SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — About the only similarity for the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers heading into their first meeting of the season is the fact that both teams are coming off disappointing losses.
But while Los Angeles’ defeat at the hands of Tennessee looks like a minor blip in an otherwise successful season, the Niners’ home loss to a short-handed Arizona team exposed the problems that have left them at the bottom of the division.
After losing to San Francisco (3-5) all four times the past two seasons, the Rams (7-2) aren’t exactly overlooking their rivals headed into Monday night’s matchup.
“We don’t look at records. We don’t look at any of that stuff,” Rams cornerback Darious Williams said. “We know that our division is arguably the best division. We know at any time in the season, (divisional) teams can just come back and start rallying and winning, so we just look at them as the same opponent that we’ve been looking at them as, and we’re just coming out to try to dominate.”
Los Angeles was unable to do that last week when Matthew Stafford threw a couple of early interceptions that put the Rams in a hole they couldn’t dig out of in a 28-16 loss that left a sour taste for a team that had won four straight in convincing fashion.
“A loss is a loss, and it hurts, and nobody wants to deal with it,” Williams said. “We come back ready to work every week. We just know if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse. We just try to put (losses) behind us. We’ve got a winning philosophy. We’ve got a winning team here. We don’t dwell on losses. We just put them behind us and move forward.”
The Niners have been dealing with too many losses, having lost five of the past six games to put a damper on a season that began with high expectations.
The worst of those defeats probably came last Sunday when a Cardinals team missing Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green and J.J. Watt dominated both sides of the ball in a 31-17 win.
The loss exposed problems on the back end defensively and sloppy play on offense with three turnovers.
“I know that we can play a lot better football,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “That’s for sure. I know we’re a 3-5 team right now. I believe that we should be a better team than that record and I know that starts with me.”
SANTA CLARA STAFFORD
The Niners may have dominated this rivalry for two years, but Matthew Stafford is getting his first taste of it. The veteran quarterback only faced San Francisco twice in his previous eight seasons in Detroit, going 1-1 and passing for more than 300 yards in both meetings.
Stafford, who replaced boyhood 49ers fan Jared Goff last spring, is off to a largely outstanding start with the Rams, passing for an NFL-best 2,271 yards in nine games with 23 TDs — second only to Tom Brady.
But Stafford is coming back from his worst game with his new team: Although he has thrown only five interceptions, two occurred last week on back-to-back offensive snaps against Tennessee, putting the Rams in an early hole from which they couldn’t escape. An extra day to prepare for Monday night should help Stafford’s back and ankle, which were both balky last week.
The 49ers struggles at home have been very perplexing for the team. San Francisco has lost its first four home games of the season for just the second time since 1982 and the Niners are just 1-8 at Levi’s Stadium the past two years. Shanahan said the team follows the same schedule before home and road games, staying in a hotel and holding meetings and meals at the same time and no one has an explanation for the struggles.
“We’ve talked about it. We’ve addressed it, but we’ve just got to fix something,” quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. “It’s hard. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what that is, whether it’s focus at home. I don’t know.”
The Rams seem unlikely to reveal whether Von Miller will make his debut with his new team until shortly before game time. The veteran pass rusher didn’t play last Sunday because of an ankle injury lingering from Denver. If the Rams decide to rest him through their bye week, Los Angeles will have given up two high draft picks for potentially just seven regular-season games and a playoff run from Miller, who will be a free agent next year.
Yet the Rams were already loaded with pass-rushing talent before Miller’s arrival: Leonard Floyd and Aaron Donald each got a sack last week, giving them a combined 13½ of the Rams’ NFL-best 28 sacks.
The Niners made four picks on the first two days of the draft and none of those players got on the field for an offensive or defensive snap the past two games. First-rounder Trey Lance has remained on the sideline as Shanahan has opted against using him in a situational role in place of Garoppolo.
Second-round guard Aaron Banks hasn’t played all year, but could get a chance this week if Daniel Brunskill moves to tackle to replace the injured Mike McGlinchey.
Third-round running back Trey Sermon has fallen far behind sixth-rounder Elijah Mitchell and was a healthy scratch last week. Sermon has played more than two offensive snaps in a game just twice all season.
Third-round cornerback Ambry Thomas hasn’t played a defensive snap since Week 1.