Rams' Cooper Kupp still learning his most valuable lessons with 49ers ahead
Rams receiver Cooper Kupp this week was announced as the NFL offensive player of the year by the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a candidate to collect a similar accolade when the annual NFL Honors program is broadcast before the Super Bowl.
But as the Rams prepare to play the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game Sunday at SoFi Stadium, Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris and offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell said Kupp and 49ers star receiver Deebo Samuel should receive more consideration as potential NFL most valuable player candidates.
“I know this is a quarterback-driven league,” Morris said Thursday during a videoconference with reporters, “and quarterbacks played great, but these two players have to absolutely defy some of the things that are out there.”
Through two playoff games, Kupp is building on his historic season.
The fifth-year pro achieved the so-called “triple crown” by leading the NFL with 145 catches, 1,947 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns receiving.
In a 34-11 wild-card playoff victory over the Arizona Cardinals, Kupp caught five passes for 61 yards and a touchdown, and then produced a game-changing performance in last week’s 30-27 divisional-round victory over the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Kupp caught nine passes for 183 yards — 64 coming in the final 42 seconds. Kupp caught a 20-yard pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford, the precursor to Stafford’s 44-yard strike to Kupp, which set up the winning field goal.
After the victory, Kupp celebrated with teammates. But he quickly put his big moment behind.
“I take the mindset that regardless of what happens on the field, I try to learn from my mistakes, and fix those things and be able to be a better football player than I was the week before,” he said. “Really focus on the stuff I can do better versus the stuff that I did well, so I can continue to grow.”
Kupp is expected to play a large role Sunday when the Rams, once again, try to defeat the 49ers for the first time since 2018. Six consecutive losses.
“We don’t need to re-invent the wheel here,” he said. “It’s just about doing our jobs.”
In November, Kupp caught 11 passes for 122 yards in a 31-10 defeat to the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. In the January season finale at SoFi Stadium, Kupp had seven catches for 118 yards and a touchdown in a 27-24 overtime defeat.
Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers coach, said Thursday that Kupp has been a threat since he entered the league in 2017. Stafford has helped him, but Kupp was “pretty dang good” when Jared Goff was the quarterback, Shanahan said during a videoconference.
“He's only going to get better because, to me, it's not just his body, it's his mind and how he prepares and kind of his natural feel of the game,” Shanahan said. “And, usually, the great ones are like that.”
Though he was effective in the first two games against the 49ers, Kupp does not anticipate a special scheme to contain him.
“You always try to put yourself in their shoes and what they’re going to do,” he said. “A lot of times you really just have to be ready to react, be ready to adapt to whatever it is their plan is.
“We’ve been able to do a pretty good job of that.”
Offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth, who sat out against the Buccaneers because of a knee injury, was a full participant in practice, per the Rams injury report. Offensive lineman Joe Noteboom (chest) and backup quarterback John Wolford (illness) did not practice. Receiver Van Jefferson (knee) and safety Taylor Rapp (concussion) were limited. … Trent Williams, the 49ers starting left tackle, did not practice because of an ankle injury, per the 49ers injury report.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.