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Stopping 'nightmare' Von Miller is key to 49ers vs. Rams

/ by Dalton Johnson
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Von Miller

The Von Miller that the 49ers will face Sunday at SoFi Stadium is much different than the one they played in their 31-10 win over the Los Angeles Rams in Week 10. 

The Rams had just acquired Miller from the Denver Broncos before facing the 49ers. He was coming off a two-game absence from an ankle injury that was worse than the Rams suspected when they traded for the three-time All-Pro. He played in just 66 percent of the Rams' defensive snaps against San Francisco, his second-lowest aside from sustaining the injury during a Week 7 game. 

But Miller now is much more healthy and fully ingrained into the Rams' defensive system, and his stats back that up. 

“Yeah, it's a nightmare," 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel said Thursday to reporters. 

Miller had his best game yet as a Ram last week in their 20-19 win against the Baltimore Ravens. He recorded five tackles -- three for a loss -- three QB hits and two sacks. It was the first time that he had a multi-sack game since the season opener, which also was the last game he recorded three QB hits. 

Whether rookie Trey Lance starts his second straight game at quarterback or veteran Jimmy Garoppolo returns from his thumb injury, keeping either one clean and on their feet will be a key to the 49ers' offense. That won't be easy facing a defense that features Miller, along with Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd and others. 

 

"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," McDaniel said of Miller.

"And it's just another headache that the Rams present.”

The last time these two foes faced each other, it was 49ers tight end George Kittle that was causing nightmares for Miller

It was a cold-hearted welcome to the NFC West, but Kittle is the first one to note what a problem Miller still is for the entire NFL.

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"I think Von's only gotten better week to week," Kittle said Thursday. "The more you watch him, the more aggressive you can see him. I know Von a little bit, but I definitely think these last two to three weeks, I think he's played really good football. He's been very aggressive, he's been very physical ... he's been playing really, really good football.

"I think he's a much better player now than six, eight weeks ago -- whenever that was. I think he's playing very good football right now, and we're gonna have to be on top of our game. It's still Von Miller. He's a hell of a football player. He's still All-World, All-Pro, Pro Bowl athlete every single time he touches the field, and when he wants to be he can disrupt every single play." 

Even though Miller isn't collecting the same accolades he once did, it's clear slowing him down still is a top priority if the 49ers want to win their sixth straight game against the Rams and secure their spot in the NFC playoffs.

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