Just ask the St. Louis Rams, who had no luck stopping either of them.
For the third straight game at Candlestick Park, not much went wrong for the 49ers—even with Rattay filling in for Garcia, a three-time Pro Bowler out with a sprained ankle.
San Francisco (4-5) flattened the Rams with five scoring drives in the first 33 minutes, quickly putting away just the Niners’ second win in 10 games against their oldest rivals. St. Louis (5-3) had its four-game winning streak snapped and fell out of first place in the NFC West.
“They took it to us with the offense and the defense,” Rams coach Mike Martz said. “I’m upset with a lot of things in that game. … It’s very disturbing. It takes the wind out of your sails.”
While San Francisco’s defense dominated the first three quarters, Rattay threw TD passes to Terrell Owens, Tai Streets and rookie Brandon Lloyd. Garcia’s longtime backup went 19-of-29, leading an emphatic victory in the first significant playing time of his career.
“For the first time out, he probably performed better than any of us thought,” coach Dennis Erickson said. “He’s a real solid player who doesn’t make mistakes. He’s been around here a while, and he understands the offense.”
Garcia, out with a sprained ankle, watched from the sideline as the emergency third quarterback, cheering and patting his teammates’ helmets.
“You dream about throwing well, but you never know,” Rattay said. “The main thing is to win. Whether we handed the ball off 50 times or threw the ball, I wanted to win.”
Garcia’s streak of 61 consecutive starts ended, but the 49ers didn’t miss him at all, thanks to Rattay and a defense that seemed to anticipate every important play.
As the 49ers never hesitate to declare, their defense was built specifically to combat the Rams’ downfield passing and team speed.
“We’re faster than the Rams,” 49ers defensive coordinator Jim Mora said. “Our defense didn’t used to be faster, and now it is. That might sound cocky, but it’s true. … I mean no disrespect to them. I love playing against those guys, but as a team, we have more team speed now.”
San Francisco beat St. Louis for just the second time since 1999, when Garcia won the 49ers’ starting job.
“He made great decisions all day long,” Garcia said of Rattay. “He was making great reads at the line of scrimmage—veteran-type plays. It was great for the team to see Tim play and know that there’s another guy in this locker room that can lead this team.”
Marc Bulger was 26-of-42 for 378 yards, but he also threw two costly interceptions and fumbled as the Rams were doomed by a pitifully slow start. Bulger passed for 181 yards in the fourth quarter, after the game was far out of reach.
With Marshall Faulk in uniform, but not playing for the second straight game, St. Louis sputtered on offense while falling behind 30-3 early in the third quarter.
“It’s tough when we’re down that much early, because we had to get away from our run game,” said Bulger, who was sacked five times despite the absence of top San Francisco pass-rusher Andre Carter. St. Louis had eight rushes for 9 yards.
“I’ll take the blame. The quarterback has to put the ball into the end zone, and we didn’t do that today.”
Torry Holt caught a 41-yard TD pass for the Rams’ only touchdown. Holt finished with 11 catches for 200 yards, just shy of his career high.
Rattay’s first appearance was delayed by Wilson, who slipped past several Rams for his first career kickoff return touchdown.
It was redemption for his blunder in the Rams’ overtime win over the Niners in September. On the final play of regulation, Wilson caught a short pass—and instead of falling to the ground to set up a potential game-winning field goal,Wilson kept running until time expired.
Wilson’s TD kickoff return was the 49ers’ first since Terry Kirby did it on Nov. 16, 1997. … S Tony Parrish and CB Mike Rumph intercepted Bulger’s passes. … Martz on Faulk, who’s nursing two injuries: “If Marshall was fully ready to go, Marshall would tell me that. He hasn’t told me that. We’re notgoing to put him in harm’s way. It’s just not worth it.”