Sean McVay, Rams learned tough lesson in 2017 regular-season finale vs. 49ers


SANTA CLARA -- Sean McVay pledges to keep both eyes on the 49ers, not on the other Week 17 matchups that will shape the NFL playoff picture Sunday.

“We’ve got to fully focus on the 49ers in doing everything we can to come away with a win,” the Los Angeles Rams coach said Wednesday in a conference call with Bay Area media. “We can’t afford to watch anything other than putting our sole focus and concentration on winning this football game. It’s going to be a great challenge.”

That approach will be much different than last year's, when the Rams sat 17 of their starters in the regular-season finale against the 49ers at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Rams lost 34-13 and then fell to the Atlanta Falcons 26-13 in the NFC wild-card round the next week.

“The reason we made that decision is because we were playing the following week,” McVay said. “Our seed wasn’t locked in, but we knew we were going to be playing at home, whether it was as the three or the four seed.

“That was just really based on me learning some different things that we felt like was best. I don’t think that’s why we didn’t win against Atlanta, but every experience, you learn.”

This season, the Rams (12-3) will receive a first-round playoff bye if they beat the 49ers (4-11). If the Rams lose, the only way they still could have a bye is if the Minnesota Vikings beat the Chicago Bears, which will kick off at the same time as the game against the 49ers in L.A.

McVay denies having someone on the sideline ready to update him on the progress of the Bears-Vikings game. The Rams' plan is to not let the pedal off the gas. That way, that can solidify a win and not get caught looking ahead.

“Obviously it does affect us,” McVay said, “but I don’t think we want anything to take away from our ability to try to win a football game.”

McVay sees the 49ers as a tough opponent, mostly because he has been impressed by the progress they've made as the season has progressed. He was very complimentary of quarterback Nick Mullens.

“He’s a great competitor,” McVay said. “I’m just really impressed with his ability to not watch the rush. He had a couple of plays [last Sunday] where [Khalil] Mack was going right into his face and he finds a way to hit the back, and be able to get that ball to [Jeff] Wilson for a 9-yard gain.

“He’s moving off-schedule. He’s got a nice command when things are clean. He’s got a nice rhythm and timing the way he gets the ball out. It looks like he throws a nice catchable ball. Seems like a pretty fearless competitor as well. You can see why they’ve had a lot of success offensively with him leading the way.”

[RELATED: 49ers WR Goodwin could miss season finale with injury]

McVay doesn't see the 49ers' record as a true measurement of their abilities. He believes they've been victims of balls not bouncing their way, which has kept him, and his team, focused on not overlooking the 49ers. He doesn't want a repeat of 2017.

"I think anytime you lose a game, it’s tough,” McVay said. “But that was a good football team right there. They were rolling, Jimmy [Garoppolo] was playing really well. They were hitting on all cylinders offensively. Their defense was playing at a high level. You could see the confidence grow as the season progressed.”

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