By Greg Beacham
AP SPORTS WRITER
11/18/2007

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Though the St. Louis Rams still have problems, they're nothing compared to the San Francisco *****' historic woes.

Marc Bulger shook off another beating to pass for 155 yards and an early touchdown to Torry Holt, and the St. Louis defense was solid until the final seconds Sunday in a 13-9 victory over the *****, who lost their eighth straight.

Bulger was sacked six times by the *****, who also sacked him six times in the clubs' first meeting. The Rams (2-8) couldn't score a touchdown after their opening drive and managed just 38 yards of offense in the second half, but the defense had little trouble with San Francisco's league-worst offense until two desperate fourth-quarter drives.

After floundering all afternoon, the ***** (2-8) drove 68 yards in the final 1:28 to the St. Louis 21. But with 3 seconds to play, Trent Dilfer's final pass was intercepted at the goal line by Oshiomogho Atogwe.

After the longest winless start in the franchise's 70-year history, the Rams have won both outings with Steven Jackson back in good health. The star running back had 92 persistent yards in his second full game after missing four weeks with a torn groin muscle and most of another game with a bulging disk in his back.

Dilfer passed for 231 yards -- 141 in the fourth quarter -- while filling in for Alex Smith as the ***** slid into their longest losing streak since 1999. San Francisco hasn't won since its trip to St. Louis in mid-September, and hasn't scored a touchdown since the opening drive of its loss in Atlanta two weeks ago.


San Francisco had a chance to tie it late, but tight end Vernon Davis and Darrell Jackson dropped tough potential touchdown catches on consecutive plays leading up to the 2-minute warning. Coach Mike Nolan settled for Joe Nedney's third field goal.

Dilfer was 20-of-42 with an interception in his latest chance to fill in for Alex Smith, who sat out with a sore throwing arm that caused plenty of drama in San Francisco over the past week. Smith wore his helmet while watching on the sideline, but didn't play.

After performing poorly in the *****' last three losses, Smith complained his arm wasn't as healthy as he or Nolan claimed, exposing a lack of communication between the coaching staff and its franchise quarterback.

Until the final minutes, Dilfer couldn't spark an offense that managed 96 yards in the first three quarters before finishing with 244. The Rams' defense had its way with the San Francisco offensive line, repeatedly stopping Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore at the scrimmage line.

Holt's 3-yard TD catch capped a 79-yard march on St. Louis' opening drive. Both defenses stiffened after that, particularly after halftime. Both teams combined for 29 net yards and one first down in the third quarter.

The ***** didn't gain 100 total yards until Dilfer's shovel pass to Gore with 10:10 to play, and Nedney's 38-yard field goal cut St. Louis' lead to seven points.

The Niners made another solid drive to the Rams 28, but Davis couldn't haul in a heavily defended catch over the middle. Then a solid throw to Jackson bounced off the veteran receiver's hands.

San Francisco harassed Bulger in its last victory, a 17-16 squeaker in which St. Louis muffed a punt and missed a field goal in the final minutes.