Rams vs 49ers: Final Grades, Analysis for San Francisco
If ever there was a deserved tie in the NFL, this is it, as it's hard to think of a ballgame where both teams played so equally, for better and worse, with the Niners and Rams finishing a scoreless overtime period to draw 24-24, the first tie in the NFL since 2008.
Both teams missed field goals in overtime (David Akers' miss much more egregious as it came from just 41 yards out compared to Greg Zeurlein's 58-yard effort) and St. Louis had a number of miscues in the extra period.
An 80-yard pass from Sam Bradford to Danny Amendola was wiped out by penalty and a successful 53-yard field goal by Zeurlein didn't count because he took too long and was called for delay-of-game.
Amendola also had a punt return touchdown called back because of a clipping penalty, so it was a rough afternoon for him despite an awesome 11 catch, 107-yard game.
The Niners (6-2-1) and Rams (3-5-1) both blew fourth quarter leads, in keeping with the nature of the game.
The Rams were up 17-7, but allowed two touchdowns 25 seconds apart, first on a 7-yard Colin Kaepernick scramble and then on a 20-yard sweep by Frank Gore, sandwiched around a fumble by kickoff returner Isaiah Pead.
San Francisco couldn't hold a 21-17 lead however and Bradford found Austin Pettis for a short touchdown pass a few plays after a successful fake punt by St. Louis' Johnny Hekker gave them new life.
The Rams led 24-21 with just over a minute to go but Kaepernick led a quick field goal drive to send the game into overtime.
The 49ers' second-year quarterback played the majority of the game because Alex Smith suffered a concussion in the first quarter. Kaepernick didn't do much early on but was terrific in the fourth quarter and twice put the team in position to win the game, but it wasn't to be.
San Francisco will now prepare for a Monday night game at home against the Bears and it's unknown whether Smith will be able to play in the game.
Alex Smith: A-
In what turned out to unfortunately be a brief appearance, Smith completed 7-of-8 passes for 72 yards, with a touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree. He completed all five of his passes on a second quarter 12-play, 72-yard drive and it's a wonder how he did it considering he was doing it with blurry vision after suffering a concussion on the previous series.
Smith's status for the upcoming game with the fierce Bears defense will be a topic of discussion for sure.
Colin Kaepernick: B
Colin Kaepernick rebounded from a shaky start to complete 11-of-17 passes for 117 yards and ran for another 66 more on eight scrambles.
He put three really strong drives together once the team was down 17-7, leading one touchdown drive in which he completed all five of his passes and scored on a 7-yard scramble, quickly marching the team within field goal range under a minute to send the game in overtime and then moving the offense within David Akers' range once again in overtime.
Kaepernick looked more and more assured and confident as the game progressed and his accuracy improved markedly once he settled into the game. Obviously a win would've been nice, but the experience of playing in a pressure situation and largely succeeding will be invaluable for him.
Frank Gore: B
Gore had a season-high 21 carries for 97 yards and a 20-yard touchdown and added three more receptions for 18 yards, but he had some rough spots too.
His blitz pickup wasn't nearly as strong or alert as it usually is and he had too many runs for negative yards, including a costly one in overtime where he tried to make something out of nothing and cost David Akers a few yards on what would prove to be a missed attempt.
Kendall Hunter: C
Hunter had only three carries in the game for 15 yards and you have to wonder how much the injury to Alex Smith impacted his playing time. It could be that the coaching staff didn't trust him as much to play with inexperienced Colin Kaepernick as they would've with Alex Smith.
Bruce Miller: C-
Not a very strong game as a lead blocker for Miller, and he was another guy whose playing time was affected by the score and the situation.
Michael Crabtree: B+
Had a team-leading five grabs for 70 yards and a touchdown, his sixth in the last five games against the Rams. Crabtree continues to be the team's primary target on third down and he keeps finding a way to work himself open, often showing good YAC skills after the catch as well.
This is, by far, the best he's played in his pro career.
Randy Moss: C+
Caught a couple of short passes in the second half, though we never got to see Kaepernick uncork a long one to him. Didn't play as much as he should've, losing time to Kyle Williams.
Mario Manningham: C-
One big catch for 20 yards but otherwise not much for Manningham. The Niners weren't on the field very much on offense and having Kaepernick in at quarterback changed the dynamics for the passing game considerably.
Kyle Williams: C-
Had a couple of receptions, including a big one to set up the tying field goal, but almost lost a fumble in the third quarter and ran the wrong route on the final play from scrimmage in the red zone. The miscue was almost disastrous.
Vernon Davis: C
Davis had four grabs for 30 yards, including the juggling one above, but it was a bit disappointing that he couldn't bust out for any long ones against the plodding Rams safeties. Teams have been doing a good job of bottling the 49ers' star tight end up and the coaches can't seem to find a way to free him.
Delanie Walker: D
One semi-drop on a Kaepernick fastball, and not much else to note from Walker in this game.
