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Fantastic finish? Rams, ***** cannot decide

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  • Fantastic finish? Rams, ***** cannot decide

    By Mike Sando

    SAN FRANCISCO -- There were so many compelling stories waiting to be written on this confounding November Sunday at Candlestick Park.

    We'll have to settle for all of them.

    The San Francisco ***** and St. Louis Rams made it so, with a few assists from referee Clete Blakeman and his proactive officiating crew.

    This 24-24 tie did more than fittingly push the all-time series record between the teams to 61-61-3 during regular seasons.

    This one also reestablished the Rams' credentials as a newly competitive team under first-year coach Jeff Fisher.

    It challenged San Francisco's status as NFC West bullies, serving notice, again, that the NFC West has become the sticks-and-stones division, to borrow a favorite phrase from ***** coach Jim Harbaugh.

    It left the Rams at 3-5-1 while weakening the ***** (6-2-1) heading into their "Monday Night Football" matchup against the Chicago Bears in Week 11.

    It opened the door, at least a little, for Seattle (6-4) to push for a division title, not just for a wild-card berth.

    Mostly, this game boggled the mind.

    "I don't know exactly how it feels," Harbaugh said.

    It didn't feel good.

    "We didn't lose, but we didn't win, and if we didn't win, then I'm not really interested in it," Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis said.

    There was so much evidence to process.

    There was Rams quarterback Sam Bradford putting together the signature drive of his three-year-old career, a 14-play march to the go-ahead touchdown with 1:13 left in regulation. This was Bradford at his best. When the game was finally finished, he had completed 11 of 12 attempts to Danny Amendola and 26 of 39 overall.

    "Big-picture wise, we scored points and we needed to score points," Fisher said. "We've been struggling to get the ball in the end zone and we got the ball in the end zone against a good defense."

    There was Amendola returning from a nasty shoulder injury to make what would have been -- and perhaps what should have been, depending upon your view of Blakeman's crew -- the pivotal 80-yard reception in overtime. Officials flagged the Rams' illegal formation. Replays showed the call might have been correct, but officials threw the flag well after the fact and well down the field, and only after conferencing. Strange and anti-climactic.

    "It was a roller coaster," Rams defensive end Chris Long said. "I feel like we won two games, maybe lost one and tied one today. It was unbelievable. I've never been a part of anything like that. I don't know how to think."

    There was more, including young ***** quarterback Colin Kaepernick coming off the bench for a concussed Alex Smith to rally his team into position for what would have been the winning 41-yard field goal in overtime, had David Akers not missed wide left. The ***** thought Smith suffered the concussion on a fourth-and-1 sneak. They cannot be sure how long Smith will miss, but they're a lesser team in the short term without him, no question.

    Kaepernick can run, but can he run the offense? He struggled with accuracy under admittedly tough conditions. Smith had been getting all the meaningful reps recently as the ***** successfully recommitted to their regular offense.

    "They lost their quarterback, but obviously their backup is talented enough to not lose the game for them," Fisher said.

    As endorsements goes, that one felt like a tie.

    There was also Rams rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein driving home what would have been -- and perhaps should have been, depending again upon one's view of officiating norms -- the winning 52-yard field goal some 12 minutes into overtime. We could fault the Rams for entrusting a rookie holder, Johnny Hekker, with clock management in such a situation. But this also seemed like a strange time to enforce the game clock to what seemed like a stricter standard than usual.

    Zuerlein missed from 58.

    "There shouldn't be a question as to whether or not you get a field goal off to win in overtime," Fisher said. "Apparently, Johnny lost track of the time. That happens. We don't want to say it's OK -- it's certainly not OK -- but he was focused on Greg and focused on protection and just lost track of it, I guess."

    Hekker, a free agent the Rams signed in part for his arm, completed two fourth-down passes on fake punts, one from his own end zone and the other during that 14-play scoring drive in the fourth quarter. Hekker, empowered by Fisher to audible if the opponent rushes a cornerback at the expense of coverage, did just that with the first-half clock winding down and the Rams facing fourth-and-4 from their own 10. He later completed a fourth-and-8 pass to tight end Lance Kendricks for a 19-yard gain.

    Late last season, the ***** outfoxed the Rams in devastating fashion, Akers completing a pass to Michael Crabtree on a fake field goal when St. Louis didn't even know Crabtree was on the field.

