There’s a “nightmare” on film that the San Francisco 49ers have caught when preparing for the Los Angeles Rams.
This Rams player has emerged as an integral part of the NFC’s best pass rush: Accounting for four sacks in L.A.’s last three games and one who is starting to find his groove into the Ram defense.
San Francisco offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel is well aware of this dream disruptor — and knows that this Ram is playing much differently than the one who got thrust into action in Week 10 when the 49ers steamrolled the Rams 31-10 on Monday Night Football.
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Who is this Ram? Someone who has been with the team for only seven games but again, has been on an edge rushing tear as he has been for 11 seasons: Von Miller.
“Yeah, it’s a nightmare,” McDaniel told Bay Area reporters on Thursday, January 6 when asked about preparing for Miller.
McDaniel and 49ers Expecting a Different Miller
The 33-year-old Miller the 49ers played against at Levi’s Stadium? He was on a Rams defense that surrendered 156 yards on the ground and only mustered one sack…which came from a safety in Taylor Rapp.
Miller that evening: Three tackles, two solo stops and one tackle behind the line of scrimmage. But played on a Rams defense that got pulverized by the 49ers’ rushing attack. Miller also had his struggles against 49ers All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams.
Of course, 49er fans — and perhaps Miller himself — remembers this play that involved a one-on-one block between he and 49ers All-Pro tight end George Kittle:
But even then, McDaniel described preparing for the 2016 Super Bowl Most Valuable Player with the Denver Broncos as a nightmarish scenario.
“The other scenario, last time we played them, it was like a literal nightmare because we kind of had to like envision it in their system. Hadn’t seen him out there,” McDaniel said.
Since that MNF game, Miller has accomplished three games of hitting five tackles or six. And on Sunday, January 2, Miller delivered the kind of game-changing moment that looked reminiscent of his Rocky Mountain and Texas A&M days:
Miller delivered his first two-sack performance since the season opener against the New York Giants on September 12, but his first multiple sack day as a Ram. Miller adds to an already loaded defensive unit that features All-Pros Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey plus has an NFC-best 47 sacks entering Sunday’s contest at SoFi Stadium.
“The Rams are loaded with them that in a heartbeat, can change the course of the game,” McDaniel said. “So you have to be very smart with how you approach the game. You can tell that he’s really gotten comfortable doing what they ask him to do and starting to find his niche within the system. And it’s just another headache that the Rams present.”
49er Who Demolished Miller Praises Miller
Even Kittle knows Miller is playing at a high level.
“I think Von’s only gotten better week to week,” Kittle told reporters. “The more you watch him, the more aggressive you can see him. I definitely think these last two to three weeks he’s played really, really good football.”
And is Kittle a believer that this Miller isn’t the same one he planted to the Levi’s Stadium grass during their last meeting?
“I think he’s a much better player now than he was however many weeks ago,” Kittle said.