Los Angeles Rams' C.J. Anderson runs for a first down in the fourth quarter of the game against the Arizona Cardinals on December 23 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Photo by Art Foxall/UPI | License Photo
The Los Angeles Rams' 31-9 victory over the Arizona Cardinals last weekend was important because it snapped a two-game losing streak and helped them maintain the second seed in the NFC standings and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
In order for the Rams (12-3) to stay in control of their destiny, they have to beat the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in their regular-season finale or, if they lose, hope the Chicago Bears lose to the Minnesota Vikings.
The Rams will leave nothing to chance and expect nothing but the best punch from the 49ers. They know what's at stake. So don't expect any looking ahead to the playoffs.
"It's very important for us to come out ready to go," Rams head coach Sean McVay said. "Continue to carry some momentum that we were able to establish ... leading into our final home game of the regular season at the Coliseum.
"Also, our final division game. To be able to wrap up the division -- try to stay unbeaten in the division this year would be a great accomplishment. But most importantly, it's coming away and trying to go 1-0 this week. We know that if we're able to do that, then that means that we get a first-round bye."
The Rams were happy to put the first two-game losing streak under McVay behind them last week.
"I don't think it was any different than losing one in a row the way we responded," Rams quarterback Jared Goff said. "We respond like we always do and we knew we had to play well to win and I thought we practiced extremely well throughout the week. We had a great day and just did a great job. We got back to our ways offensively and defensively."
Pro Bowl running back Todd Gurley's availability is uncertain for the Rams. He sat out last week with a knee injury and he'll be monitored this week before a decision is made.
Gurley has rushed for 1,251 yards, just 55 yards from his career best, and he needs one rushing touchdown to equal Eric Dickerson's franchise-record season record.
"We want to do what's best for Todd most importantly and what's best for Todd is also what's best for our football team," McVay said. "We don't want to do anything where we're putting him in harm's way, if we feel like it could be something where we're putting him at risk. But if he's getting back, if he's feeling good, then the anticipation is getting him ready to go. But we're just going to take this one day at a time right now."
If Gurley can't go, expect another heavy dose of C.J. Anderson, who rushed for 167 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals after the Rams signed him last week.
"I think he sees things well," McVay said. "I think when he puts his foot in the ground, he's decisive, levels off, he finishes falling forward. ... The game isn't too big. This is a guy who has played a big-time role on a Super Bowl team, led that game in rushing and did an outstanding job. So it's good to be able to have C.J., and we are excited for him."
The 49ers will have to deal with Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who had three sacks on Sunday against the Cardinals to move to 19.5 for the year to set an NFL record for sacks by a defensive tackle in a season. He's three from the overall NFL record of 22.5 set by Michael Strahan.
"It feels good," Donald said. "It's what you work for and grind for. Just to go out there and play the game and try to help your team to win it. In the way of doing that, you just have success. Any time you're rewarded and get to be a part of history, it's a special moment."
San Francisco will take a 4-11 record into the finale, in which a loss would ensure the No. 2 draft position. A win probably would cost them at least two two draft positions, possibly more.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan knows they'll have their work cut out for them against the Rams.
"You can tell why they're one of the better teams in the league, why their record is what it is," Shanahan said. "All three phases. I don't think they're there numbers-wise in all three phases, but they have the ability in all three phases to play like a top team."