A year ago, the Rams started 3-1 before the bottom fell out. They lost 11 of their final 12 games, and Jeff Fisher was fired in mid-December after nearly five seasons of mostly terrible football. His replacement, 31-year-old Sean McVay has breathed new life into an offense that got progressively worse under Fisher, who arrived before the 2012 season and was unceremoniously dismissed nine months ago after a 42-14 loss to the Falcons in Week 14.

And while no one will mistake the Los Angeles Rams for their "Greatest Show on Turf" counterparts, consider how far they've come in a post-Fisher world (via Football Outsiders' metrics):


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And while the running game, which features former first-round pick Todd Gurley, has yet to hit its stride, we don't imagine Gurley will be calling McVay's scheme a "middle school offense" anytime soon. Meanwhile, the first-overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, quarterback Jared Goff, looks like a completely different person.

In seven starts as a rookie, Goff completed 55 percent of his passes for 1,089 yards, 5 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He ranked dead last in quarterback efficiency, according to Football Outsiders, even worse than Brock Osweiler. This season, through two games, Goff is completing two-thirds of his throws and ranks 10th, better than Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford and just behind Matt Ryan.

So yeah.

And Gurley has shown glimpses of returning to his rookie form, when he rushed for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns in 13 games and ranked fourth among all backs. Last season, the Rams' rushing attack was the worst in the league and Gurley managed just 885 yards on 3.2 yards per carry. But in Sunday's loss to the Redskins, Gurley had 88 yards on 16 carries (5.5 YPC) and added three catches, including his first NFL touchdown reception, which included hurdling a helpless Bashaud Breeland:

And despite the loss, Gurley can at take solace in the fact that a) the Rams are a much better team, and b) fans again appreciate his playmaking abilities.

"Oh yeah, it's cool," he said this week. "It was just like, 'Aw, you suck!', you know they show that play a 1,000 times. So when you finally do a good play like I did the other day, it makes you feel a lot better. I don't know how I did it, I just did it. Hopefully, I can just keep doing that or obviously they're probably going to be expecting that now so, guess I got to come out with a new move now."

Meanwhile, the 49ers are looking for a new move, one that involves winning an actual football game. As it stands, new coach Kyle Shanahan hasn't been able to undo what team CEO Jed York perpetrated against this franchise two offseasons ago when he parted ways with Jim Harbaugh. All Harbaugh accomplished in four seasons were records of 13-3, 11-4-1, 12-4 and 8-8. And that included three NFC Championship Game appearances and one fourth-down conversion away from winning a Super Bowl. Before Harbaugh arrived, the 49ers' hadn't had a winning record since 2002, which was also the last time they made the playoffs. And in the two-plus seasons since Harbaugh left, the 49ers have gone 5-11, 2-14 and are currently 0-2. And Shanahan is the team's third coach in three seasons.

But Shanahan has impeccable credentials, and he arrives in San Francisco after serving as the mastermind behind the Falcons' explosive offense the previous two seasons. The differences between the two organizations you can squeeze into the Grand Canyon, which explains why the defending NFC champs are 2-0 and Shanahan's new team looks a lot like the ones that preceded it in the post-Harbaugh era. In 2015, San Francisco ranked 32nd in the league (28th on offense, 27th on defense), in 2016 they were 28th overall (23rd/28th) and after two weeks they're 28th (30th/18th).

Good news: The defense is improving. Bad news: The offense -- on paper, anyhow -- is somehow worse.

It's early, of course, and no one figures Brian Hoyer for anything resembling a long-term solution. There's a reason offseason rumors linked the 49ers to Kirk Cousins in the offseason; Cousins flourished under Shanahan in Washington and with the Redskins' hesitant to sign Cousins to a lucrative contract extension, there's still a chance the two men could reunite next offseason. For now though, Shanahan has to figure out how to jumpstart an offense whose best player is lineman Trent Brown (at least according to Pro Football Focus' grades).

The last time we met ...

You only have to go back to Week 16 of the 2016 season, less than two weeks after Fisher was canned. Goff got the start and the Rams led 21-7 in the fourth quarterback before Colin Kaepernick ran for a touchdown, threw another, and converted a two-point conversion to give the 49ers their second and last win of the season. For the Rams, it was sixth straight defeat, and they'd go on to lose the season finale for good measure. Goff finished 11 of 24 for 90 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted two times and sacked four more. Gurley had 67 yards on 23 carries and also scored, and the team's leading receiver was Lance Kendricks, who managed 36 yards on three catches.

For the 49ers, Kaepernick (hey, there's his name again!) was 28 of 37 for 266 yards with three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) and an interception. Carlos Hyde gained 38 yards on 13 carries and Rod Streater led all receivers with 63 yards on six catches.

"The last few possessions, it seemed like we gave up," Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson said after the game. "The whole team, including myself."

If you're a glass-half-full type

There are few reasons for 49ers' fans to celebrate -- the team is 7-26 since Harbaugh left and 3-19 since Week 14 of the 2015 season -- but here's the silver lining: The team's last three wins ... have all come against the Rams. They have averaged 23 points in those games, allowing just 12.3. Juxtapose that with their last 19 losses: 16.3 points scored, on average, while allowing 30.2.

The problem, of course, is that Fisher no longer coaches the Rams and Goff looks like a completely different player. 

Keep an eye on these guys

The rookie third-round pick had three catches for 33 yards against the Redskins, including this insane grab that set up a Todd Gurley touchdown run:

In his debut, Kupp four catches for 76 yards and a touchdown and has already made his way into the Offensive Rookie of the Year conversations. Kupp currently ranks 19th in value per play among all wideouts.

Donald is arguably the league's best defensive player but after a lengthy holdout he didn't see his first action until last Sunday. Not surprisingly, he wasn't close to his usually dominant self. 

"I had a lot of one-on-ones," he said afterwards. "I need to win those. That's what they put me out there for. Just gotta knock off the cobwebs and go out there and play a lot better and help my team win, and try to pull out close games like this."

The 49ers' offense could be what he needs to get right.

He's the 49ers' highest-rated skill-position player, according to PFF. In two games, Garcon has nine catches for 107 yards but has yet to find the end zone. And the Seahawks held him to just 26 yards last week.

The 49ers' other legit offensive weapon, he's coming off a 124-yard performance against Seattle. 

"I've been pleased with Carlos in both games," Shanahan said this week. "I think Carlos runs as hard as he can, breaks every tackle that he can. I think he's done a great job in these two games.  ... I've been very pleased with Carlos."

Hyde is second in the league in yards per carry (7.0), fourth in rushing (124 yards) and eighth in value per play among all running backs.

They said it...

Safety Eric Reid, who knelt during the national anthem last season alongside then-teammate Colin Kaepernick as other players around the league followed suit, said recently that the experience brought on-field adversaries together for a common cause.

"When people get killed unnecessarily for the wrong reasons and you've got people who want to help the situation, it's easy to get closer to [players on rival teams]," Reid said, via ESPN.com. "Michael Bennett, Richard Sherman other guys who have been active in their community and I know these guys have been active before the protests started. That's why we're close off the field. On the field, it's a different story."

Who ya got?

Just three of six CBSSports.com experts think the Rams will win by more than the two-point spread, while three experts expect the 49ers to win outright for the first time all season.

"This game between division rivals isn't going to stir major interest on a Thursday, but it could be a good one. The Rams didn't look like themselves on defense last week, but I think they get back on track here. The 49ers aren't good on offense. Rams win a division road game." -- CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco, who has the Rams winning, 23-14.