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Rams beat Niners, still control own destiny

December 26, 2010

It was another normal day at the office for the St. Louis Rams: score early, give up a lead, make a comeback.

But this time the Rams actually held on to their lead (after giving up a 9-0 lead early in the second quarter) and managed to defeat the San Francisco 49ers 25-17 to insure a winner-take-all NFC West championship game in Seattle next Sunday.

The Rams’ first score came on a Steven Jackson 1-yard run that capped a seven-play, 71-yard drive after a defensive pass interference penalty nullified a 49ers’ interception. After sharing punts, Troy Smith recovered his own fumble in the end zone but was sacked by James Hall for a safety at the 2:55 mark of the first quarter.

Then came another mini-meltdown Rams fans have become accustomed to this season. Ted Ginn returned a punt for a 78-yard touchdown, and after a Josh Brown 43-yard field goal made it 12-7, Michael Crabtree got behind the defense and made Craig Dahl miss on his way to a 60-yard touchdown reception.

However, the Rams answered with another Brown field goal, this one a 30-yarder, to take a 15-14 lead going into the fourth quarter.

The play of the day belonged to Danario Alexander, who set career-highs in catches (6) and yards (99). With just under 10 minutes left in the fourth, Bradford play-actioned to Jackson and delivered a bomb to Alexander for 46 yards to the 3-yard line. Initially Alexander did a reverse somersault after the catch and stepped into the end zone, but officials reversed the call after a San Fran challenge and ruled DX stepped out-of-bounds at the 3.

On the next play Bradford rolled right and out-ran several 49ers and bought enough time to find an open Laurent Robinson for a three-yard touchdown that would put the Rams up for good.

The teams exchanged field goals to make it 25-17, and on a third-and-nine on the Rams’ 42 Chris Long forced a fumble by Alex Smith, who replaced Troy Smith at quarterback after the latter had a heated exchange on the sidelines with Coach Mike Singletary. Long’s forced fumbled gave the Rams another possession to run off some clock, and the 49ers got the ball back but were unable to do anything with it, as the clock expired during Ted Ginn’s 22-yard reception.

The good:

  • Bradford had one of his best days of the season. Bradford’s completions, yards, completion percentage and quarterback rating in today’s game all rank in the top three for each category for him in a game this season. He also set a rookie record for completions in a season. His passer rating was 118.3 in the second half.
  • The defense only gave up 10 points when you take away Ginn’s punt return. The defense pressured San Francisco’s quarterbacks in the fourth quarter and didn’t allow neither Troy nor Alex to get in a comfortable rhythm in the backfield. Long’s strip-sack allowed the 49ers only a minute to try to go 80 yards for a tying touchdown and two-point conversion, and Fred Robbins’ sack forced the Niners to spike the ball on third down of their last possession and have to go for it all on fourth-and-nine from their own 34.
  • With his three field goals today Josh Brown tied a career-high in field goals made for a season with 31.

The bad:

  • The secondary allowed several big plays, but San Fran’s QBs only completed 50 percent of their passes.

The ugly:

  • The Rams couldn’t get anything going on the ground. I don’t know if it’s because San Fran’s defensive line is so good or if the Rams’ O-line is bad or what, but SJ39 could only manage 48 yards on 24 carries and was stifled for most of the second half, including only gaining two yards on three carries on the Rams’ last possession where they could’ve ran out the clock but ended up giving the ball back to the Niners with a minute left.
  • Jackson still does too much dancing and prancing around in the backfield. He just needs to run straight ahead if he’s running a dive or trap and push people backwards. He can do that, and he needs to utilize that skill more.
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