BY JEFF GORDON
Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
12/05/2004

The Rams got younger on offense when rookie running back Steven Jackson filled in for the hobbled Marshall Faulk on Sunday.

And then they got older when grizzled Chris Chandler relieved quarterback Marc Bulger -- who suffered a separated right shoulder while absorbing a second-quarter sack

The results were mixed, but the Rams were able to outlast the horrendous San Francisco ***** 16-6 in a mistake-filled mess at The Ed.

Jackson’s powerful running (26 carries, 119 yards) allowed the Rams, now 6-6, to defeat their no-longer-formidable rivals. Jackson ran hard between the tackles and also accelerated impressively to get outside and up the field.

Chandler, 36, threw a touchdown pass to Torry Holt -- but also threw one interception, lost a fumble and nearly had two other passes picked off.

At times, Chandler operated effectively in the offense . . . and at times he looked like a rusty veteran many years past his athletic prime.

He didn’t have much more luck in scoring territory than Bulger did, so Jeff Wilkins had to kick three field goals -- two from 52 yards out -- to make certain the Rams won this game.

Defensively, the Rams punished the battered ***** (now 1-11!) with a variety of blitzes and stunts that prevented them from mounting a consistent passing or rushing attack.


THE GOOD


* Rams defensive spokesman Tyoka Jackson dumped quarterback Tim Rattay for the game’s first sack on the game’s third play.


* Steven Jackson got the Rams offense rolling in the right direction by gaining 32 yards on his first five carries.


* Bulger used his feet to get out of trouble on a third-and-two play, then earned the first down with a nine-yard scramble. That led to a 29-yard Wilkins field goal and an immediate 3-0 lead.


* Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa swatted a Rattay pass on a critical third-down play later in the first quarter, forcing the Niners to settle for a game-tying field goal.


* Jackson proved nimble in the open field as well, scampering 21 yards with a second-quarter swing pass from Chandler.


* Torry Holt adjusted to a badly underthrown Chandler bomb on the next play, coming back to get a 40-yard completion. Two plays later, Chandler threw a perfect TD strike to Holt to push the Rams' lead to 10-3.


* Tinoisamoa and Leonard Little poured in to disrupt another Niners third-down passing play and force San Francisco to kick the ball away again.


* Say, was that linebacker Tommy Polley in the ***** backfield, dumping running back Terry Jackson for an eight-yard loss? That forced the Niners to kick the ball away again.


* Isaac Bruce prevented another Tony Parrish interception in the end zone with some blatant offensive pass interference late in the first half. Now THAT was a veteran move.

As a result, Wilkins got an opportunity to pound a 52-yard field goal to push their halftime lead to 13-3.


* Say, was that was linebacker Robert Thomas who jacked Kevan Barlow on third-and-three run in the third quarter? Has he ever come close to hitting somebody that hard?


* Little got after Rattay for another sack, this time in the third quarter, forcing the Niners to punt the ball away again.


* With the ***** attempting to march in for the game-tying field goal in the fourth quarter, cornerback Jerametrius Butler sat on a slant pattern and picked off Rattay at the Rams 7. Whew!


* Wilkins struck again, blasting a 52-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to push the Rams' lead to 16-6. Ah, the joys of kicking in a dome . . .


* Say, was that Damione Lewis that actually SACKED A QUARTERBACK, dumping Rattay for a nine-yard loss in the fourth quarter?


* Two players later, Jackson earned another sack to force the Niners to punt -- and essentially concede defeat in the game.


THE BAD


* On the Niners’ second possession, they went over the top of the Rams' defense for a 52-yard strike to Brandon Lloyd. That bomb moved San Francisco into position for an early game-tying field goal.


* On the Rams' second kickoff return, they managed to earn not one but two penalties while attempting to block. Now THAT is true incompetence on special teams. This time around, Brandon Manumaleuna and Robert Thomas were the guilty parties.

The Rams have been working since July. Now the Christmas season is upon us. How can they keep making these mistakes?


* Not only did Williams fail to protect Bulger from a first quarter sack, he fell on him, too. Bulger’s shoulder separation forced Chandler to scrape off the cobwebs and jump into the fray.


THE UGLY


* With the Rams moving into scoring position, Chandler tried to force a post-pattern pass to Holt. Parrish read it all the way, however, and won the battle for the football.


* Jimmy Kennedy finally got a quarterback -– but he took a personal foul penalty on a third-down play with 4 minutes 15 seconds left in the first half. Instead of punting out of their own end zone, the ***** got a badly needed first down.


* Who could have guessed that Chandler would spit up a sack fumble? Well, your cyber-correspondent shouted out the prediction in the auxiliary press box and it came true.

Niners defensive end John Engelberger lost the race to Chandler late in the third quarter -– he got there second -– but his hit forced a fumble that teammate Jamie Winborn recovered.