On the 49ers‘ side, they could wipe away a possible No. 2 seed and the NFC West title against their historic division rival.
ALL the latest 49ers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on 49ers newsletter here!
But that’s not the only two things the 49ers can prevent against the Rams.
In a Wednesday, January 5 article by Maurice Moton of Bleacher Report titled “NFL Records That Could Fall in Week 18” the S.F. defense can additionally play the role of spoiler and record-denier for a Rams wide receiver putting together a season for the ages in this rare 17-game schedule.
Cooper Kupp is chasing history. But can the ‘Niners defense halt him from rewriting the record books at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood? Here’s what the 49ers are facing with the Pro Bowl wide receiver.
Kupp is Nearing Receptions Record
The 28-year-old wide receiver currently sits at a league-best 138 receptions. According to Pro Football Reference, Kupp is officially third all-time in single season catches with one regular season game left.
But he’s 12 receptions away from the NFL record of 149 by Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints, which was set in 2019.
How has Kupp racked up the grabs? Moton points to new chemistry between he and the new Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford.
“The Los Angeles Rams swapped quarterback Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford in a blockbuster trade this past offseason, and Cooper Kupp has benefited most among the team’s pass-catchers. In his first four years, Kupp posted solid numbers but shared targets with starting wideouts Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks, who’s currently with the Houston Texans. As a result, he had to make the most of limited opportunities in some games.
Between Stafford’s arrival and Woods’ absence because of a torn ACL, Kupp has become the focal point of the Rams’ passing attack, with Van Jefferson and Odell Beckham Jr., whom the team signed in November, as secondary receiving options.”
That’s not all. Kupp has five games of catching double digit passes from Stafford. The receptions record isn’t the only thing Kupp is drawing close to.
Kupp is Closing in on Receiving Yards Record
Kupp, as of Saturday, January 8, is slotted in fifth all-time for receiving yardage in a single-season per PFR.
But could he surpass the four names in front of him in Antonio Brown, Jerry Rice, Julio Jones and the record holder Calvin “Megatron” Johnson?
Kupp needs 136 yards to snap the mark held since 2012 by “Megatron.” Here’s what Moton wrote:
“Averaging a league-leading 114.3 yards per game, Kupp goes into Week 18 within reach of 1,964 receiving yards for the season. In his first matchup with the San Francisco 49ers, he recorded 122 yards.”
However, here’s one reason why Kupp could have difficulty in breaking the yardage record: He’s struggled in recent years against the ‘Niners, with just one 100-yard game against them. And there are three other reasons.
Highly-Ranked Pass Defense is Bolstered for Sunday
The 49ers rank fifth overall against the pass. Oh, in the last meeting versus the Rams on Week 10 won easily by the 49ers 31-10, Kupp never crossed the goal line.
Before 1:15 p.m. PT on Saturday, January 8, The Athletic’s David Lombardi posted how impactful Jimmie Ward is on the field.
Ward delivered one of his best outings of his career in that Monday Night Football romp. Not only did he snatch two first quarter interceptions (one a pick six), but put together a stellar coverage night.
And the veteran safety of eight seasons has been a swat option for the 49ers in past wins over the Rams:
But that’s not all. Per this Heavy on 49ers story from Friday, January 7, the 49ers were in a situation where they could bump as many as four cornerbacks on the reserve/COVID-19 list to the active roster for this critical contest.
Guess what? All those guys are active for Sunday’s big game, with the 49ers announcing the moves via their website Saturday. Two of them will especially come in handy versus Kupp.
Kupp is nearing history. But the 49ers represent the last biggest roadblock to Kupp’s record destinations…and in the process could deny the second seed and division title.