The 49ers got what they needed Sunday: a victory to finish 8-8 and a reminder that there's still much room for improvement.
Finishing with a non-losing record was important for San Francisco because it showed progress in the big picture. The 49ers had posted losing records every season since the 2002 team went 10-6 with Steve Mariucci, Jeff Garcia, Garrison Hearst and Terrell Owens.
They are not losers any longer. The culture has officially changed.
Still, this game against the now 1-15 Rams was a struggle offensively for much of the game. Alex Smith passed for 23 yards in the first half and the 49ers had some problems in protection. They broke open the game late -- almost an inevitability given the state of the Rams -- but there should have been enough rough edges to get the 49ers' attention.
That can be a good thing for the 49ers. They do need to improve across the board on offense. That was clear in the first half Sunday and previously this season.
The Rams, meanwhile, can finally move past this season. They were ascending through the season's first half until injuries destroyed their already tenuous depth. They generally played hard and fought through the season's second half, but there wasn't much left to give. They'll have the No. 1 overall choice in the 2010 draft. They'll need to decide how to find their next quarterback. Will they take one first overall? Might they find a reasonably priced veteran stopgap?
It's tough to envision Marc Bulger returning under a contract scheduled to pay him $8.5 million.
The team must figure out a plan at quarterback while focusing on adding playmakers at wide receiver and even tight end. They also need help on every level of the defense.