The 24-24 tie between the San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams will go down as one of the most exciting, nerve-wracking and back-and-forth games in the history of their rivalry. It is a shame there was no winner even though both teams made mistakes and gave one another a chance to pull off the win multiple times. For Rams and 49ers fans, the feeling on Monday was we did not lose on Sunday, but it sure feels like we did.
After the first 13 minutes of the game, San Francisco was already down 14-0 thanks to lackluster play by the defense. Midway through the second quarter the 49ers offense suffered a blow with the loss of Alex Smith for the game due to a concussion. Colin Kaepernick was inserted and did not lead the offense anywhere in the first half. In the second half, Kaepernick settled down and drove the offense down the field 81 yards that was capped off by a 5-yard TD run by the quarterback. The touchdown put the 49ers within three points of the Rams with the score 17-14.
The seesaw part of the game started on the ensuing kickoff for the St. Louis. After kick returner Isaiah Pead fumbled at the Rams 31-yard line it was recovered by Darcel McBath and ran back to the 20-yard line. On the next play Frank Gore rushed in for a touchdown giving the 49ers a 21-17 lead with over eight minutes left in the game.
One of the most disappointing parts of the game was watching the Niners defense get pummeled trying to stop the run and making Sam Bradford and Danny Amendola look like a Pro-Bowl tandem. No matter what the 49ers tried to do to stop the Rams offense, even when it counted the most with the game on the line, the defense failed.
Instead of protecting the lead, the defense let Bradford drive 81 yards for a touchdown to give the lead back to the Rams at 24-21 with 1:09 left to play. But the 49ers where not done yet. Kaepernick showed his clutch gene by driving the offense down the field 63 yards, which included 29 yards rushing by the quarterback, in one minute to set up a 33-yard field goal made by David Akers. The final stage was set for one team to win in overtime. Or so we thought.
Never before I had sat and watched an overtime game with such suspense, disbelief and disappointment. The back-and-forth tension in overtime started with the Rams. They had two opportunities to win on their only possessions in overtime. On the first play of the extra quarter it appeared all over after Bradford hit Amendola on an 80-yard pass play that took them to the Niners 2-yard line. Right before I was ready to turn off the TV in disgust, a flag appeared on the field and the TD was called back. The Rams were called on an illegal-formation penalty.
After a St. Louis punt the Niners offense drove down to the Rams 23-yard line to set up a game winning field goal try for Akers. Clutch Akers turned up empty on the 41-yard field goal try giving the Rams good field position.
For the second time in overtime it looked as if the Rams were on the verge of winning after rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein kicked a 53-yard field goal through the uprights. However, it was negated because of a delay of game penalty and the Rams had to re-kick. Zuerlein tried again with a 58-yarder, but missed to the right. Game still tied.
Both offenses had the football one more time, but come up empty by the end of overtime. The last time the 49ers tied was in 1986. It is somewhat fitting that neither team was awarded a win because of how hard and terrible both teams played. There was a total of 799 yards by both offenses. But penalties killed both teams. Bradford and Kaepernick were clutch as neither defense seemed to be able to come up with the big play when needed in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Even though the 49ers lost Alex Smith early, made plenty of mistakes and bobbled the win in-and-out of their hands, there were a few positive things to look at after the tie.
Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman were able to adjust their game plan in the second half to suit Kaepernick the best. Even though the 49ers were down 17-7 heading into the fourth quarter with their backup QB, Harbaugh did not deviate away from the offensive philosophy of run first. It paid off and was the reason why the 49ers were able to outscore the Rams 17-10 in the second half and to get back into the game. Also, with the adjustments made because of Kaepernick in the game, the final five possessions on offense for the 49ers resulted in two touchdowns, a field goal, missed field-goal and a punt.
Should Smith not be able to play next week against the Bears on Monday Night Football, Kaepernick showed he can handle the pressure of starting after being interested midgame with his team down two touchdowns and come close to pulling off the win. Still, whether it is Smith or Kaepernick, the Niners defense needs to do some soul-searching after they made the Rams offense look like the Greatest Show on Turf had returned to St. Louis.