(FootballStL) -- The San Francisco 49ers couldn’t afford a slow start to a primetime showdown against the rival St. Louis Rams.
But it happened.
The young Rams couldn’t afford to allow their rival any extra chances.
But they did.
That was the tale of the first half as things swayed in favor of the hometown Rams early and away late.
A missed 53-yard field goal from San Francisco kicker Phil Dawson, his second in five attempts this season, and a lucky bounce off the right goalpost on a 40-yard make by Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein gave St. Louis an early 3-0 lead.
On the 49ers’ drive after St. Louis’ score, Robert Quinn kept the momentum in favor of St. Louis with an eight-yard sack, his fifth of the season. In celebration, Quinn followed with a kiss to his bicep, a usual celebration move for San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
The momentum began to fade as the Rams suffered another special teams penalty, this one for holding on Trumaine Johnson, and pushed the Rams starting spot to their own five-yard line. A near-interception of Sam Bradford was initially tipped by defensive back Donte Whitner, but caught for an 11-yard pickup to Jared Cook.
The Rams couldn’t capitalize on the fortunate bounce off Whitner’s hands as Johnny Hekker later kicked a 36-yard punt to the 49ers’ 42-yard line.
That was the final full drive of the first quarter, and the beginning to the 49ers’ offensive turnaround.
After gaining 25 net yards on 12 plays in the first, San Francisco would register 176 on 15 plays in the second quarter.
The offensive surge was provided by: Colin Kaepernick, who was 6-for-7 for 93 yards and a touchdown, and Frank Gore, who rushed for 83 yards on six carries including a 34-yard touchdown.
It brought a 14-3 hole for the Rams by the end of the half.
The Rams’ fortunate bounces and stranglehold on the 49ers, who mustered only 10 points in their last two games, proved to be short-lived -- and eventually the deciding factor.
The chances were there in the first half for St. Louis.
An errant throw by Sam Bradford to a wide-open Austin Pettis with only the end zone in front of him took four points away as the Rams settled for the field goal in the first quarter. The special teams penalties didn’t help with field position. And a Bradford interception in the 49ers’ end zone to a double-covered Cook on third-and-one at the SF 34-yard line took away at least a field goal attempt -- and possibly more points.
It wasn’t just the offense either. The Rams’ defense was non-existent as Kaepernick and Gore ripped apart the would-be defenders. Cortland Finnegan looked absolutely lost as Anquan Boldin hauled in a 42-yard reception on third-and-10 that began at the 49ers’ 47-yard line -- that eventually led to San Francisco’s first touchdown of the game.
All of this came in the first half alone.