winning visitors in the Divisional Round, marking the third time three road teams have won this round in the same season (1971 and 2008).

Last weekend marked the fourth time the two No. 1 seeds – Titans and Packers – had lost in the divisional round since the rankings began in 1975. This has also happened in 1975, 2008 and 2010.

YOUNG ARMS

The game between Mahomes and the Chiefs against Josh Allen and the Bills was an instant classic.

The teams combined for 78 points, 974 yards, no turnovers and just four penalties in the game Kansas City won 42-36 in overtime.

It was the fourth time in the Super Bowl era that both teams had scored at least 35 points, gained at least 400 yards and committed no turnovers — and the first time it had happened in the playoffs.

The teams combined for 31 points after the two-minute warning, with the Bills getting 15 and the Chiefs 16. That’s the most in a game since at least 2000.

It was the second game in NFL history when both quarterbacks threw for at least 300 yards and ran for at least 50: Mahomes threw for 378 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 69 yards and a score and Allen threw for 329 yards and four touchdowns. to go with 68 rushing yards.

The first time this happened was Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson in Arizona’s 37-34 overtime win over Seattle in 2020.

Mahomes has now posted back-to-back playoff games with at least 400 yards and four combined rushing and passing touchdowns. Prior to the past two weeks, only five QBs had made it: Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick, Peyton Manning and Dan Marino.

The loss sent Allen home after one of the best playoff series for a quarterback. He completed 48 of 62 passes for 637 yards (10.3 yards per attempt), with nine TD passes, no interceptions for 134 rushing yards and a 149 passer rating. The Bills have scored touchdowns on 12 of 16 drives with Allen in the field.

Buffalo’s Gabriel Davis had eight catches for 201 yards and became the first player to catch four touchdown passes in a playoff game.

ARCHNEMESE

When the San Francisco 49ers picked Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers in the 2005 draft, Rodgers swore the Niners would be more disappointed than him.

While that’s true for the most part, with Rodgers winning three MVP awards and a Super Bowl, it didn’t hold up in the playoffs.

The Niners won all four playoff meetings after Saturday’s 13-10 victory. This follows playoff wins in the 2012, 2013 and 2019 seasons. Rodgers is the first quarterback to lose to the same team four times in the playoffs.

San Francisco held Rodgers and the Packers to 10 points on Saturday, the first time Green Bay has scored less than 20 points in a playoff game with Rodgers at the helm.

FOUR PEATS

The Chiefs reached the AFC title game for the fourth consecutive season, marking the seventh time since the merger that a franchise has made four straight trips to the conference championship.

Andy Reid has coached two of those teams, arriving there with Philadelphia in the 2001-04 seasons and now again with Kansas City.

Other teams to do so include the Patriots (2011-18), Raiders (1973-77), Bills (1990-93) and Cowboys (1970-73, 1992-95).

___

More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL