“Gregg always talked about going 4-0 the last quarter of the season,” linebacker
“I believe it’s important for a confidence standpoint to be doing right at the end of the year,” Williams said. “I was pretty hard, pretty stern about this last quarter of the season, about being 4-0. And we wouldn’t be in position right now to go do that, to be 4-0 in this last quarter, had we not taken care of business in the first three games.”
Now at Week 17, having the opportunity to finish a season at .500 is still significant, given it’s a mark St. Louis has not reached since the 2006 season.
Even though the playoffs are not an option, multiple players have said the team has treated these last couple weeks as if they were the postseason.
“We always talked about, hey, if we do make the playoffs, we’re going to have to go up somewhere like Seattle and play in a playoff-type atmosphere,” Laurinaitis said. “So we treated that like a playoff game, and we got over that hump of not winning there in a decade. Hopefully, it spurs our franchise around like it did the Cardinals, when they went up there when nobody was winning at Seattle.”
“We’re treating this game like a playoff game,” cornerback
Last week, the defense played one of its best games against a Seattle offense that had been rolling. The multiple injuries to the unit, especially across the defensive line, made holding the Seahawks to just 17 points and 313 yards of offense that much more significant.
“The way our D-line played was remarkable. Really, the whole defense,” Laurinaitis said. “We were super physical with them, especially in that first half. I’m not sure a team has played them as physical as we did on Sunday. Anytime you can score on defense that early in the game, it really just lets you relax and play fast.”
Sunday’s victory also saw Johnson continue his run of strong play. He’s now intercepted a pass in each of his last four games, bringing his total to seven on the season.
“Finishing strong is the focal point,” Johnson said. “Our goal was to finish 4-0, and I’m doing everything possible to finish 4-0. So if anything, just finishing 4-0 and strong.”
“Tackling very well. Playing very smart. Jumping routes. Understanding route concepts, formations, splits, alignments and things like that. He’s doing a great job with that,” Fisher said of Johnson. “The hand-eye coordination is extraordinary. He can make plays on the ball.”
But this week presents another divisional challenge with the 49ers. While San Francisco has gone through its share of disappointments this year, it’s still a team with a noticeable identity on film.
“That’s their bread-and-butter right now, is keep the ball away from opposing offenses,” Fisher said. “They do a nice job of the conventional run game with the I-formation and stuff and the extra tight ends.”
“They do a great job of that,” Williams said of the Niners’ run game. “You take at those guys when their offensive linemen get off the bus, you say, well there’s some football players there. And they’re big, strong men. And we’ve got to play well in the run game.”
Plus, quarterback Blaine Gabbert has played well since taking over for Colin Kaepernick. The St. Louis native and Mizzou product has completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,677 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions. And while he may not be known as much for running as Kaepernick, Gabbert has rushed for 178 yards and a touchdown on 25 attempts in 2015.
“For the most part, they’re still the same 49ers -- the same structure, the same play concepts,” Williams said. “There’s a few other tendencies that Blaine does better and is able to do some things.”
“Colin, he had the zone-read style runs that were built in for him, they don’t do that as much with Blaine,” Laurinaitis said. “But it seems like on third-and-whatever, if Blaine’s first two options aren’t there, he’s running it.”
Shutting the offense down will be a challenge, considering the two teams are division rivals and thus know one another quite well.
“We’re going to have to be ready to go,” Williams said. “This division is a strong division. They know us, we know them. So it’ll come down to who’s prepared the best.”
“We expect everything from them,” Laurinaitis said. “It’s the NFC West. There’s no motivation [needed] for either team other than division game, cap it off. We’ve got all offseason to heal up.”
INJURY REPORT & ROSTER MOVES
With only one game remaining, the Rams placed defensive tackle
Brown could be a bit of insurance in case
“He’s getting treatment on the foot right now, so we’ll see how he is tomorrow,” Fisher said.
Elsewhere on the injury report, safety