LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Rams plan to rest quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley and defensive tackle Aaron Donald in their season finale against San Francisco on Sunday.
Coach Sean McVay also said Wednesday that left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan won’t play against the 49ers (5-10). The NFC West champion Rams (11-4) are preparing for the playoffs, and more players also could get the day off.
Los Angeles has clinched a first-round home playoff game, but can’t climb past Philadelphia or Minnesota to a top-two seed and a postseason bye. McVay believes it’s relatively unimportant whether the Rams finish with the third seed or the fourth seed, so he wants his key playmakers to hit the postseason well-rested.
“I know sometimes people might not always agree, but when situations like this come up, it’s a nice luxury to be able to have,” McVay said. “But you want to make sure that you handle it the right way for our team. It might not be for every team, but we feel like that’s the best approach for us.”
McVay said the Rams decided to take their foot off the gas only after extensive internal discussions and a front-office decision that no players on the verge of statistical benchmarks will miss out on financial incentives.
“We definitely are mindful and aware of those guys that were affected,” McVay said, without mentioning specifics. “We want to make sure that we take care of that and handle that in a first-class way and that’s exactly what we’ll do.”
Sean Mannion will make his first career NFL start at quarterback, with the Oregon State product appearing in just his seventh career game in three seasons as a backup with the Rams. Goff is expected to be active for the game as Mannion’s backup, since third-stringer Brandon Allen is on injured reserve.
Goff is eighth in the NFL with 3,804 yards passing, and his 28 TD passes are tied for fourth. The second-year quarterback said he agreed with the decision to rest him heading into his playoff debut.
“I don’t feel banged up or anything, but a week off can never hurt, especially this late in the year,” Goff said. “I feel good. I think ultimately this is going to help guys that really take a beating. I’ve been kept pretty clean most of the year, and guys like Todd, guys on the defense, guys that really take that beating, the guys up front, it will really help them.”
Mannion has thrown just three passes while appearing in four games this season. Goff plans to be active on the sideline in helping Mannion.
“We don’t want this to be misconstrued at all: We’re trying to go out and win this weekend,” Goff said. “I don’t think it matters who we’re putting out there.”
Gurley is an MVP candidate and the NFL’s leading rusher with 1,305 yards. This move endangers his first league rushing title — or maybe it doesn’t.
Gurley is barely ahead of Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt (1,292) and Pittsburgh’s LeVeon Bell (1,291), but the Chiefs and Steelers are also playoff-bound with little reason to risk their top talent this week.
Neither team has confirmed whether its top ball-carrier also will sit out its regular-season finale, but the Steelers could only pass New England for the top spot in the AFC if the Patriots lost to the New York Jets, while the Chiefs are locked into the fourth seed.
Gurley also leads the NFL in all-purpose yards (2,093) and in yards receiving among running backs (788) after a spectacular first season in McVay’s offense.
A loss to Jimmy Garoppolo and the Niners could push the Rams behind New Orleans (11-4) or Carolina (11-4), who are tied atop the NFC South. Goff said the Rams won’t be scoreboard-watching while they wrap up their regular season at the Coliseum.
“It’s not a preseason game,” Goff said. “It’s not anything to be taken lightly.”
NOTES: The Rams held only a walkthrough practice Wednesday. Linebackers Connor Barwin and Mark Barron, rookie receiver Cooper Kupp and guard Rodger Saffold all would not have participated in a full practice, the team said. ... LB Matt Longacre will have surgery this week on his injured back, McVay said. Longacre is out for the season. ... The Rams placed backup defensive back Marqui Christian on injured reserve and promoted offensive lineman Aaron Neary and linebacker Garrett Sickels from the practice squad to the active roster. They also signed tight end Henry Krieger-Cobble and cornerback Taurean Nixon to the practice squad.