And no, this isn’t a recap of a little league soccer matchup.
Unbeknownst even to certain players, NFL games can indeed conclude without a winner and a loser. That’s exactly what took place on Sunday when the Rams and 49ers watched in bewilderment as the clock read 0:00 and the scoreboard, 24-24.
“I’ve never heard of a tie in football,” said 49ers free safety Dashon Goldson (via CSN Bay Area).
Nor had a baffled multitude of fans of both teams, either—we’d venture to say.
In any event, San Francisco now sports one of those odd three-digit records. It’s 6-2-1 and remains in first place in the NFC West. St. Louis is 3-5-1 and stuck in last.
But the 49ers must have really felt as if an episode of the NFL Twilight Zone was playing out in front of their eyes—well before the unheralded result came to pass.
They witnessed two first-down conversions via punters turning into Peyton Manning-like quarterbacks. The second sustained the Rams’ go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth.
The 49ers also saw their special teams—a unit that sustained their NFL livelihoods in 2011—fail them even further during this game. David Akers shockingly pushed a 41-yard game-winning field goal wide left in overtime.
Similarly, Vic Fangio’s corps allowed 100 yards and a touchdown to another individual runner this season. Steven Jackson went for 101 and put the Rams up 14-0 in the first. This fortress of a defense didn’t give up 100 yards to a single running back until Week 16 of last year.
Furthermore, the diminutive, yet blazing Danny Amendola torched San Francisco’s defense for 11 receptions (12 targets), 106 yards and way too many game-changing first downs. He played all of one game last season and certainly none against the 49ers. CB Carlos Rogers wishes things would have remained that way.
Unlike the unfortunate irony associated with the year-to-year special teams play, a more in-game reversal of fortunes occurred on Sunday for the 49ers as well.
Both DE Ray McDonald and Dashon Goldson committed 15-yard penalties that aided scoring drives for the Rams. Mac’s led to a TD, while the free safety’s infraction placed St. Louis in position for a field goal and 17-7 lead.
Fortunately, an aspect of the game that hurt San Francisco so much early on actually maintained its collective heartbeat in times of imminent demise.
An illegal formation wiped out an 80-yard bomb to Amendola at the start of overtime. The Rams would have been just a few feet away from the end zone. They later failed to snap the ball before the play clock ran out, causing a delay of game and one of those, “Hey-pretend-that-you-just-didn’t-win-the-game” looks from coach to kicker.
Penalties transformed from detriment to benefit (and vice versa) in a span of a few quarters. The Rams took advantage of their opponent’s mistakes early on, while the 49ers did so in the opposite sense.
Yet, neither team came out on top when teams are generally supposed to. Both scratched their heads with incredulous contempt at a 24-24 final score.
So how will this result affect the 49ers moving forward?
It ultimately comes down to a man who watched the better part of this game through a lens much zanier than any of ours.
Starting quarterback Alex Smith suffered a concussion on the same series with which he hit Michael Crabtree for the 49ers’ first touchdown. He soon left the game because he couldn’t watch the action in ways that humans with normal brain functioning do.
Colin Kaepernick came in relief the rest of the way. He both directly produced and helped facilitate scoring drives that mitigated the deficit, tied the game and put San Francisco ahead. It was truly a courageous performance by the second-year pro.
However, say what you want about the incumbent, but Smith is one of the fundamental cogs that brings cohesion to this offense. He runs Jim Harbaugh’s offense in the way it’s meant to be run.
Kaepernick is the raw physical stud holding a learner’s permit for a bright future. Smith is the guaranteed product with the license to win in the here and now.
Let’s hope for clearer mindsets and less nebulous outcomes.
Or concussion-less brains and scores that dictate more than just equality.
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