The Rams went 4-12 in their first season back in Los Angeles. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

In a hollowed-out Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in the frigid 58 Los Angeles degrees, with clouds holding a meeting over downtown, the Rams’ return season finally expired on a third down and six from their own 18-yard line. Almost poetically, a reserve quarterback making his first appearance, Sean Mannion, ran to the right, got tackled and got stripped, whereupon teammate Malcolm Brown recovered the ball to prevent a fourth turnover.

The scoreboard read 44-6, Arizona Cardinals, the Rams had gone 4-12 and 1-11 since starting off 3-1, the coach had got fired, the Olympic flame still burned above, and the lingering witnesses did not boo. Actually, the crowd at the start wasn’t too sparse given a 4-11 team, and they don’t boo much here yet, except for that time in the third quarter, when the sparse Section 13 near the top of the stadium booed because the Rams sent out the punting unit on a fourth and one while trailing 30-6, and the fans didn’t see the point of punting on fourth and one while trailing 30-6.

Interim Coach John Fassel crossed them up. He had star punter Johnny Hekker throw it to Chase Reynolds for a first down.

Everybody cheered.

The Rams committed a false start.

Most everybody booed.

Up there in the ancient edifice opened in 1923, Wendell Stevens sat with his wife, Vanessa, and they kept noticing and joking about a narrow crack in the floor below them, and the fact you could see some type of light through the crack. Once the new stadium opens in 2019, these concerns will end, and for now, anyway, the Stevenses drove here from Fresno because, as Wendell said, “I had to.”

He had grown up playing cornerback for mighty Carson High and tilting toward the Raiders, the previous NFL team to play here, but that didn’t matter. “I wanted a team in L.A. for so long. Got one. Got to support it,” he said. “I think we’re all just excited to have football here in L.A.”

He wore a “29” Eric Dickerson shirt, and Rams fans wore eras of other shirts from the franchise’s eccentric history that has bounced from Cleveland to Los Angeles to St. Louis to Los Angeles: a lot of Dickersons, a few Jack Youngbloods, some Kurt Warners (odd, given that he played only for the St. Louis Rams), and a lot of Todd Gurleys, celebrating a current player. Wendell Stevens even saw a Vince Ferragamo, citing the only quarterback to lead the Los Angeles Rams to a Super Bowl, and remembered he did some gardening for Ferragamo’s mother.

Eventually, the Rams filed out next to the Cardinals in the one stadium tunnel, and the fans who lingered at the edges got enough NFL intimacy that it felt a little like a rec league game of some type. A 4-12 season had died out, so the locker room had 4-12 sounds, with a new coach as yet unchosen.

Safety T.J. McDonald: “Something has to change. Something has to change — a lot. A lot has to change.” Tackle Greg Robinson: “Honestly, I don’t know what to expect.” Tight end Lance Kendricks: “We need someone to motivate us and to be on our backs when we mess up.” Cornerback Trumaine Johnson: “This is my fifth year [smiling]. They bring a coach in, he could wipe out everybody, he could keep people. So I don’t know what the future holds.” Wide receiver Tavon Austin said departed head coach Jeff Fisher had given him his chances, and he missed Fisher.

Defensive end William Hayes: “The only thing I know is, individually, everybody just needs to work their craft and when the new coach comes in here, make sure we don’t do anything to get him fired.”

Rookie No. 1 draft pick Jared Goff, the quarterback, said he had walked around the locker room asking teammates to treat it as a beginning, and that he looked forward to having an offseason without any schoolwork, and that he is “fine,” even though a viewer might have winced more than once observing some of the seven sacks he took. He said that because a new playbook was coming, it might not be much use to obsess on this year.

None of this will deter many of the people who watched them, especially the “Melon Patch” down low with watermelon rinds (or likenesses thereof) on their heads. David Stanley, who first came to a Rams game at the Coliseum in 1968, said it had been a year of faces unseen during the 22-year absence, coming up and tapping on the shoulder. He said that when the team honored Hall of Fame linebacker Kevin Greene, he noticed the “melonheads,” came over and said, “‘You guys, man! I remember you guys! I can’t believe you guys are back.’ That, to me, is something that was just so special.’”

Melon-headed Daniel Rojas, 12 when the Rams left, said that opening kickoff against Seattle back in September had been “surreal, in the aspect that you still couldn’t believe that they were back. You look up at the scoreboard and you see the ‘L.A.’ versus ‘S-E-A,’ and you’re like, ‘Wow.’ ”

“If I knew that it was going to be a season like this, just to get my team back, I’ll take it,” he said. “Why? Because we’ve got years to improve. They’re back. They’re not going to go anywhere.”