49ers settle for tie with Rams after losing Smith

The SportsXchange

SAN FRANCISCO -- The long-running series between the San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams was tied 61-61-2 entering the teams' 125th meeting Sunday at Candlestick Park.

It's still tied.

The 49ers and Rams battled for 75 minutes but decided nothing. They settled for a 24-24 tie after a strange, scoreless overtime in which neither team looked as it if wanted to win.

"It feels weird being a tie," 49ers tight end Vernon Davis said. "I say that because it's the first time it has ever happened to me and most of my teammates. It's almost as if we didn't play a game. That's what it feels like at least."

The 49ers' last tie came in 1986 against the Atlanta Falcons. The Rams' previous tie was in 1976 against the Minnesota Vikings. Sunday's game marked the first NFL tie since 2008, when the Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals deadlocked at 13-13.

"It's a weird feeling," Rams quarterback Sam Bradford said. "I've never been a part of a game like that before. I think the mood in this locker room is disappointment."

Although the 49ers didn't lose the game, they lost quarterback Alex Smith in the second quarter to a concussion that, according to coach Jim Harbaugh, caused him to have blurry vision.

Backup Colin Kaepernick took over with his team trailing 14-7. He completed 11 of 17 passes for 117 yards, ran eight times for 66 yards and a touchdown and nearly led the 49ers to victory.

Bradford went 26-for-39 for 275 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Danny Amendola, returning after missing three games with a shoulder injury, caught 11 passes for 102 yards, and Steven Jackson carried 29 times for 101 yards and a touchdown.

Running back Frank Gore gained 97 yards on 11 carries for the 49ers (6-2-1).

The Rams (3-5-1) got the ball first in overtime and looked as if they were headed for a victory when Bradford hit Amendola for 80 yards on first down to the 49ers' 2. However, an illegal-formation penalty killed the play, and the Rams wound up punting.

According to Rams coach Jeff Fisher, officials to told him that wide receiver Brandon Gibson lined up behind the line of scrimmage, leaving left tackle Rodger Saffold "uncovered," thus drawing the penalty.

The 49ers quickly marched into field-goal range, but the usually reliable David Akers pushed his 41-yarder wide left, and the Rams took over at their 31.

Bradford drove the Rams into San Francisco territory, and Greg Zuerlein split the uprights on a 53-yard field-goal attempt, but the Rams were flagged for delay of game. Zuerlein tried again, this time from 58 yards, and pushed his attempt wide right.

Fisher said punter Johnny Hekker, who holds on kicks, signaled for the snap too late.

"There shouldn't be a question as to whether you get a field goal off to win a game in overtime," Fisher said. "Johnny just lost track of the time. That happens. It's certainly not OK, but he was focused on Greg and focused on protection. He just lost track."

The 49ers took over on their 48 with 2:48 left in overtime, but the Rams forced a punt. St. Louis got the ball back on its 14 with 1:36 left but got no farther than its 49 before time ran out.

"I've been doing this a while, and I don't think I've ever been in a game like this," Fisher said.

Sunday's game was strange and unpredictable long before overtime arrived. The underdog Rams jumped to a 14-0 lead, but the 49ers rallied to take a 21-17 lead in the fourth quarter.

With just over five minutes left, the Rams faced fourth-and-8 from their 33, and they sent Hekker into the game. Late in the first half, Hekker threw a 21-yard pass from his end zone to Rodney McLeod on what Fisher described as a "hot read" when the 49ers left McLeod uncovered. This time, Fisher called for a fake punt. Hekker faked a handoff on an end-around right, rolled left and hit tight end Lance Kendricks with a 19-yard pass for a first down.

The Rams kept marching for the go-ahead touchdown. Bradford threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Austin Pettis with 1:09 to play, giving St. Louis a 24-21 lead.

"I had all the confidence in the world that we were going to win the game at that point," Bradford said. "Obviously it was a great job by our special teams to run that fake punt to keep that drive going. And then when we scored, I was 100 percent sure that we were going to win that game."

Not so fast.

The 49ers drove 63 yards for Akers' 33-yard field goal with three seconds left in regulation. Kaepernick did much of the work with his legs, running for 19 yards on first down, then adding a 10-yard run.

Smith, who suffered a concussion last season against Dallas, left the game after leading the 49ers on a 12-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that spanned the first and second quarters. Early in the drive, Smith was forced to scramble and took a blow to the back of his helmet from Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar as he went down. Three plays later, Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers sacked Smith. He took more contact when he gained 1 yard on a fourth-and-1 quarterback sneak.

Smith's 14-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree cut the Rams' lead to 14-7 with 8:13 left in the first half. However, after the 49ers' defense forced a punt, Kaepernick took over at quarterback with 6:31 remaining. Smith walked slowly to the locker room minutes later and was ruled out with a concussion before the first half ended.

"From what I've been told by the doctors and the trainers, it seems like it was the quarterback sneak," Harbaugh said of the play that caused Smith's concussion. "He said he had blurred vision."

Kaepernick, a second-round draft pick out of Nevada last year, saw spot duty in five games before Sunday, completing five of nine passes for 89 yards and rushing 13 times 111 yards and two scores. Getting the first extended action of his career, Kaepernick struggled early against the Rams before heating up.

"I thought I did pretty well," Kaepernick said. "Obviously there's a lot of room for improvement and a lot of things I would like to do differently. I just went out there and tried to do what I could to help the team win."

The Rams upped their lead to 17-7 with 18 seconds left in the third quarter on Zuerlein's 27-yard field goal. But with 8:40 left to play, Kaepernick capped an 81-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown run, cutting the Rams' lead to 17-14. He went 5-for-5 for 67 yards on the drive but also muffed a snap and fumbled after being sacked. Both times the 49ers recovered, and Gore ran 12 yards after picking up the botched center-quarterback exchange.

The 49ers got the ball back on the ensuing kick when Tramaine Brock forced Rams return man Isaiah Pead to fumble, and Darcel McBath recovered at the St. Louis 20. One play later, Gore raced around right end for a 20-yard touchdown, putting the 49ers ahead 21-17 with 8:23 left.

The Rams took an early 7-0 lead on Bradford's 36-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Brian Quick. Cornerback Chris Culliver tried to bump Quick at the line, but Quick delivered a blow that sent Culliver to the turf. Bradford hit a wide-open Quick along the right sideline, and Quick raced into the end zone, capping a 66-yard drive.

Jackson ran for 23 tough yards on four carries during the Rams' first touchdown drive, and he put St. Louis ahead 14-0 with a 7-yard scoring run with 1:47 left in the first quarter. The Rams marched 93 yards for that score, with Bradford completing three of three passes for 36 yards and Daryl Richardson gashing the 49ers on a 32-yard cutback run.

"When we had the ball in overtime, we fully expected to win that game," 49ers offensive tackle Joe Staley said. "It's kind of disappointing. It's not a loss, but it kind of feels the same way."

NOTES: The Rams played without two key rookies -- starting right cornerback Janoris Jenkins and wide receiver Chris Givens -- who were benched and inactive for violating team rules. Rookie Trumaine Johnson started for Jenkins, and Amendola replaced Givens. Fisher declined to say what rules were violated. "Whether they play next week or not, I don't know," he added. ... Saffold played -- and started -- for the first time since Week 2 against Washington, when he suffered a knee injury. ... Crabtree caught five passes for 70 yards and a touchdown.
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