ReFo: Rams @ 49ers, Week 10
False Starts, dropped snaps, delay of game penalties, Illegal Formations and a running clock during a first-down measurement. This game reeked of average, and the St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers both have a ‘1’ in the tie column to prove it.
In the NFL’s first tie since 2008, the Rams and 49ers both played well enough, or poorly enough, to clutter the NFL’s win-loss-tie columns.
The Rams appeared to be in control of the game until the 49ers came back with two touchdowns within 17 seconds to take a 21-17 lead in the fourth quarter. St. Louis’ would-be game winning touchdown drive was topped by San Francisco’s game-tying field goal with three seconds left to send the game into overtime.
The Rams did their best to ‘not win’ the game, with an 80-yard completion was called back as they only had six players on the line-of-scrimmage. After a punt, the 49ers had a chance to win the game, but kicker David Akers missed a 41-yard field goal to prolong the fifth quarter.
St. Louis was then able to get into field goal range, but they ensured their own mediocrity by committing a delay of game penalty that turned a makeable 53-yarder into a 58-yard pipe dream. When K Greg Zuerlein’s kick missed wide right, it started a flurry of ineptitude as the 49ers went three-and-out on their next possession to give the ball back to the Rams for their one last chance to win the game. The entire game was well summed up as St. Louis showed no sense of urgency on this final drive, perhaps hoping for a chance to win it in the nonexistent second overtime period.
On the final play, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford completed an irrelevant 24-yard pass, the clock struck 0:00, and it was sister-kissing time for both the 49ers and the Rams.
Let’s take a look at the performances that shaped the game where everyone wins (or losses).
Three Performances of Note—St. Louis Rams
Long Bounces Back
After nearly getting shut-out for two straight weeks, defensive end Chris Long (+5.3) bounced back in a big way with 10 total pressures (one sk, one ht, eight hu). He’d notched only one hurry on his last 75 pass-rush attempts coming into the game, but he was in the 49ers’ backfield throughout the afternoon. Long did most of his work against Anthony Davis, picking up seven pressures against the 49ers’ right tackle. He’d beaten Davis to his outside shoulder on five different occasions, before knifing to the inside of him and sacking quarterback Colin Kaepernick with 2:00 to go in overtime. The sack forced a 49ers’ punt and gave the Rams one last chance to win the game, which obviously came up short.
Weak in the Middle, Part 1
Amidst a sea of average games, Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis (-4.1) has also had some real stinkers this season, and this game belongs in the latter category. He struggled to shed blocks from the variety of guards, fullbacks and tight ends that attacked him in the running game, and on two of the plays he found himself in good position, he came up empty with a missed tackle (one was negated due to a penalty). Laurinaitis was also the culprit on Kaepernick’s touchdown run with 8:40 to go in the fourth quarter. Kaepernick’s stutter step froze Laurinaitis just long enough to give him to the edge of the defense and Kaepernick’s dive for the pylon put San Francisco right back into the game.
Welcome Back Danny
Only Brandon Gibson’s inability to line up legally could slow down WR Danny Amendola (+5.3). His 80-yard catch on the first play of overtime was negated by an illegal formation. Even without that big catch and run, Amendola caught 11 of 12 balls thrown his way for 102 yards, 61 of which came after the catch. Eight of his 11 receptions went for first downs and it’s no coincidence that Sam Bradford had his best game throwing the ball since Amendola’s last full game in Week 4. As usual, much of Amendola’s work took place within 10 yards, as he was a perfect 10 for 10 on such passes, but the negated 80-yarder was a nifty out-and-up route down the right sideline where Bradford hit him perfectly in stride.
Three Performances of Note—San Francisco 49ers
Weak in the Middle, Part 2
It’s not often that we write about a poor game from San Francisco’s inside linebackers, but Navarro Bowman (-4.4) and Patrick Willis (-3.6) failed to make their usual impact in this one. It started early as the Rams took a page out of the 49ers’ running game by using a variety of looks and getting their interior linemen to efficiently seal the second level. In the first quarter, both Bowman and Willis were taken out of a number of plays as they looked a step slow to react, while showing an inability to shed blocks. On running back Steven Jackson’s 7-yard touchdown with 1:51 to go in the first quarter, Rams’ offensive linemen Robert Turner and Harvey Dahl climbed to the second level and easily sealed Bowman and Willis as Jackson burst to the end zone virtually untouched. This game is likely a minor blip, but it was a below average showing from the best linebacker duo in the league.
Picking up the Slack
With subpar performances from Bowman and Willis, San Francisco got good production out of its outside linebackers to help slow the Rams’ running game in the second half. Both Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks graded positively against the run at +2.5 and +3.0 respectively and Brooks’ all-around play made him the biggest impact player on the 49ers’ defense. In addition to his five run stops, Brooks was also San Francisco’s best pass rusher with a +3.1 grade. He notched five hurries and three batted passes on his 34 pass rushes. Two of the batted passes came in overtime, including one on third-and-13 that stalled the Rams’ initial drive of the extra period.
Mixed Bag for Kaepernick
With starting quarterback Alex Smith concussed, backup Colin Kaepernick got his first extended action, and as expected, there was some good and some bad to take away from the game. His -2.6 grade for the game stems mostly from his careless ball handling as he dropped a snap and then later put the ball on the ground as LB Mario Haggan stripped him while he rolled away from pressure. As a passer, he overshot a couple throws, but there were times he displayed the laser arm that pushed him up into the second round of the 2011 draft. On the first play of the fourth quarter, his deep out to WR Mario Manningham in the face of three pass rushers was a thing of beauty. In addition to his touchdown, Kaepernick also picked up three other first downs with his legs. This game did well to sum up Kaepernick as his inexperience, inconsistent throwing and mobility were on full display.
– Michael Brockers had his best game as a pro. He picked up two sacks and three hurries on his 27 pass rushes while tying his career-high with 48 snaps.
-Rams LT Roger Saffold did not give up a pressure on his 45 pass blocks.
– Safety Dashon Goldson had three of San Francisco’s four missed tackles
PFF Game Ball
As good as Chris Long was off the edge, the game ball goes to Danny Amendola who was nearly unstoppable when Sam Bradford looked his way. We also can’t forget the 80-yard catch that would have put the Rams in great position to win the game.
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