The St. Louis Rams had a good November run to get themselves back into the NFL playoff conversation. The problem Sunday was that the calendar turned to December. The Rams came out flat, sputtering on offense and committing drive-enabling penalties that allowed the San Francisco 49ers to build a 13 point lead that they would never relinquish.
St. Louis committed 11 penalties on Sunday, reverting to their early season form. At least five of them in the first half contributed to keeping alive 49er scoring drives. The offense, already facing a stiff challenge against San Francisco's stout defense, repeatedly shot themselves in the foot with key drops that prevented any kind of sustained drives. By the time the Rams finally reached the end zone in the fourth quarter, the game was already well out of hand.
The penalties weren't the only thing plaguing the defense. Once again, Rams' DBs showed their inexperience, allowing Anquan Boldin to roam the field virtually unchecked. Boldin finished with nine catches for 98 yards. Tight end Vernon Davis also had his way with the Rams young linebackers and safeties.
Even so, thanks to a tremendous effort from the front four, the Rams were still in the game in the fourth quarter. The Rams sacked Colin Kaepernick four times and kept RB Frank Gore under control, holding him to just 42 yards on 15 carries.
The back-breaker came when the Rams, trailing 16-6, elected to try a fake punt deep in their own territory. When the Niners' rush disrupted a planned reverse to Stedman Bailey, it forced Matt Giordano to eat the football, giving the Niners possession inside the Rams' 30 yard line. Kaepernick then hit Vernon Davis for an 18 yard score that sealed the Rams' fate.
The loss sends the Rams to 5-7. Though still mathematically alive for the playoffs, realistically, any hopes of the post season perished Sunday in San Francisco.
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