By winning today, the Browns gave the 49ers a wonderful Christmas present. Three hours later, the 49ers returned it.
The 49ers defeated the Rams today in Los Angeles to improve their record to 2-13, three hours after the Browns won to improve their record to 1-14. The 49ers own the strength of schedule tiebreaker over the Browns, so if the 49ers had lost they would have the inside track for the first overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. Instead, the 49ers won, and the Browns again lead the race for the first pick.
The game itself was entertaining as far as it went, with the Rams leading 21-7 in the fourth quarter only to see the 49ers come back, score two touchdowns and finish it off with a Colin Kaepernick two-point conversion run. The 49ers won, 22-21.
In their last 19 games, the 49ers are 3-0 against the Rams and 0-16 against the rest of the NFL.
Other than that, the one noteworthy element of this game was that Rams punter Johnny Hekker set the league’s single-season record for punts inside the 20-yard line. The old record was 46; Hekker had four punts inside the 20 today and now has 50 punts inside the 20 this year. Hekker is having the best punting season in NFL history, and he’s been just about the only player the Rams can count on this season.
There was an ugly moment late in the game when San Francisco running back Carlos Hyde went to the locker room after taking a hard hit to the knee from Rams cornerback EJ Gaines. Hyde has played well on an otherwise lousy 49ers team this season, and it would be a bad break for him to have to spend his offseason rehabbing a serious injury.
Both of these teams have plenty of big decisions to make in the offseason. The 49ers will not, however, get to decide what to do with the first overall pick in the draft — not unless they lose next week, and the Browns win their second in a row.