TOP 20 GAMES OF 2012


Game 18: Rams at 49ers Week 10

… Like Kissing Your Sister

Tie goes to the ... nobody.

Well, that's what we've been led to believe, at least when it comes to pro football. No one wins and we all go closure-less.

Not exactly.

When the St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers played to a stalemate last November, we got one heckuva football game, complete with hard hitting, clutch defense and two successful fake punts.

Yes, this was the first NFL tie since Donovan McNabb learned ties exist back in 2008 (Philadelphia Eagles 13, Cincinnati Bengals 13). But really, there's so much more to the story of Rams-49ers Week 10 than just the oddity of a draw.

Start with the fact that this innocent midseason game marked the emergence of Colin Kaepernick. The former Nevada star made quite a few headlines in the postseason, tearing up the Green Bay Packers for 181 yards on the ground and guiding the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII. Yet those headlines might never have come had the Rams not knocked Alex Smith from this game with a concussion.

Colin Kaepernick eludes Robert Quinn before attempting a pass. Plays like this were the first glimpse of what Kaepernick would do on his run to Super Bowl XLVII with the 49ers.

It didn't take long for Kaepernick to make his presence felt. On his very first play from scrimmage, he ran for 10 yards on first down. In fact, he would hurt the Rams on first down all day, as St. Louis struggled to account for his dual-threat abilities. Kaepernick, who took over midway through the second quarter, ended up completing 11 of his 17 passes for 117 yards, while rushing eight times for 66 yards and a touchdown. Fittingly, that scoring scamper came on first down. It was a down he'd dominate throughout the entire back half of the schedule.

Best Passers on first Down – 2012 Season (Min. 100 Attempts)
Comp pct. TD-INT Yds per Att Passer Rating
Peyton Manning, DEN 71.6 16-5 8.43 111.5
Robert Griffin III, WAS 66.5 7-1 9.79 110.4
Colin Kaepernick, SF* 67.3 6-2 8.68 105.9
Aaron Rodgers, GB 70.2 15-4 6.74 105.5
Russell Wilson, SEA 64.3 10-4 8.33 102.3
* Also averaged 8.7 yards per rush on first down (highest in NFL, min. 20 att.)

Another enticing subplot of this contest was the rekindling of an old NFL rivalry -- a largely forgotten won. This tie in Candlestick inspired confidence in Jeff Fisher's group, so it was not a huge surprise when the Rams upset the 49ers in St. Louis three weeks later. When you consider the young talent on both defenses -- as well as at quarterback, with Kaepernick and Sam Bradford -- you start to see a matchup that should be both physical and closely contested in the coming years. This speaks to the Rams' emergence in Fisher's first year on the job. St. Louis surprised many folks in 2012, going 7-8-1 with an impressive 4-1-1 record in the division (which also included a win over the 11-5 Seattle Seahawks).

The potential displayed in our No. 18 game of 2012 has carried over to this season, with many people wondering aloud if the NFC West could produce three playoff teams.

Funny to think that the Seahawks won this division with a losing record just three seasons ago. Man, how things have changed in the NFC West.

Steven Jackson rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown in the hard-fought contest, but his efforts couldn't net the Rams a win.

Fundamentals: The Rams got on the board early in this game because 49ers corner Chris Culliver couldn't stick the jam. If you're going to press at the line, it's best you get your hands on the receiver, i.e., re-route him. In this case, the target was Rams wideout Brian Quick. Culliver failed – miserably -- on this first-quarter touchdown pass, falling over and leaving Quick wide open down the right sideline. Safety help was late, and the Rams were on the board early.

Play of the Game: That Jeff Fisher doesn't mind taking some chances on special teams, does he? Anyone who walks upright on planet Earth and pays even passing attention to pro football has seen this play.

That was a Jeff Fisher production.

But how about successfully running two fake punts in the same game? The second was a thing of beauty. On fourth-and-eight from his own 33, Fisher asked special teams coach John Fassel for a fake. He got a beauty. Punter Johnny Hekker took the snap, faked a handoff, rolled out and lofted a nice throw to Lance Kendricks for 19 yards and a first down. What was key is that it came with just 5:23 to play, and the Rams trailing 21-17.

"That punter was a quarterback at Oregon State, and we were well aware that he could throw the ball pretty darn good," Jim Harbaugh told the San Jose Mercury News. "He ran the scout team at Oregon State. That was good execution on their part."

Put another way: Fake punts are cool.

Boneheaded Moment of the Day I: This game almost came to a close in the opening seconds of overtime. On the first OT play from scrimmage, Sam Bradford launched a deep ball down the right sideline that Danny Amendola caught in stride and took inside the Niners' 5-yard line.

Just one problem.

The tight end on the left side of the formation was lined up off the line, meaning the wideout on that side (Brandon Gibson) needed to be on it. He wasn't. Illegal formation. Bring it back.

Brain farts 1, Rams 0.

Boneheaded Moment of the Day II: The Rams had seemingly won the game – again -- when Greg Zuerlein drilled a 53-yarder with 2:48 left in OT. No dice. Delay of game. Fisher went for the game again, confident that Zuerlein can boom it, even from 58. Unfortunately, “Legatron” pushed it right.

Let's back up, though. How do you get a delay of game in that spot!? It was fourth-and-4. Sure, if your kicker can't make it from over 50, there might be some indecision. But this kid had already nailed five from that distance in 2012 alone! Come on. Get out, get set and kick the damn ball.

Brain farts 2, Rams 0

Historical Symmetry: In case you were wondering, the 49ers and Rams have tied twice before in their 63 seasons of facing each other.

Interestingly enough, the first came in 1954, a 24-all game that featured over 800 yards of offense. Just like the 49ers in 2012, the Rams made it to the NFL championship that year, but lost to the Cleveland Browns … who are now in the AFC North … just like the Baltimore Ravens … who beat the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. Just saying.

Why This Game is No. 18: Had this game not ended in a tie, Rams-Niners Week 10 would have easily hopped into the top 10.

The butterfly effect has been laid out, but even without Kaepernick's rise to stardom and the Rams' rise to competitiveness, this was a good watch on its own merits. Rams at 49ers on grass is a cool uni matchup, with a touch of history. Ultimately, Game 18 came down to the wire, and despite the fact that the wire didn't produce a winner or loser, this was still one of the season's top contests.

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