TONIGHT: 49ers look to remove blemish, while Robinson fights for job

December 17, 1990|By Jim Jenkins | Jim Jenkins,McClatchy News Service

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It is a game that has been sold out for months, evidenced by the fact even the players have gone begging to get tickets for relatives and friends.

The expectation was that tonight's rematch between the San Francisco 49ers (12-1) and Los Angeles Rams (5-8) would have championship implications. It still does, but only for one team -- San Francisco, in need of a victory to secure amenities in the playoffs.

Surprisingly, there are no postseason hopes for the Rams, but a respectable finish to an otherwise disastrous season is important to them.

Anything less, and it could mean coach John Robinson's job. At minimum, it's expected Robinson will be asked to fire some of his assistants. Veteran players might be shown the gate, too.

Robinson is trying to put on his best face, outwardly at least, even to the point of joking with Cleveland Gary, his slippery-fingered running back.

Said Robinson after Gary fumbled twice last week against New Orleans: "He probably has a better chance of surviving this than I do."

The 49ers, of course, look at the Rams differently than most people. Los Angeles is the only team to defeat San Francisco this season, 28-17 at Candlestick Park on Nov. 25.

The outcome stopped the 49ers' bid for an NFL-record 19 consecutive victories. At the time, it also created a little doubt in their minds because the Rams came into the game 3-7 and had been routinely taken apart by other teams.

How the Rams pulled off the upset has been rehashed several times -- using six defensive backs to concentrate on pass defense and inviting a poor running team to move the ball on the ground if it so chose.

Now that San Francisco apparently has solved its rushing problems with the gradual recovery of Roger Craig from a knee injury, the Rams' task might be a little more difficult tonight.

John Taylor's knee is in better shape, too, than it was for the first matchup, which cannot be good news for the Rams. Nor can the fact Jerry Rice hasn't scored in four weeks despite being the NFL's leading receiver.

"Receivers go through more streaks than any other position," Robinson said. "It won't last forever."

For his sake, Robinson hopes Rice doesn't break loose tonight.

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