As his 4-11 49ers prepare for the season's final game against the Rams, head coach Kyle Shanahan says his team is trending upward as San Francisco's injury-ridden season winds to an end.
"We've got a good group of guys. We've got a good building. We're all still going the same direction," Shanahan said of his team that's won two of its last three — including an overtime win against the playoff-bound Seahawks. "[E]ven though this year's coming to an end for us, we know it has a lot to do with next year and guys are trying to prove they want to be a part of that."
While Shanahan and his dinged-up 49ers are trying to end things on a positive note, so are the Rams and defensive tackle Aaron Donald. With a win against the Niners, L.A. clinches its first-round playoff bye, and with 3.5 sacks, Donald will become the NFL's all-time single-season sack leader.
"He's a tough player regardless of what he's playing for," Shanahan said on Wednesday. "He's got a chance to sack you on every single play regardless. I know he'll be going hard and going for that record, but I also know that guy goes hard every single week, every single day."
Shanahan said his team will prepare to contain Donald as usual, which did not work out well for his offense in the teams' first meeting. Donald finished Week 7 with his season-high 4.0 sacks against quarterback C.J. Beathard — a performance that if repeated, will launch the defensive tackle into the NFL history books.
"[H]e's a player we've got a ton of respect for and we know he is hard any time you've got to go against him," Shanahan said.
The second-year head coach also gave his take on quarterback Jared Goff's play as the signal-caller looks to finish his third season strong. Shanahan said Goff, who has thrown just two touchdowns and six interceptions since the Rams' Week 12 bye, is just going through what all quarterbacks go through — and the reaction is a result of L.A.'s recent success.
"I don't care how good of a quarterback you play with, how good of an offense you have, how good of a team, you're going to go through weeks where you don't play your best," Shanahan said. "When you play at a high level for a while, like the Rams have, like Goff has for the last two years, it just shows they've changed the standard."
Shanahan is 1-2 against the Rams as a head coach. His last win against the club came in Week 17 of last season in the L.A. Coliseum.