Johnson (36) for a touchdown in the second quarter during the game at Levi's Stadium on Thursday September 21, 2017 in Santa Clara, Calif. Paul Kitagaki Jr. The Bee
Johnson (36) for a touchdown in the second quarter during the game at Levi's Stadium on Thursday September 21, 2017 in Santa Clara, Calif. Paul Kitagaki Jr. The Bee

49ers with Matt Barrows

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San Francisco 49ers

49ers notes: Defense won’t get second crack at Rams’ Goff, Gurley

By Matt Barrows

mbarrows@sacbee.com

December 27, 2017 03:17 PM

SANTA CLARA

When the 49ers and Rams met in Week 3, Los Angeles running back Todd Gurley ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns and scored a third time on a seven-yard pass play.

The 49ers defense won’t get a chance for payback.

Rams coach Sean McVay said Wednesday that Gurley, quarterback Jared Goff and defensive tackle Aaron Donald will be among the headliners who won’t play in the season finale as the Rams prepare for the playoffs. McVay noted the Rams are locked into either the No. 3 or No. 4 seed in the NFC.

Quarterback Sean Mannion and running back Malcolm Brown, both of whom are in their third NFL seasons, will make their first-ever starts on Sunday.

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McVay said the game was a rare opportunity to give key starters some rest before the playoffs and to give backups like Mannion and Brown a chance to play “against a really good football team.”

The absence of those front-line players, of course, prevents the upstart 49ers from truly measuring themselves against the top team in the division. After winning just four games last season, the Rams are 11-4 going into the finale.

“I’d like them to have everyone going out there, and I think our guys would, too,” Kyle Shanahan said. “But it is what it is, and we have to make sure that doesn’t affect us. ... If you lose your edge at all, as with anything in this league, you’ll get humbled very fast.”

Goff threw for three touchdowns and had a 145.8 passer rating in the teams’ earlier game, a 41-39 Rams win.

Gurley, meanwhile, leads the NFL in both rushing yards – at 1,305, he’s 13 yards ahead of Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt – and rushing touchdowns (13) and was voted to the Pro Bowl this month. He’s one of three running backs who have rushed for more than 100 yards against the 49ers this season.

That run-game defense, the worst in franchise history a year ago, has improved with every game in the second half of the season. It now ranks 22nd in the NFL and hasn’t allowed an opponent to collectively gain more than 92 yards in the last five games.

The 49ers have the NFL’s longest winning streak at four games and have beaten teams with winning records in the last two weeks. McVay, who coached under Shanahan when the two were in Washington, was asked about a budding in-state rivalry between the squads.

“That’s not exactly something that you’re too excited about (in terms of) being an opposing coach,” he said. “But it’s always fun to coach against some of the guys that have been instrumental in your history as a coach. And certainly Kyle and some of those guys on that staff, having worked with them, are guys I have friendships with. You value them, you root for them – except for when you play them twice a year.”

Et cetera – Linebacker Reuben Foster (neck) and safety Adrian Colbert (shoulder) were in uniform for Wednesday’s practice but both were limited. They are expected to play Sunday in Los Angeles. Receivers Marquise Goodwin (back) and Trent Taylor (shoulder) and tight end Garrett Celek (knee, rib) also were limited.

▪ McVay said his grandfather, long-time 49ers executive John McVay, will be in Los Angeles for Sunday’s game. “I would like to think that the family ties are a little bit stronger than the (team) history that he’s got,” Sean McVay said of his grandfather’s allegiance.

▪ The reporters who cover the 49ers voted Goodwin the winner of the Garry Niver Award, given to the player most professional and cooperative with the media. Goodwin has been the team’s leading receiver this season while dealing with the loss of his infant son and his father.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.