    The fake punts Sunday told us those days are over.

    "The first one, we were trying to block the punt before the half," Harbaugh said. "We sent our corner. They can throw a pass when they see that, and that takes a lot of gumption to do it, and they did it. The second one, again, was well-executed on their part. Tough break for us to get that done on us, but tip your hat to them."

    So much had happened by game's end that some players couldn't recall specifics.

    Bradford could only smile and shrug when asked about the timeout St. Louis had called with 1:13 left in regulation. The Rams followed that timeout with Bradford's 2-yard scoring pass to Austin Pettis for a 24-21 lead, but the clock stoppage gave the ***** sufficient time to respond.

    Kaepernick, taking over at his own 22 with 1:03 to play, scrambled for 19 yards on first down. The clock stopped again on the next play when Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson suffered an injury. Kaepernick followed with a 10-yard scramble and a 13-yard pass to Kyle Williams. Five seconds remained when David Akers’ 33-yard field goal forced overtime.

    The Rams didn't seem to care.

    Bradford went deep for Amendola on the first play of overtime. Amendola separated from Carlos Rogers while the ball was in the air. He caught the ball at the San Francisco 45 and ran all the way to the 2 before Donte Whitner finally tackled him.

    The game was only beginning -- again.

    Each team would possess the ball two additional times before time ran out with St. Louis completing a 24-yard pass to near midfield. The Rams faced third-and-23 on the play after taking an 8-yard sack and a 5-yard penalty for delay.

    The sack was particularly costly. It was also frustrating, at least for the Rams. They had first-and-10 from their own 38 with 24 seconds remaining. A couple more completed passes might have moved them into range for another field-goal try. Zuerlein has made five from 50-plus yards, including one from 60. But the Rams couldn't stop the pass-rush combination that New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride had so famously complained about.

    Left guard Shelley Smith wouldn't say much about it, but Saffold overheard the questioning and nodded from his stool at the adjoining locker. The nod suggested Saffold felt as though Justin Smith, the *****' All-Pro defensive end, had held Shelley Smith to give teammate Aldon Smith a clearer path to the quarterback -- just as Gilbride had said the ***** did with regularity, and in violation of holding rules.

    "Justin Smith did a real good job of faking the rush and being able to grab him," Saffold said. "That allowed Aldon Smith to get around. You try to collapse it down so they'll run into each other and slow down the rush, and we were able to do that maybe three or four times, but a couple times where [Shelley Smith] needs to be firm and I need to get depth, it's harder to pass off some of the run-play action that we saw."

    That's a lot of Smiths -- Shelley, Aldon and Justin, to say nothing of Alex -- and a lot to sort out. Confused? So were some of the players.

    "I didn't know you could tie," ***** free safety Dashon Goldson said. "When I saw both sides walking onto the field, I was like, ‘Where’s everybody going?'"

    There was no winning or losing locker room to visit, just a lot of mixed emotions.

    "I'm pissed," Long said. "We're all pissed in here because we feel like we won that game. They played a really good game, too, and they are a really good team.

    "But I think we're going to see a lot of those battles for years to come here because we are a different team now. I think they know that from playing us now."
    Last edited by Rambos; -11-12-2012, 12:11 PM.

  • #2
    Re: Fantastic finish? Rams, ***** cannot decide

    Left guard Shelley Smith wouldn't say much about it, but Saffold overheard the questioning and nodded from his stool at the adjoining locker. The nod suggested Saffold felt as though Justin Smith, the *****' All-Pro defensive end, had held Shelley Smith to give teammate Aldon Smith a clearer path to the quarterback -- just as Gilbride had said the ***** did with regularity, and in violation of holding rules.
    This was called out by the announcer during the game. They did it twice!

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Fantastic finish? Rams, ***** cannot decide

      It's interesting to see the players just as confused as the fans. I still am not entirely sure what to think and apparently the players and coaches feel the same way. They are walking away from this game like: 8|
      "I've been saving the Universe for over a thousand years. I figure it owes me just this once."

