ST. LOUIS (AP) — Jeff Fisher apologized for predicting an entirely different game after the St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers went to overtime for the second time in three weeks.
No apology necessary after the Rams bounded off the field in a mood to celebrate instead of tying again.
“Wow,” Fisher said after rookie Greg Zuerlein kicked a 54-yard field goal with 26 seconds to go in overtime for a 16-13 victory on Sunday. “That’s the case of guys just hanging in there. Guys making plays.”
Zuerlien’s 53-yarder at the end of regulation forced another extra period for teams that tied 24-24 in San Francisco on Nov. 11. In overtime, the Rams let the play clock run down instead of trying to get closer on fourth-and-inches from the 36, making sure the 49ers wouldn’t have much time if Zuerlein missed. They needn’t have worried. He split the uprights.
The last time the same teams tied twice in a season was in 1963, in games between the Eagles and Steelers. The last time teams had two ties in a season was in 1973 when it happened to four teams.
Zuerlein is 7 for 11 from midfield and beyond, but this was his first game-winner. Before the field goal that forced overtime, he had been in a 3-for-7 slump.
“I was visualizing the hold and the kick, not much else,” Zuerlein said. “Just run that through your head a few times and picture yourself winning the game.”
The Rams (5-6-1) scored twice in the final 3:04 of regulation to climb back into it after the 49ers (8-3-1) dominated most of the game. The breakthrough play was rookie Janoris Jenkins’ 2-yard fumble return for touchdown after an ill-advised pitch from Colin Kaepernick in the general direction of Ted Ginn Jr., which combined with a 2-point conversion pass from Sam Bradford to Lance Kendricks tied it at 10.
“I thought it was an opportunity for us to make a play,” Kaepernick said. “I saw their defense coming, I saw the blitz. I thought if I got it to Ted he’d be around the corner for a big play, but at that point in the game you have to play it safe and protect the ball.”
Kaepernick also gave up a safety in the third quarter that cut the 49ers’ lead to 10-2 when he was penalized for intentional grounding passing out of the end zone while under pressure from middle linebacker James Laurinaitis. Referee Carl Cheffers threw the flag after consulting with other officials and said after the game the penalty was warranted because the pass did not cross the line of scrimmage.
49ers coach Jim Harbaugh blamed the coaching staff for calling the pitchout and indicated strongly that Kaepernick would grow from adversity and get his fourth straight start next week at home against Miami.
“I’ll let you know if there’s a change, but right now I think it’ll be the same as it was this week,” Harbaugh said. “I’m proud of Kap, proud of the way he played.”
The 49ers couldn’t capitalize on a 14-yard punt by rookie Johnny Hekker to midfield when David Akers was barely wide right on a 51-yard attempt with 4:11 to go in overtime. Akers is just 7 for 15 from 40 yards and beyond and refused to use a nagging pelvis injury as an excuse.
“I don’t put anything on injuries,” Akers said. “I should have made it.”
The first 49ers-Rams meeting was the NFL’s first tie in four seasons, and was more wide open with both teams missing chances to end it in overtime. Fisher bristled during the practice week that the tie was a wakeup call for the 49ers.
Most of the rematch was a defensive struggle, with the Rams totaling 293 yards even with the extra period and the 49ers at 339 yards.
Neither team had any success running the ball. The 49ers’ Frank Gore was held to 58 yards on 23 carries for a 2.5-yard average with a 1-yard scoring run in the first quarter and the Rams’ Steven Jackson had 48 yards on 21 carries for a 2.3-yard average against the No. 2 rush defense.
Akers’ 33-yard field goal put the 49ers ahead with 1:38 remaining, a score set up by Kaepernick’s 50-yard carry on a rollout. It left just enough time for Sam Bradford to guide the Rams 45 yards in seven plays.
The 49ers led 7-0 at halftime after cashing in on their only nice drive with Gore’s 1-yard run late in the first quarter. Zuerlein had the distance on a 58-yard attempt with 25 seconds to go in the first half, but was well wide to the right.
The Rams wore retro jerseys from their 1999 championship season, featuring yellow numbers and striping, and marked the franchise’s 75th anniversary. Several former players were introduced at halftime with fan favorites who played in St. Louis such as Isaac Bruce and Todd Lyght getting the strongest ovations.
NOTES: 49ers wide receiver Mario Manningham (shoulder) did not return after getting hurt in the fourth quarter. Harbaugh said the team “won’t know right away” about the severity of the injury. … Aldon Smith’s sack late in the first half gave him an NFL-best 31 1/2 in his first two seasons, a half-sack better than Reggie White in 1985-96. … Hekker had a season-high nine punts for a 43.1-yard average and 42.4-yard net, often getting a favorable roll on directional efforts that looked ugly.