ST. LOUIS -- One thing the St. Louis Rams do not have is a quarterback controversy. They've been shut out twice -- once with Marc Bulger taking the snaps and again on Sunday with Kyle Boller getting the start.
The winless Rams (0-4) have been outscored 108-24 and are making far too many mistakes under a rookie coach that has stressed fundamentals from Day 1, committing three turnovers that produced touchdowns for the 49ers in a 35-0 whitewash Sunday. Steve Spagnuolo told the team Monday, as he has every week, to separate the upcoming game against Minnesota from the past failures of a franchise that has an NFL-worst 14-game losing streak and overall 5-31 record since 2007.
"It's going to sound like a broken record, but it's not going to change," Spagnuolo said. "Once we start winning, it's not going to change then, either.
"I don't know any other way to do it."
True to those words, Spagnuolo said offensive tackle Alex Barron would likely be back in the lineup this week. Barron, a first-round pick in 2005, was benched near the end of the half after getting penalized for lining up behind the line of scrimmage.
Spagnuolo didn't say what else prompted the benching. He spoke with Barron on Monday and reminded him of the team's expectations for a player who was supposed to become the dominant tackle after Orlando Pace left.
"I have my reasons for what I did, and they've been expressed to the team as well as Alex," Spagnuolo said. "Just like I told Alex, it's over, it's done, we move on."
Bulger did some light throwing Monday, testing a bruised rotator cuff, and Spagnuolo said he'd probably be questionable for this week's game against the Vikings.
"That's a long way away from a week ago when he couldn't really throw at all, but that's a tough call," Spagnuolo said. "I think we'll rest it and see what he can do on Wednesday."
Boller made his first start since December 2007 and was ineffective, going 13 of 24 for 108 yards and an interception that was returned for a touchdown while leading an offense that produced only 177 yards. Boller said he was trying too hard to make a play when he made an ill-advised throw on the run that Patrick Willis returned 23 yards for a score that put the 49ers ahead 21-0 in the third quarter.
"I've been in this league long enough to know you never want to throw the ball across your body like that," Boller said. "It's hard not to try and make a play, but at the same time I can't do that."
The Rams played well enough on defense, but not nearly well enough to overcome the painful giveaways and mistakes like Anthony Smith's holding call well behind the play on the opening kickoff that negated Danny Amendola's 92-yard return to the 49ers' 3.
"That's what's killing us," safety O.J. Atogwe said. "We just have to be more disciplined. Everything that happened, there's nothing that we cannot get corrected."
The Rams are hoping that offensive tackle Jason Smith, the second overall pick of the draft, can return after missing two games with a sprained left knee. That's also the case with cornerback Ron Bartell, out Sunday with a thigh injury and day to day this week.
Safety Craig Dahl, who started in place of injured James Butler (knee), sustained a concussion and will undergo testing Tuesday.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press