Check out photos of the Rams taking on the San Francisco 49ers through the years.
The end of the regular season has officially arrived. On Sunday, the Rams (11-4) will host the San Francisco 49ers (5-10) for a Week 17 matchup between two classic NFC West rivals.
L.A. will be looking to cap their season with another sweep of an NFC West opponent. The two clubs last met in Week 3, when the Rams took home a close 41-39 victory on Thursday Night football. But Sunday’s Week 17 matchup should look a bit different than the last.
McVay announced on Wednesday that the Rams had made the decision to rest several of their starters against the 49ers — running back Todd Gurley, left tackle Andrew Whitworth, center John Sullivan, defensive tackle Aaron Donald, middle linebacker Alec Ogletree, and quarterback Jared Goff among them.
And while many of the team’s key players will be rested on Sunday, the season finale still holds a lot of meaning for the organization.
“Make no mistake about it, the guys that we are going to go forward with, we’re going to do everything in our power to compete to go win a football game,” head coach Sean McVay said.
“We don’t want this to be misconstrued at all,” quarterback Jared Goff added, “we’re trying to go out and win this weekend. It’s not a preseason game, it’s not anything to be taken lightly.”
But the 49ers are still gearing up for a big challenge when they head into the Coliseum on Sunday.
“This is the National Football league — their starters, their backups, whoever are all good,” 49ers’ center Daniel Kilgore said, via to www.49ers.com. “I mean they have some ball players, they have some good depth and it’s a great defense.”
San Francisco has been on a roll as of late, looking revitalized under quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
The club acquired the Eastern Illinois product in a trade with the Patriots in early November. Since taking over as QB-1, Garoppolo has led the 49ers to four straight wins — the most recent of which came against the AFC South Champion Jaguars.
“I think when you just look at what Jimmy’s done since he’s been playing these last couple weeks — he definitely instilled a confidence and energy on their offense,” McVay said. “He’s definitely given them a spark. They’re playing really well.”
According to USA Today, of the 18 teams before this year that started a 16-game season with nine straight losses — as San Francisco did — none of the others won more than three games that season. The 49ers have won five of their last six.
As such, Los Angeles will have a tough task in slowing down the 49ers dynamic offense under head coach Kyle Shanahan. Plus, L.A. will need to do so without key players like Ogletree and Donald.
“We’ll try to do our fundamental things that we play well, so our game plan hasn’t changed,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. “We pride ourselves on our defensive players being ready to play. [And] we expect anybody that plays in this game, if they’re playing for somebody that’s normally a starter, to step up and play well.”
To Phillips point, look for players like linebacker Cory Littleton, defensive back Blake Countess, defensive tackle Tanzel Smart, and outside linebacker Carlos Thompson to take an increased snap count in Sunday’s contest.
The Rams offense will also feature several different faces.
Quarterback Sean Mannion will make his first career start in Week 17 after three seasons with the Rams. Through six regular season appearances, the Oregon State product has completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 66 yards and one interception.
Mannion is eager to make the most of his opportunity.
“I’m excited. I can’t wait to go out there and get a start and get to play with my teammates and try to win an NFL game,” Mannion said. “That’s what it’s all about. It’s an opportunity I’ve been waiting for for my career. This is my first start so I couldn't be more excited.”
Joining Mannion in a starting role will be wide receivers Pharoh Cooper, Mike Thomas, Tavon Austin, and Josh Reynolds. Although the group has not received too much playing time throughout the bulk of the season, McVay expressed his confidence in their ability to step up when needed.
“That’s a good group of guys that we feel very good about competing with and the depth that we do have at the position,” he said.
On the ground, running backs Malcolm Brown and Justin Davis will be called upon to fill in. And while it may be difficult to completely fill the void of Gurley — who is having an MVP-caliber season — Sunday’s contest does offer them a “unique opportunity to compete.”
“We want to see our guys do a great job and you see the Niners coming in here with a lot of really good momentum,” McVay said. “They’re playing really well on all three phases and it’s going to be a great challenge.”
“I think it will be an opportunity that presents itself for some of those players that maybe we don’t see as much time, [to] step up and get opportunities that they typically haven’t been accustomed to, [and] I think it will serve us really well as a team.”
The season finale is set to kick off at 1:25 p.m. PT. For more information on how to watch, click here.