49ers end string of losing seasons
ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Rams are on the clock. A late surge by the San Francisco 49ers saw to that.
Vernon Davis tied the NFL record for touchdown receptions by a tight end with his 13th of the season, the first of three scores in the final 71/2 minutes of a 28-6 victory Sunday that clinched the No. 1 draft pick for the lowly Rams.
“I think the mindset is that for anybody coming back next year, that it just can’t happen again,” Rams rookie linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “We’ve got to turn this thing around and do whatever it takes.”
The 49ers (8-8) ended a string of six straight losing seasons behind a strong second half from a slumbering offense and a defense that piled up a season-high eight sacks and limited the Rams to 109 yards. They also snapped a six-game road losing streak and beat the Rams for the fourth straight time, the two victories this year by 63-6.
“As much as we wanted to be in the playoffs this year, our immaturity shows probably why we are not,” coach Mike Singletary said. “What I’m very excited about is on both sides of the ball we’re not far away.”
The Rams (1-15) wrapped up their first winless home schedule since going 0-6 in 1959 and only the third in franchise history. With the Lions losing to the Bears to finish at 2-14, St. Louis needed the loss in the finale to secure the No. 1 pick for the first time since 1997, when it traded up to get seven-time Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Pace.
The puny offensive total was fifth-worst in franchise history and lowest since the Rams had 105 yards on Sept. 8, 1996, at San Francisco. Steven Jackson had 63 yards on 20 carries, Danny Amendola had a 56-yard punt return, and there wasn’t much else for a unit led by a rookie quarterback behind a line fresh out of bodies after rookie guard Roger Allen III injured his left knee in the second quarter.
“We were hoping to finish on a high note,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “Hopefully we’ll learn from the adversity we went through this year.”
Frank Gore added 107 yards rushing on 23 carries and two TDs for the 49ers, who had all but 52 of their 329 yards after trailing 3-0 at the half. Justin Smith had a career best 31/2 sacks after totaling 21/2 the first 15 games.
Rams quarterback Keith Null was 7 for 17 for 57 yards and absorbed five of the sacks before sustaining a possible concussion in the third quarter. Veteran Kyle Boller couldn’t move the team, either.
Davis tied the mark set by Antonio Gates last season with the longest catch of his career, getting behind the defense on a 73-yard reception from Alex Smith that put the 49ers ahead 14-6 midway through the fourth quarter.
Gore had four 100-yard games in the last five, and five overall.
For much of the game, the punters dominated. The Rams’ Donnie Jones kicked a season-high 11 times for a 50.1-yard average, while Andy Lee tied his season high with nine punts for a 46.7-yard average.
The Rams were blacked out on local television for the third straight game and attendance at those games are the three lowest since the franchise relocated to the Midwest in 1995.
Paid attendance of 47,965, while about 18,000 shy of capacity, was the best of the three, likely boosted by “fan appreciation day” that featured multiple giveaways of flat-screen TVs, game-worn jerseys and Super Bowl tickets along with reduced prices for concessions and team store merchandise.
Notes: The 49ers allowed only eight sacks the last six games, including two in the finale. … Rams DE Chris Long was ejected late in the fourth quarter after a head butt. … 49ers wide receiver Isaac Bruce got a ceremonial start in what likely was his final NFL game in the city where he was a four-time Pro Bowler. Bruce played one snap, jumped and bumped with a teammate and then spent the rest of the game watching from the sideline.
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