Horror show at The Monster

The 49ers sank further and further into ignominy Sunday night before they finally could lift themselves from the hole that has swallowed them the past two weeks. But a late spurt of offensive life came way too late to give them a chance to beat the St. Louis Rams, or avert a second consecutive horrid performance.

Horrid, at least, unless you count the final quarter, when the 49ers assembled two touchdown drives to put a finishing touch of respectability on a 24-14 loss that dropped them to 0-4 for the first time since 1979.

But that fourth quarter really doesn't count in assessing another dismal San Francisco effort. And anybody who saw this game from start to finish at San Francisco's newly-renamed Monster Park knows those two final touchdowns didn't come close to making it a respectable effort.

"It's very embarrassing, it's frustrating," said Niners running back Kevan Barlow, who was limited to just 42 yards rushing on 15 carries. "I don't know what else to say."

The 49ers picked up Sunday right where they left off after last week's 34-0 loss in Seattle. Needless to say, that wasn't a good thing. By the time the Niners trotted off the field at halftime to a thunderous chorus of boos from their home fans, the Rams led 24-0 and had a whopping 251-82 advantage in total yardage, San Francisco's defense had been on the field more than 20 minutes and the Niners had turned the ball over twice.

The game was virtually over at that point, and the Rams seemed to play it that way in the second half, playing just to get out of San Francisco with a victory they already had secured by dominating the first two quarters. St. Louis had just six of its 24 first downs after halftime and produced 109 yards of offense in the final two quarters.

But the damage already had been done.

"We planned to come out and do what we do, but it always backfires in our face," said Niners fullback Fred Beasley.

It didn't at first. The Niners took the opening kickoff and drove smartly down the field, reaching the St. Louis 26-yard line and getting the crowd into the game while giving a national Sunday night television audience some early signs of life for a team that was shut out last week for the first time since 1977.

But quarterback Tim Rattay was sacked on third down, pushing the ball back to the 30, and then the Niners opted to punt instead of attempting a field goal into the wind. Jimmy Williams got underneath Andy Lee's high punt before it fell inside the 5-yard line, but the ball bounced right past him into the end zone for a touchback and a net of 10 yards.

The Rams took the ball at their 20, and the game steadily went downhill from there for the 49ers.

The Rams methodically drove 80 yards in 14 plays for a touchdown. On San Francisco's next offensive play, Rattay fumbled as he was hit by linebacker Tommy Polley. The Rams recovered at the San Francisco 11 and were in the end zone two plays later for a sudden 14-0 lead.

Rattay was intercepted on San Francisco's next possession, leading to a short Jeff Wilkins field goal and a 17-0 St. Louis lead. It was 24-0 at halftime after the Rams drove 91 yards for another touchdown. The Rams had three touchdowns and a field goal to show for their four first-half possessions.

The Niners, meanwhile, had zilch.

"We did the same things we did last week," Niners coach Dennis Erickson said. "We turned the ball over. We got sacked. We had chances to get plays on defense and didn't." At halftime, the 49ers found themselves in rare territory. It was the first time in San Francisco's 59-year history that the Niners ever had trailed by 24 or more points at halftime two weeks in a row.

It didn't get much better in the third quarter, which ended with the Niners stretching their scoreless streak to seven consecutive quarters, tying a team record from 1974.

"It's tough," Rattay said. "It burns you. No one here is used to losing. This organization isn't. We've just got to get better. We've got to get it fixed. We've got to fix the things that we are doing badly and turn this thing around."

Of course, that's what the Niners were saying last week, too, after their disaster in Seattle. Things didn't appear too fixed Sunday night.

But the offense was able to avert another shutout, actually assembling three nice drives in the final quarter.

The first – the conclusion of a drive that began in the third quarter – ended with Rattay's 9-yard scoring pass to Curtis Conway. San Francisco drove from its own 23 to the St. Louis 2 on its next possession, but Terry Jackson was stopped on fourth down after taking a pass from Rattay in the flat.

With the stands all but empty, Rattay connected with rookie Rashaun Woods on an 18-yard scoring pass with 23 seconds remaining to complete a 54-yard drive and leave the casual scoreboard watcher with a final appearance that the Niners actually made a game of this one.

They didn't.

"We're 0-4," Beasley said. "Even when we had our down years, I don't think we ever started out at 0-4. I've been here through the good and the bad, and I know all we can do is keep fighting. But it hurts because we know we're so much better than what we're showing on the field, especially against a team like the Rams."


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