Record-setting Bruce knew what he was doing

San Francisco 49ers receiver Isaac Bruce did not try to hide his thoughts after Sunday's game. He admitted to knowing exactly what he needed to reach two milestones against the St. Louis Rams, the team for which he played his first 14 NFL seasons.

Bruce became the fifth player in NFL history to reach 1,000 career receptions. He also moved past Tim Brown for second place on the league's all-time list for receiving yards. And those catches and yards did not go to waste, either.

Bruce's 1,000th catch was a 3-yard touchdown grab that brought the 49ers within striking range late in the fourth quarter. Later, he caught an 8-yard pass that set the stage for the game-winning touchdown pass, which rookie Josh Morgan hauled in. The 49ers defeated the Rams 17-16 at the Edward Jones Dome.

"For the fans' sake, (it was important) to be done here in St. Louis because they saw so many of the catches," said Bruce, who received warm receptions from the crowd throughout the game. "It's the lineage of great wide receivers who have come through the 49ers and Rams. It's big - big for the city, big for both organizations."

San Francisco coach Mike Singletary called on Bruce in the post-game locker room. His 49ers teammates greeted him with cheers of "Bruuuuuce!" Some were pleading for the taciturn receiver to speak. Bruce merely nodded in appreciation.

"Whatever Isaac is drinking, you need to figure out what it is because it's good stuff," Singletary told the team.

Bruce last week was named the winner of the Len Eshmont Award for inspirational and courageous play in a vote of his teammates. It is considered the 49ers' most prestigious team honor. Bruce leads the 49ers with 59 catches for 827 yards and seven touchdowns.

"He just keeps coming week-in and week-out," Singletary said. "He is the consummate pro. I'm very happy he is with us, and continues to show his leadership."

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Running back Frank Gore, who needs just 22 yards to become the first player in franchise history to rush for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons, tried desperately to play Sunday. He tested his sprained left ankle in a workout prior to Sunday's game. But he experienced too much pain.

Gore is expected to try to get those yards this weekend when the 49ers finish the season at home against the Washington Redskins. Veteran DeShaun Foster started in Gore's place against the Rams. Foster gained just 36 yards on 12 carries. Foster also caught two passes for 17 yards.

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The 49ers got big contributions in the final 90 seconds of Sunday's game from two youngsters. Rookie receiver Josh Morgan made the game-winning 48-yard touchdown catch, and second-year cornerback Tarell Brown clinched the victory with an interception.

Brown said he was expecting Rams rookie receiver Donnie Avery to run an "out" pattern, and he was ready in the final minute when St. Louis was looking to get into field-goal range for a chance at a winning kick.

"I feel like every time I step on the field I want to make a big play, and that's what I try to do," Brown said. "I don't think it's a big deal. We won the game, and to me, that's the most important thing."

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Niners radio play-by-play announcer Joe Starkey, the voice of the team for two decades, will call his final game with the organization on Sunday.

Last Sunday, Rams coach Jim Haslett made his way up to the broadcast booth to personally congratulate Starkey on his retirement.

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PLAYER NOTES

--- S Michael Lewis tied for team-high honors against the Rams with 13 tackles, including two for losses. He also broke up two passes in an outstanding effort.

--- OLB Parys Haralson added to his team-high total in sacks. Haralson now has eight sacks for the season. If he can record two sacks in the final game, he will become the first 49ers player to record double-digit sacks since Andre Carter in 2002.

--- QB Shaun Hill saw his passer rating take a dip with his three-interception performance. However, Hill managed to earn his first come-from-behind victory as a starter, as he threw two touchdown passes in the final four minutes for a 17-16 victory over the Rams. Hill has thrown 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions for the season. His passer rating is 87.1.

--- WR Bryant Johnson caught four passes for 60 yards. Johnson has caught 28 of his 43 passes in the 7½ games in which Shaun Hill has been at quarterback. Johnson battled some early-season injuries when J.T. O'Sullivan was the starting quarterback.

--- RT Barry Sims started Sunday's game in place of Adam Snyder, who sustained an ankle sprain against the Dolphins in the previous week. It was Sims' seventh start of the season.

REPORT CARD VS. RAMS

PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Shaun Hill had his worst game for three-and-a-half quarters before turning it into his best moment as a starting quarterback. Hill made some ill-advised throws, leading to three interceptions. He nearly got benched but convinced coach Mike Singletary to give him another chance. Hill made the most of it with two touchdown passes in the final four minutes, including a 48-yarder to Josh Morgan with 1:22 remaining for the winning points.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- DeShaun Foster did not have much going on, as he made his second start of the season in place of injured Frank Gore. Foster carried just 12 times for 36 yards. Hill was the 49ers' leading rusher, as he took off running four times for 45 yards on designed pass plays.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- The 49ers had a miscommunication in the secondary that allowed Keenan Burton to get free for a 30-yard touchdown in the second quarter. The pass defense was generally good, though, as Rams quarterback Marc Bulger was sacked three times and had a passer rating of just 70.0. Cornerback Tarell Brown, who enters the game when the 49ers go with six defensive backs, made the game-clinching interception with 16 seconds remaining.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The 49ers had some trouble containing the Rams' Steven Jackson early in the game. But Jackson seemed to slow down due to a hamstring strain. The 49ers' run defense got better as the game wore on. Jackson had 16 rushing attempts in each half. He had 71 yards rushing in the first half and just 37 yards in the second half. Linebacker Patrick Willis made 13 tackles, including stopping Jackson for a 3-yard loss on a draw play late in the game when the Rams were looking to move into field-goal range.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Punter Andy Lee had one of his best games of the season, as he averaged 54.8 yards (47.2 net) on five punts to help the 49ers in the field-position battle. Kicker Joe Nedney made a 48-yard field goal to give the 49ers an early lead. Allen Rossum returned to action after missing three games with an ankle sprain and had just an average day.

COACHING: B -- Singletary almost made a big mistake when he informed all parties that he was making a change at quarterback. However, Singletary changed his mind after seeing the "look" in Hill's eyes. The 49ers did not have a particularly good offensive approach, as they never really allowed Foster and the running game to take hold. The Rams pass rush out-schemed the 49ers, as they were able to get pressure on Hill without necessarily winning one-on-one matchups. Defensively, the 49ers made adjustments and limited the Rams to just one touchdown.



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