Playoff Hopes Dashed in St. Louis

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ST. LOUIS – Although there's one game left on the schedule, for all intents and purposes, the 49ers season ended Sunday in St. Louis.

After a 25-17 loss to the St. Louis Rams, the 49ers will again be out of postseason, a fact not lost on players, coaches or ownership.

Team President and CEO Jed York addressed the media after the 49ers dropped to 5-10 on the season.

"We didn't achieve the things we set out to achieve," he said. "We should be a playoff team. We aren't a playoff team this year. We are very disappointed about that. We need to figure out how we can get into the playoffs and how we can start competing for Super Bowls.

"Our object is to win the Super Bowl – year-in and year-out be there and be able to compete for a Super Bowl. We're going to make sure we get this right."

York added that the 49ers would conduct a search for a general manager at the end of the season.

But for Sunday, all the emotions were centered on frustration. The 49ers badly wanted to win out to get into the playoffs and they couldn't get it done.

Both Troy Smith and Alex Smith saw playing time, but neither could lead the team to victory. Troy Smith started the game and played into the fourth quarter, completing 7-of-19 passes for 153 yards including a 60-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree.

Alex Smith entered mid-way through the fourth quarter, trailing by eight points, and led the 49ers on a drive that produced a field goal. But when the Rams got those points back by way of a 24-yard field goal from Josh Brown, the offense couldn't come up with another score.

On the next drive, Rams defensive end Chris Long stripped Alex Smith at midfield and defensive tackle Fred Robbins recovered the fumble.

The 49ers had strong performances from several players, but could not make enough game-changing plays in the second half. That's part of the reason Mike Singletary elected to make a change from Troy to Alex.

"Time was running out, and I was really trying to give Troy an opportunity to make some plays and get on track, for the offense to get on track, and it just did not ever seem to get in rhythm," he said. "The only thing I felt I could do at that particular time was to go back to Alex and really stabilize the offense, particularly the offensive line, and try to get something going."

The game featured several momentum shifts from both teams throughout. St. Louis opened with a 9-0 lead, only to see the 49ers score the next 14 points to close out the first half.

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Ted Ginn Jr. dashed through the Rams coverage team for a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown for the 49ers first points of the game. Crabtree's touchdown gave them a lead going into halftime.

From there however, St. Louis began to spread the ball around the perimeter against a 49ers defense that registered only one sack on the day.

Rams' quarterback Sam Bradford threw for 292 yards, completing 28-of-37 passes, with a 3-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that proved to be the dagger in the 49ers playoff hopes.

One play prior it appeared as if the Rams had scored on 49-yard pass from Bradford to Danario Alexander, but a challenge from Singletary took the points off the board when the replay showed Alexander stepped out of bounds at the 3-yard line. It didn't become a factor however, on the next play Bradford rolled to his right to find Laurent Robinson for the touchdown to make it 22-14 with less than 10 minutes to play.

It was at that moment when Alex Smith was summoned into the game.

Smith completed his first four passes off the bench to set up a 47-yard field goal from Jeff Reed. It would be all the points the 49ers would get in the most crucial quarter of their season.

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"We didn't make the plays that were supposed to be made," linebacker Takeo Spikes said. "It was there for us to take. You can't blame anybody else but us.

"It's frustrating. Knowing what all you put yourself through starting in March for it to be gone basically in the last week of the season. It's rough."

It was ending that mirrored the sloppy beginning of the game for the 49ers.

Two errant snaps, one from David Baas, and the other from his replacement Tony Wragge, did nothing to help 49ers in the early stages of Sunday's divisional matchup in St. Louis.

Once Bass went down on the 49ers second possession with a rib injury, Wragge filled in, but his snap on a third down deep inside 49ers territory was not handled by Troy Smith.

All Troy Smith could do was cover up the ball and avoid giving up a touchdown to the Rams.

But the 49ers know those two mistakes alone were not what cost them the game.

Despite the frustration and disappointment, they will have to regroup for another division game next week when the Arizona Cardinals come to Candlestick Park. While the game may not have much meaning as far as the big pictured is concerned, it still means a lot to the players involved.

"We just have to come back next week and get better," tight end Delanie Walker said. "We want to finish our year with a win."

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