      Comment

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      • Rambos
        Rapid Reaction: Rams 24, ***** 24 (OT)
        by Rambos
        By Mike Sando | ESPN.com

        What it means: The Rams proved they'll be a tough out for every team in the NFC West, not just for Arizona and Seattle. They'll be tough on quarterbacks now that Jeff Fisher is their head coach. And with Sam Bradford at quarterback, they can challenge a quality defense on the road with strong fourth-quarter play. But they were a mess when it mattered, committing penalties and making questionable use of timeouts.

        Meanwhile, the ***** suddenly appear vulnerable heading into a highly anticipated "Monday Night Football" matchup against the Chicago Bears. They have injury questions after quarterback Alex Smith suffered a first-half concussion and did not return.

        What I liked: This was another rough-and-tumble game in the NFC West. It was looking for a few weeks as though the Rams might not have enough to sustain the early fight they showed this season. Those concerns went away quickly Sunday. The Rams took the game to San Francisco by winning at the line of scrimmage in shocking fashion. They also took the initiative with aggressive plays, symbolized by the fake punt they converted from their own end zone while holding a 14-7 lead late in the first half.

        Niners linebacker Patrick Willis and Rams running back Steven Jackson staged a memorable battle over the first-down marker on a third-and-long play. Both were the best players on bad teams in the past. They've become symbols for excellence no matter the circumstances. Jackson fought forward for the first down and got help from teammates, it appeared. His helmet popped off, allowing for a clear shot at just how much he was straining for extra yardage. For Jackson, losing the helmet carried practical value, too. It ended the play, pre-empting what might otherwise have been ruled as a fumble.

        The *****' special teams haven't been as good overall this season, but they came through at least once when needed Sunday. Tramaine Brock's forced fumble during a Rams kick return set up Frank Gore's 20-yard touchdown run as the ***** took a 21-17 lead midway through the fourth quarter. Gore ran with great effort.

        The Rams succeeded on two fake punts, including one to prevent a three-and-out while trailing 21-17. Bradford, one of the better fourth-quarter quarterbacks this season, found Danny Amendola over the middle on third down to keep the same drive moving. Jackson did a great job picking up the blitz to allow Bradford's 2-yard scoring pass to Austin Pettis as the Rams took a 24-21 lead with 1:09 remaining.

        What I didn't like: Roughing up the opposing quarterback is always the goal, but it's never good when anyone suffers a concussion. Smith suffered his second in as many seasons. He had completed 7 of 8 passes with a touchdown before departing in the first half. A hard hit from Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar might have been the culprit.

        Smith joined Arizona's...
        -11-11-2012, 07:43 PM
      • Nick
        ***** burn Rams repeatedly
        by Nick
        ***** burn Rams repeatedly
        BY BILL COATS • Posted: Monday, November 15, 2010 12:10 am

        SAN FRANCISCO • In a game as big as any the Rams have played in several years, big plays rained down all around them Sunday at Candlestick Park. Ultimately, the Rams were done in by their inability to keep San Francisco from gobbling up major chunks of real estate at inopportune times.

        "We had more big plays we gave up today than we did all year," defensive end Chris Long said. "That's the difference. Really, that game falls squarely on our shoulders defensively."

        The ***** came into the NFC West showdown ranked just 22nd in the NFL in total offense. But they got a major jolt from nimble quarterback Troy Smith, an early-season free-agent pickup, in a 23-20 overtime victory that booted the Rams (4-5) out of a first-place tie with Seattle.

        A former Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State, Smith made just his fourth start in 3˝ NFL seasons. He subbed for sore-shouldered Alex Smith.

        Dodging and darting, Smith extended plays with his elusiveness and showed no fear flinging the ball downfield. He averaged 20.9 yards per completion, connecting of 17 of 28 passes for 356 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions. His passer rating was a sterling 116.7.

        "Troy's a good player; we knew that going in," said linebacker James Laurinaitis, a former Buckeyes teammate. "We knew he had the ability to scramble and throw it up. ... He definitely hurt us today."

        It was the highest passing total of the season against the Rams, by far. It also easily outdistanced Smith's best previous outing: He threw for 199 yards in his first career start, as a rookie with Baltimore in 2007.

        The Rams faced Smith and the Ravens in September in the final preseason game. He passed for 237 yards but had a woeful 47.3 percent completion rate and was intercepted three times in a 27-21 Rams win.

        Smith was waived a few days later, and the ***** grabbed him. On Sunday, he helped shove San Francisco (3-6) back into contention in a tight division race.

