After heartbreaking loss, 49ers brace for red-hot Rams on short rest

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Inside a solemn locker room after a heartbreaking loss to the Green Bay Packers on Monday night, the San Francisco 49ers found themselves searching for words to describe the disappointment they'd just experienced.

The word "frustrated" was used frequently after losing a game the 49ers led for most of the second half until Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers unleashed his brand of fourth-quarter magic.

Free safety Adrian Colbert struggled to find another defeat like it. In his entire football playing career.

"It's real tough, very tough," Colbert said. "It's probably one of the hardest losses that I've honestly had personally. This is a historic field and that guy [Rodgers] is a great quarterback. And to come in and beat him at home, that's something that we really wanted."

Instead of a joyous flight after a win, the Niners headed home with the disappointment of both the 33-30 loss and a 1-5 record. What's worse, they also faced this sobering reality: For all their efforts, not only did they not come away with a victory but they now must turn around and play the undefeated Los Angeles Rams after a short week of preparation.

A Sunday date with the Rams isn't exactly an easy way to rebound for a team that has lost four in a row and is still searching for its identity after losing starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a season-ending knee injury.

In this case, the quick turn to face the Rams could be viewed in one of two ways.

For the glass-half-empty crowd, it's hard to envision the Niners putting Monday's loss behind them quickly enough to put together another strong effort against the Rams on a short week.

For those, such as Niners coach Kyle Shanahan, attempting to offer reasons for optimism, you can see it as their having no choice but to put the loss in the rearview mirror immediately.

“Short weeks are always tough, but sometimes it can be a good thing," Shanahan said.

"You get back here and it hurts a little bit today, but the good thing is, you’ve got to move on faster. There’s no time to sit here and sulk. We’ve got a good team coming here on Sunday, and yeah, we’ve got to put this [game] to bed, which is tough because we know we let one get away that I feel we played good enough to win. We didn’t get it done at the end. ... The only thing that can change how we feel is trying to find a way to win on Sunday. The only way we can do that is by getting back to work.”

Shanahan & Co. began getting a little bit of a head start on the game plan Monday afternoon. After Monday night's game, the 49ers returned to the Bay Area at around 4 a.m. Tuesday. After stealing a couple of hours of sleep on the plane ride home, the entire coaching staff got to work right away at the team's training facility.

The Niners spent the early part of Tuesday cleaning up the leftover film and corrections from the loss to the Packers, but by 1:30 p.m. PT, the Niners had already turned the page to the Rams.

While facing a Rams team that's nearly universally considered the best in the league through six weeks is no picnic, the one bright side is the familiarity that Shanahan and his staff have with the tendencies of Rams coach Sean McVay and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Of course, that familiarity works both ways so the Rams have a read on Shanahan, too, but for the Niners, at least it means they aren't facing an opponent or coach they've never seen before with one fewer day to prepare.

Even with a one-day head start on the Niners, the Rams are sticking with McVay's unique approach to weekly preparation, even canceling their Wednesday practice in favor of a walk-through.

This will be the second year in a row the Rams and Niners will play with one or both teams on a short week. The teams met on Thursday night in their Week 3 matchup last year, just four days after playing on Sunday afternoon. That game turned into one of the most entertaining of 2017, as the Rams emerged with a 41-39 victory.

As evidenced by Monday's loss, such narrow defeats have become an early calling card of the John Lynch and Shanahan era in San Francisco. If the 49ers are going to avoid another, they'll need to make Monday a distant memory as soon as possible.

“It hurts. I mean, you’re so close, you feel like you should’ve won the game," quarterback C.J. Beathard said. "You just have to get back on the horse and move on to next week.”