Joe Staley: C+
The 49ers ran less to his side than they usually do and he gave up a sack to Richard Quinn. He might have been the team's best lineman on the afternoon, but that's not saying much.
Mike Iupati: C+
Gave up some pressure inside and Gore was stuffed a couple of times trying to run behind him. Iupati didn't get pancaked, but he did get pushed back a few times, uncharacteristically.
Jonathan Goodwin: D
Had some bad snap exchanges with Kaepernick and a costly holding penalty. Did not do a very good job of helping the guards out in the pass game and it was definitely a game to forget for the veteran.
Alex Boone: D+
Speaking of games to forget, Boone got beat for a pair of sacks and Michael Brockers had him for lunch. Had a couple of good trap blocks in the run game.
Anthony Davis: C
Had some terrific blocks on sweeps to his side but Chris Long got the better of him several times in pass protection. Long just has Davis' number, for whatever reason.
Justin Smith: C-
The Rams wisely ran away from him and Smith was determined enough to make several tackles from the backside, but he's just not having much impact as a pass rusher. He did help create one for Aldon Smith by sealing off the guard, but could've been called for a hold on the play.
Isaac Sopoaga: D
Was not effective in holding the point, to put it mildly. It was jarring to see him pushed around like that.
Ray McDonald: D-
A terrible game from the up-and-down McDonald. The Rams repeatedly ran his way and he was powerless to stop it. He also created little pressure and was called for a personal foul the one time he got close to Sam Bradford.
Patrick Willis: C-
Missed a couple of tackles and got bulldozed on a couple more. Willis was generally pretty strong in coverage, but he just didn't make any big plays that we've become accustomed to seeing.
NaVorro Bowman: B
Not his best game in coverage but led the team with 13 tackles, many of them at the second or third level after the front line got gashed.
Aldon Smith: A-
Two more sacks to give him a team-leading 9.5 and a nice show of effort to chase down Daryl Richardson well down the field with a diving tackle. Smith may never be a complete linebacker, but he's pretty consistent as a guy who will make a play or two every game.
Ahmad Brooks: B-
Knocked down a hat trick of passes and almost had an interception in overtime. However, he didn't do a very good job of containing the edge and the Rams ran his way quite a bit.
Carlos Rogers: D
Got roasted all game by Danny Amendola, and almost was responsible for losing the game in overtime, but an 80-yard completion got called back due to an illegal formation penalty. Rogers has usually been a good tackler for the 49ers, but he had a couple of embarrassing efforts in this game, harking back his reputation as a soft player with Washington.
Tarell Brown: C-
Also gave up his share of completions to Amendola and a couple against other guys as well. Brown had one of his best games against Arizona a couple Mondays ago, but he was pretty poor in this one.
Chris Culliver: C-
One terrible play in the first quarter in which he slipped on a jam effort and allowed a touchdown to Rams rookie Brian Quick, and some soft tackling against Steven Jackson for the usually physical Culliver. He probably had the best moments in coverage of any of the corners, but again, that's damning with faint praise.
Donte Whitner: D-
One of the worst games of Whitner's career, with only the one against Dallas last season immediately coming to mind as competition. Dropped another interception, though it wouldn't have counted anyway. Allowed a touchdown to Austin Pettis and a few other big completions and generally wasn't close to his man.
Dashon Goldson: C-
Had a third down break up in the game and some forceful tackles, but also another dumb unsportsmanlike penalty. Goldson just can't seem to control himself.
David Akers: D
Made a 33-yarder to send the game into overtime and had good depth on his kickoffs, but you just can't miss a 41-yard field goal in overtime.
Andy Lee: B-
Pinned the Rams deep in their own territory three times but had a couple of bad punts wiped out by penalty.
Brian Jennings: B-
One rare bad snap, but Lee managed to catch it and get it off.
Ted Ginn: C
Averaged 23.6 yards on five kickoff returns and 11.5 on a pair of punt returns. The usually surehanded Ginn had one fumble but it rolled out of bounds.
Credit has to go Jim Harbaugh and his fellow offensive coaches for not panicking after young backup QB Colin Kaepernick struggled early on in relief of an injured Alex Smith. Instead of resorting to gimmick plays or relying on Kaepernick to play exclusively out of the pistol formation, they stuck with their game plan and trusted their second-year quarterback to settle into the offense.
Kaepernick was terrific in the fourth quarter and calm despite being thrown into some hairy situations like trailing by multiple scores or having to lead a field goal drive with just a minute to go.
Unfortunately, that's where the plaudits must end for the coaches.
The defense was terrible and failed to make any significant adjustments to slow down Sam Bradford in any meaningful way. Usually the 49ers have safeties over the top to discourage any deep throws, but their safeties were repeatedly late in this game, for whatever reason.
Even worse, special teams coordinator Brad Seely's guys were burned not once but twice by fake punts. You know the saying, "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice..."