Banged up 49ers lose big to Rams

It was an ugly, ugly day for the 49ers Sunday in St. Louis.

The 49ers' struggles continued. For the second straight week, the league's lowest-ranked offense failed to score a touchdown, while the team fell to the Rams, 27-6.

Without Carlos Hyde and Anquan Boldin, who were out with injuries, San Francisco managed 189 yards of offense, converting three of 17 third downs. Colin Kaepernick threw for 162 yards on 20 of 41 completions, adding 28 yards rushing on six attempts.

The running game without Hyde was abysmal. The team's running backs combined for 10 yards on 15 carries. Reggie Bush left the game in the first quarter, leaving rookies Mike Davis and Kendall Gaskins as the only healthy options.

Early in the third quarter, the 49ers announced Davis (hand) and Bush (knee) would not return to the game, leaving Gaskins as the only healthy available halfback. He finished with six yards on five runs after getting promoted from the practice squad Saturday.

The 49ers defense started the game up to the task. Running back Todd Gurley struggled to find a rhythm early, but gave the home team a 10-3 lead with a 71-yard touchdown burst up the middle, perfectly blocked by the Rams, where he went untouched. Gurley notched 133 yards on 20  carries.

At the end of the half, the Rams got to San Francisco's 3-yard line on a 49-yard catch and run to tight end Jared Cook. Moments later, Tavon Austin scored on a two-yard jet sweep to the right side, making it a 20-6 game. Austin scored his second touchdown when he took a bubble screen 66 yards through the middle of the 49ers' defense, making it 27-6.

San Francisco had its first touchdown since Oct. 18 against the Ravens called back in the third quarter, when outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks was called for a facemask penalty before recovering Benny Cunningham's fumble and returning it 41 yards for the score. Instead, it was the 49ers' 11th penalty, giving the ball back to St. Louis.

The 49ers got on the board first with a 54-yard field goal from Phil Dawson on the first drive of the game. Kaepernick completed three of four for 28 yards, adding 11 yards on two carries. His three completions went to three different receivers as San Francisco tried to push the tempo on St. Louis’ talented defense.

Toward the end of the half, the 49ers marched deep in St. Louis' territory, highlighted by a 33-yard sliding grab by Quinton Patton along the right sideline on one of Kaepernick's best throws of the day. But the 49ers were unable to come up with a touchdown after a pair of short completions to Vernon Davis and a dropped pass on third down by fullback Bruce Miller. Dawson's 26-yard field goal made it 13-6.

The ugly affair was littered with penalty flags, as the teams combined for 25 accepted penalties for 186 yards. The 49ers lost punter Bradley Pinion to a calf injury in the second half, leaving Dawson to handle the punting duties.

The Rams’ first points came on a safety with 4:29 remaining in the opening quarter. The 49ers were backed up on their 3-yard line following a disastrous punt return in which they were flagged for three penalties: two blocks in the back and a personal foul for unsportsmanlike conduct when Boldin got into an altercation with a Rams player along the sideline.

On that punt return, Bush slid into the wall on the perimeter of the field and had to be carted off with an apparent knee injury and was later ruled out.

San Francisco dialed up three running plays, including one on third down, but defensive tackle Michael Brockers pushed center Marcus Martin into the backfield, allowing James Laurinaitis to swallow up Davis in the end zone.
The Rams offense converted just one of 11 third downs, but still managed 388 total yards thanks to big plays from Gurley and Austin. Nick Foles completed 14 of 23 for 191 yards and score, without throwing an interception. Austin paced St. Louis with four catches for 98 yards.

St. Louis made it a 13-3 game after Greg Zuerlein's 38-yard field goal with 6:56 left in the half.

In addition to Bush, tight end Garrett Celek left the game to get evaluated for a concussion. Cornerback Kenneth Acker momentarily left the game late in the second quarter after colliding with safety Eric Reid on Cook's long completion. Keith Reaser left the game in the second half with an ankle injury.

Receiver Jerome Simpson, playing in his first game since 2013, led the 49ers with three catches for 34 yards. He started the year with a six-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

The 49ers, 2-6, host the Atlanta Falcons next week at Levi's Stadium before the bye week. The Rams improved to 4-3.


Chris Biderman is the Editor-in-Chief of Niners Digest and covers the 49ers from their headquarters in Santa Clara. Chris has been writing about the team since the spring of 2013. The Ohio State alum received his Journalism degree in 2011 and has been working in sports media since 2008. Chris, a Santa Rosa, Calif. native, is also a contributor to the Associated Press covering sports throughout the Bay Area. You can follow Chris on Twitter here.

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