Not a California Classic: Awful Niners visit woeful Rams
LOS ANGELES (AP) After San Francisco steamrolled the Rams 28-0 in coach Chip Kelly's debut three months ago, the 49ers could have never imagined they wouldn't win again before the late-season rematch.
Then again, not much has gone according to script in Los Angeles this season, either.
Two NFC West rivals in dismal states meet at the Coliseum on Saturday. The stakes are minimal, and the statistics are gruesome.
The Niners (1-13) are on a 13-game losing streak. The Rams (4-10) have lost nine of 10, five straight - and their head coach.
San Francisco has the NFL's worst defense, allowing a league-high 434 points even after shutting out the Rams. Los Angeles has the NFL's worst offense, scoring a league-low 197 points and failing to crack 11 points in more than half of its games.
Both clubs hope their longstanding rivalry acquires a new spark with the Rams' move home to LA, but this season probably isn't going to light that fire.
''Bringing pride to our fan base is something we haven't done a good enough job of this year,'' said Rams punter Johnny Hekker, one of their two Pro Bowl selections.
''Hopefully it's something we can restore moving into next season. We can't thank the fans enough for their support. We're just looking to make the people of LA proud, and to get a win in this in-state rivalry would be a great way to bring about the end of the season.''
At least the 49ers are about to land a high pick in the draft when their painful season finally ends.
The Rams sent their pick to Tennessee as part of the big package for quarterback Jared Goff. The Bay Area native still hasn't won a game in his rookie season, but is scheduled to start after clearing the NFL's concussion protocol this week.
While the Rams' struggles peaked last week with the firing of Jeff Fisher, the 49ers have remained comparatively sanguine during their second straight miserable season. While Kelly's debut is a debacle, the Niners have a chance to stabilize against the only team they've beaten in their franchise's past 18 games.
''They've been a real good group,'' Kelly said of his players. ''I think they've stuck together. They don't point fingers. They all want to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.''
Here are more things to watch during a less-than-festive Christmas Eve at the Coliseum:
ON THE RUN: Perhaps this will be the week when Todd Gurley finally puts together his first 100-yard rushing game of the season. He has played 16 straight games without cracking triple digits, and he called Los Angeles' offense ''middle-school'' quality earlier this month. But the 49ers have been incapable of stopping the run all season long, and Gurley hopes to lead the Rams' efforts to get even for that September loss. ''It's a game we've been waiting for for a little while,'' Gurley said. ''You've just got to come back and get some redemption.''
BANGED-UP NINERS: The 49ers have been depleted by injuries, placing four more players on season-ending injured reserve this week after losing starting tight end Vance McDonald and center Daniel Kilgore last week. In all, San Francisco has eight starters on injured reserve and also could be without receiver Torrey Smith (concussion), left tackle Joe Staley (hamstring) and offensive lineman Marcus Martin (ankle) this week. ''Part of being really good in this league is staying healthy, and when you can stay healthy and you're playing with your frontline guys, then you've got a shot,'' Kelly said.
BACK TO WORK: The Rams had last weekend off to contemplate the firing of Fisher, who shepherded the Rams' move back to the West Coast. The players were largely unhappy with owner Stan Kroenke's decision, while interim head coach John Fassel and the other assistants must finish their work before looking for new jobs next month. ''Jeff is a good friend of mine, but we've got to do our job,'' Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said Friday. ''You can't print what I would say. I'm a professional. We all are.''
HISTORIC LOWS: San Francisco has already set franchise worsts with its 13-game losing streak and by allowing 2,468 yards rushing. There are still a few other notable lows in reach, however: The 49ers would tie a franchise worst done in 1978, 1979 and 2004 by losing a 14th game, and they could break that mark with two more losses. San Francisco also could set the franchise mark for most points allowed by giving up 20 in the final two games.
BACK AGAIN: The 49ers haven't played the Rams in the LA area since 1994, which is also their last championship season. San Francisco won that game in Anaheim as part of a streak of 17 straight wins over the Rams. The Niners haven't played at the Coliseum since Sept. 16, 1979.
AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow in Santa Clara contributed.
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