        "We knew he had real good scrambling ability," said defensive end C.J. Ah You, who had one of five Rams sacks. "It's real frustrating, especially when you think you've got him and he makes a good play down the field."

        The ***** generated 11 plays of more than 20 yards, including two pass-interference penalties vs. the Rams. Also, touchdown passes of 19 and 43 yards were nullified by Niners penalties.

        Ten of those big gainers came via the pass. The ***** made an early statement, striking for a 32-yard toss on their first play from scrimmage, then topping that with a 65-yard bomb on the first snap of their second series.

        Cornerback Kevin Dockery was victimized on both plays. "The first one, I (was) being...
        -11-14-2010, 08:26 PM
      • r8rh8rmike
        Rams. ***** Fit To be Untied
        by r8rh8rmike
        Rams, ***** fit to be untied

        12 hours ago • By Jim Thomas [email protected] 314-340-8197

        If it was up to many of the Rams, they would’ve kept playing against San Francisco until the outcome was decided 2˝ weeks ago in Candlestick Park.

        “Oh absolutely yeah,” cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. “In any competition, and any time you line up against somebody, you want there to be a victor. ... I would’ve loved to keep playing. I wouldn’t have minded playing six, seven quarters.”

        As it was, the contest ended in a 24-24 tie after five quarters — or one overtime period — per NFL regular-season rules.

        “In my mind, somebody has to win,” defensive tackle Michael Brockers added. “Especially in a game like that. Two tough teams come in, battling really hard. I wish we could’ve kept playing some more. More minutes, more time, more quarters.”

        It was only the 18th tie game since the league began playing overtime games in the regular season in 1974.

        Only eight of those ties were between teams from the same division.

        And Sunday’s game at the Edward Jones Dome marks only the sixth time the rematch takes place after the tie game.

        As coach Jeff Fisher sees it, the Rams are simply continuing that memorable, wacky, and intense Nov. 11 game this Sunday.

        “We are,” he joked. “We just took a couple of weeks off. This is quarter No. 6.”

        That was part of his message to the team Wednesday, as the practice week began for Sunday’s noon kickoff. And the players are all in.

        “The tiebreaker is this week,” Rams defensive end Chris Long said.

        If that’s the case, shouldn’t the winner get credit for two victories, and the tie can get erased?

        “Can they do that, possibly?” tight end Lance Kendricks asked. “It would be pretty cool.”

        “I would absolutely be willing to lobby that,” Long said. “I know it would never get done, because that’s way too logical for the NFL to do. I would love it if it was worth two games.

        “We’ll have to petition the league or something like that,” Fisher said, tongue in cheek. “That’s our approach. There’s two weeks in between and here we go again.”

        It should be noted that San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh doesn’t share the continuation theory.

        “That’s an interesting way to look at it, and probably some people would think there’s some merit to it,” Harbaugh said Wednesday on a conference call. “I think it’s just new business. That game is finished business, and this game coming up is new business.”

        It’s also unusual business.

        Something like this hasn’t happened in 15 years, when Washington and the New York Giants played to a 7-7 tie in late November 1997 and then met in an NFC East rematch in mid-December, with the Redskins winning 30-10.

        Before...
        -11-29-2012, 11:17 AM
      • Nick
        Pro Football Focus' ReFo: Rams @ *****, Week 10
        by Nick
        ReFo: Rams @ *****, Week 10
        Steve Palazzolo | 2012/11/13

        False Starts, dropped snaps, delay of game penalties, Illegal Formations and a running clock during a first down measurement. This game reeked of average and the St. Louis Rams and San Francisco ***** both have a “1” in the tie column to prove it.

        In the NFL’s first tie since 2008, the Rams and ***** both played well enough, or poorly enough, to clutter the NFL’s win-loss-tie columns.

        The Rams appeared to be in control of the game until the ***** came back with two touchdowns within 17 seconds to take a 21-17 lead in the fourth quarter. St. Louis’ would-be game winning touchdown drive was topped by San Francisco’s game-tying field goal with three seconds left to send the game into overtime.

        The Rams did their best to “not win” the game, as an 80-yard completion was called back as they only had six players on the line-of-scrimmage. After a punt, the ***** had a chance to win the game, but kicker David Akers missed a 41-yard field goal to prolong the fifth quarter.

