MAKING THE GRADE
Here is how the 49ers (8-3-1) graded in their 16-13 overtime loss to the host St. Louis Rams (5-6-1):
Colin Kaepernick's hand started off hot, completing nine consecutive passes after an initial drop. The Rams' blitzes paid off on two plays starting at the 17-yard line. On the first, Kaepernick retreated too much into the end zone and drew an intentional-grounding penalty for a safety. In evil symmetry, Kaepernick's botched pitch play to Ted Ginn Jr. also started at the 49ers' 17. Only two catches for 15 yards for Vernon Davis? Michael Crabtree came through on third downs, again, and Mario Manningham's shoulder injury is a concern.
Needing to run down the clock and play safe, the 49ers got too cute with a third-down option pitch to Ginn that resulted in the Rams' tying touchdown. Frank Gore averaged a season-low 2.5 yards per carry (23 attempts, 58 yards), and he had an early 16-yard run negated by a Joe Staley holding penalty. Kendall Hunter's absence was noticeable. Kaepernick said his 50-yard, fourth-quarter sprint was improvised, and coach Jim Harbaugh said it was a designed run.
None of Sam Bradford's 39 attempts were intercepted, and he got sacked only twice. Tarell
Steven Jackson ran for only 48 yards, but 16 came on three carries that set up Greg Zuerlein's winning field goal. Sam Bradford also found room to run for 25 yards on fourth-quarter scrambles that led to the tying field goal.
David Akers is converting a career-low 70 percent of his field goals (21 of 30) and his latest miss cost the 49ers a victory, as was the case three weeks ago in overtime against the Rams. Four of Andy Lee's punts landed inside the 20, and his veteran value showed again when the Rams' rookie punter shanked a 14-yarder in overtime.
The worst play call of the Harbaugh era resulted in Kaepernick's errant pitch to Ginn and a game-changing play. Harbaugh acknowledged it was too risky a call and deflected blame to himself instead of Kaepernick, whom he's apparently sticking with over Alex Smith. Several players said the Rams' defense constantly had the right call to combat the 49ers' schemes.