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49ers Slip Up in St. Louis

Posted Dec 2, 2012

ST. LOUIS – In a hotly contested football fight, field goal accuracy from 50 yards out proved to be the difference in Sunday’s 16-13 San Francisco 49ers overtime loss to the St. Louis Rams.

David Akers had a chance to win the game in overtime with a 51-yarder but pushed it wide right. Greg Zuerlein, however, made his from 53 yards out at the end of regulation to send the game in overtime, before responding to Akers’ miss with a 54-yard make to give St. Louis a divisional win.

“It was a tough one,” Jim Harbaugh said after his team dropped to 8-3-1 on the year. “We’re going to have to bounce back quickly. It was a football fight and we did not win.”

The 49ers appeared to have the game in control early when the offense put together an 11-play scoring drive on its second offensive possession. The lengthy drive was capped with a 1-yard Frank Gore touchdown. The unit, however, struggled to sustain drives after the initial score.

The offense totaled 339 yards and 18 first downs, but committed two costly mistakes to give the Rams 10 points.

In his third career start, Colin Kaepernick was called for a safety and later pitched an option toss over Ted Ginn Jr.’s head that resulted in a defensive touchdown for Rams rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who scooped the ball and scored. St. Louis tacked on a 2-point conversion to ensure the teams would be playing overtime for the second time against each other this season.

Trailing 7-0 in the third quarter, St. Louis rolled the dice attempting to convert a 4th-and-1 from San Francisco’s 4-yard line. Sam Bradford faked a handoff to running back Steven Jackson, but could not complete a deep corner touchdown pass to Austin Pettis thanks to a well-timed pass breakup from cornerback Tarell Brown.

It seemed like the 49ers had made the necessary stop to calm down St. Louis’ charge.

But it wasn’t the case.

On San Francisco’s ensuing possession, Kaepernick tried to elude multiple Rams, but was forced to throw the ball away from the end zone. Officials ruled the ball did not get to the line of scrimmage and called a safety on the play, giving the Rams their first points of the game.

“I thought he made clutch plays,” Harbaugh said of his second-year quarterback, who finished the game with 208 passing yards and a game-high 84 rushing yards on nine carries. “It was a tough game for a quarterback to play in. I thought he did well.”

In the fourth quarter, Kaepernick led the 49ers on a 13-play scoring drive that ended with 23-yard Akers field goal. It featured several big catches from Manningham and Crabtree. The free agent addition left the game in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury, while Crabtree posted a game-high seven catches for 101 yards.

With a 10-2 lead and the ball deep in their own territory, the 49ers made a costly decision to run an option pitch play to Ginn. The Rams sent edge pressure with Jenkins coming hard towards Kaepernick. In an instant, the 49ers quarterback pitched the ball over his intended receiver’s head with a left-handed pitch play.

After the game, Kaepernick stood tall in the face of adversity.

“Be smart with the ball,” the young quarterback said when asked what he learned after his first loss as a starter. “I gave up the points on the scoreboard for the Rams. That’s 100 percent my fault.”

Kaepernick responded with a 50-yard run to set up a 33-yard make from Akers that gave the 49ers a 13-10 lead with 1:34 remaining.

Despite the outcome, Harbaugh said he was pleased of his starting quarterback and that he would likely start again when the Miami Dolphins come to San Francisco next week.

“Right now, I feel it’ll be the same next week,” Harbaugh said. “I’m proud of Kap. He did some things under heat and duress, gave our team a chance to win.”

It sure seemed that way early on when Gore scored a 1-yard touchdown run to give the 49ers an early lead. With the score, the 59th of his career, Gore moved into a tie for fifth place on the franchise’s all-time touchdown list with former wide receiver Gene Washington. It was also Gore’s 13th career touchdown against the Rams, the most of any opponent in St. Louis history.

“They played us tough,” said Gore after he finished the game with 23 carries for 58 yards. “When you’re in a rivalry, it’s always tough no matter the record… It didn’t go our way. We’ve got to go back to the drawing board and get ready for Miami.”

Gore picked up 37 yards on his six, first-quarter carries. The 49ers running back single-handedly out-gained St. Louis, who totaled 1 first down and 26 yards of offense in the opening quarter.

San Francisco’s defense did its part, forcing four, first-half punts in a row.

It was a gritty performance by the 49ers defense for much of the afternoon. Jackson was held to 2.3 yards per carry and Bradford was under constant pressure, sacked twice on the day.

Aldon Smith recorded his first sack of the day late in the second quarter, tying him with Hall of Fame defensive end Fred Dean for most single-season sacks in team history (17.5). It also put Smith ahead of another Hall of Famer, Reggie White, for most sacks in a player’s first two seasons.

Following a 49ers punt, the Rams crossed midfield for the first time late in the second quarter during a two-minute drill drive. Steve Smith dropped a key third-down pass from inside San Francisco territory forcing Zuerlein to attempt a 58-yard attempt, which he missed.

The rookie with the reputation for long kicks didn’t disappoint when he had his other 50-yard attempts.

Because of the made kicks, the 49ers will have to respond to late-season adversity.

“It shows what you’re made of – how you handle adversity,” Harbaugh said.

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