        St. Louis was then able to get into field goal range, but they ensured their own mediocrity by committing a delay of game penalty that turned a makeable 53-yarder into a 58-yard pipe dream. When K Greg Zuerlein’s kick missed wide right, it started a flurry of ineptitude as the ***** went three-and-out on their next possession to give the ball back to the Rams for their one last chance to win the game. The entire game was well summed up as St. Louis showed no sense of urgency on this final drive, perhaps hoping for a chance to win it in the nonexistent second overtime period.

        On the final play, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford completed an irrelevant 24-yard pass, the clock struck 0:00, and it was sister-kissing time for both the ***** and the Rams.

        Let’s take a look at the performances that shaped the game where everyone wins (or losses).

        Three Performances of Note—St. Louis Rams

        Long Bounces Back
        After nearly getting shut out for two straight weeks, defensive end Chris Long (+5.3) bounced back in a big way with 10 total pressures (one sk, one ht, eight hu). He’d only notched one hurry on his last 75 pass-rush attempts coming into the game, but he was in the ***** backfield throughout the afternoon. Long did most of his work against Anthony Davis, picking up seven pressures against the ***** right tackle. He’d beaten Davis to his outside shoulder on five different occasions, before knifing to the inside of him and sacking quarterback Colin Kaepernick with 2:00 to go in overtime. The sack forced a ***** punt and gave the Rams one last chance to win the game, which obviously came up short.

        Weak in the Middle, Part 1
        Amidst a sea of average games, Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis (-4.1) has also had some real stinkers this season, and this game belongs in the latter category. He struggled to...
        -11-13-2012, 05:33 PM
      • r8rh8rmike
        Kaepernick Just One Of Many Rams' Worries vs. *****
        by r8rh8rmike
        Kaepernick just one of many Rams' worries vs. *****

        23 hours ago • By Jim Thomas [email protected] 314-340-8197

        A week before the rest of the nation caught onto the Colin Kaepernick phenomenon, the Rams saw firsthand what the new San Francisco starting quarterback is capable of doing on a football field.

        Like many of the Rams, defensive end Chris Long was tired and frustrated after the Rams let leads of 14-0, 17-7 and 24-21 slip away in a 24-24 tie against the *****. And like just about everyone else on defense that Nov. 11 afternoon, he was a little numb over the scrambling and playmaking ability shown by Kaepernick.

        “I mean, Kaepernick really played well,” Long said in a quiet Rams locker room after that game. “He’s a good young quarterback. He might be a backup on this team, but I think he can start for some teams in the NFL, I really do.”

        Lo and behold, Kaepernick comes to town for today’s rematch in the Edward Jones Dome as the *****’ starter even though veteran Alex Smith — who suffered a concussion in that Nov. 11 game — is now healthy.

        “I called it first,” Long said, chuckling, on Wednesday.

        Maybe Long has a career in scouting once his playing days are over. For now, the challenge is finding a way to keep Kaepernick in the pocket, and then making him as uncomfortable as possible in that pocket. No one has figured out a way to do that just yet.

        In his two starts since coming on in relief in the first Rams-***** matchup, Kaepernick has led the San Francisco to double-digit victories over Chicago and New Orleans. He scored a rushing touchdown against the Saints, but has had success throwing the ball the past two games, including more downfield passes than usually are seen with Smith as quarterback.

        At least the Rams now have two games of film on Kaepernick.

        “It certainly does help,” Long said. “We saw him first-hand, but obviously for him to come out these last two weeks and put a lot of film out there, it does help us out. There’s a lot to prepare for (against) this offense no matter who’s at quarterback.”

        While it may be a stretch to say Kaepernick is the least of their problems, he’s far from the only problem posed by San Francisco (8-2-1).

        “It’s about their whole team,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “Obviously, they’re getting excellent quarterback play out of Kaepernick. But their run game — as we said three weeks ago, there’s nobody in the league that’s as creative and executes better in the run game than the *****. And of course they’re very difficult to run against because of the talent they have across the board on defense.”

        The Rams moved the football against the ***** unlike any other team this season, both running and passing. And the ‘Niners have faced some high-powered offenses, including those of Green Bay, the New York Giants...
        -12-01-2012, 09:38 PM
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