The Big Play

The situation: Twelve minutes, 46 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the Rams leading 13-6, and the 49ers facing a third-and-5 play at the St. Louis 19-yard line.

The San Francisco defense had been keeping the 49ers in the game all day long, and that defense put its offensive counterparts in prime position after defensive end John Engelberger sacked Rams quarterback Chris Chandler on the next-to-last play of the third quarter, forcing a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Jamie Winborn at the St. Louis 36-yard line.

Trailing by a touchdown, the Niners handed the ball three consecutive times to tailback Kevan Barlow to get another first down at the St. Louis 24.

But the next two plays produced only a five-yard penalty on the Rams, and Niners quarterback Tim Rattay dropped back to pass on third down.

Rattay took a quick three-step drop and looked for wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, who had slipped behind St. Louis cornerback Jerametrius Butler.

But Lloyd failed to turn the pattern in as Rattay delivered the ball.

"It was a slant route," 49ers coach Dennis Erickson said. "I think on the route, there was some miscommunication. Brandon should have brought it underneath, and he took it over the top, and the guy undercut him."

As the ball arrived, Butler leaped in front of Lloyd and made a fine two-handed grab of the ball as he spread in the air at the St. Louis 8.

"(Lloyd) beat him, and he just didn't take it where he was supposed to take it," Erickson said. "It was a miscommunication between the quarterback and the receiver."

It also was Rattay's 10th interception in nine starts this season, and the sixth consecutive game in which he has had a pivotal turnover in the fourth quarter.

The Rams immediately took advantage, burning almost six minutes off the clock while driving 60 yards on 10 plays to Jeff Wilkins' game-clinching 52-yard field goal with 6:48 remaining to play.

"We couldn't make a play on third-and-5, we throw an interception, and then they go down and kick a field goal," Erickson lamented. "That was the difference in the football game. I thought we had it where we wanted, and we just didn't execute."


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