When 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh this week called the Rams “a salty opponent,” it seemed like classic coachspeak.
But Harbaugh knew what he was talking about.
St. Louis pulled off a 13-10 shocker over the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium Sunday, with the game decided with two seconds remaining on a ruling that Colin Kaepernick fumbled the ball on a quarterback sneak from the Rams’ 1.
St. Louis recovered and secured the victory.
The Niners went into Sunday’s NFC West matchup with St. Louis as a decided favorite. San Francisco was walloped by Denver in its last game on Oct. 19, but had a bye week to recover and heal. Plus, the 49ers had whipped the Rams in St. Louis back on Oct. 13, 31-17, when quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw for 343 yards, three touchdowns and was not sacked once.
Now the 49ers had the very injury-depleted Rams at their place.
No matter how “salty” the 2-5 Rams might be, it appeared they’d be no match for the 4-3 49ers.
This time, however, the 49ers offense could never establish any offensive consistency. Though the 49ers' defense lived up to its billing -- allowing just 193 total yards -- the offense didn't do its part.
Kaepernick completed 22-of-33 passes for 237 yards and a TD, but he was sacked a career-high eight times and constantly under pressure.
Throughout the game, the 49ers offense stalled. Penalties, sacks and mistakes doomed the Niners’ offense. They couldn't sustain drives. The 49ers scored on a TD pass to Anquan Boldin late in the first half and cashed in a field goal by Phil Dawson, but that was it.
After the Rams took a 13-10 lead with 5:25 remaining on a 39-yard field goal, the 49ers finally came to life with 3:11 remaining, driving from their own 12 to the Rams’ 1.
But on the decisive play, Kaepernick mishandled the snap from new center Marcus Martin – making his first start because of the season-ending injury to Daniel Kilgore. Though Kaepernick continued to drive through a hole in the Rams defensive line and at first appeared to cross the goal line, the ball was lost in the pile and recovered by St. Louis.
After a long review the replay officials upheld the ruling, and the 49ers lost the game and dropped to 4-4 this season – a crucial loss in their battle with the Seattle Seahawks (now 5-3) to remain in second place in the NFC West.
Now the 49ers have a tough assignment, going on the road next Sunday to face Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.