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November 11, 2012
Rams punter says 49ers were "unsound," takes advantage


SAN FRANCISCO -- Evidence the Rams were more intent, even desperate, to win on Sunday: They attempted two fake punts, one of them from within their own end zone. Both were successful, and the second fake -- a 19-yard pass to tight end Lance Kendricks -- extended a 14-play touchdown drive that allowed the Rams to regain the lead at the end of regulation.

The first fake came at the end of the first half as the 49ers seemingly forced the Rams to punt from deep inside their own territory with 49 seconds remaining. When the 49ers sent Chris Culliver from the corner to try to block Johnny Hekker's punt, however, Hekker fired a pass to the player who was opposite Culliver and the Rams picked up a first down.

Said Hekker: "It wasn't even a fake called from the sideline. It was something San Francisco did that was unsound. They left our gunner wide open and didn't bring anyone out to cover him. It's something we were ready and prepared for."

"That takes a lot of gumption to do it," said Jim Harbaugh of executing fake when the punter is inside his own end zone. "And they did it, backed up as far as they were. And they executed it very well."

Harbaugh said the 49ers were aware that Hekker, a rookie, was a quarterback in high school and that he ran the scout team at Oregon State. Hekker also threw a two-yard touchdown earlier this year on a fake field goal, the Rams' only touchdown in a game against Seattle.

That punter was a quarterback at Oregon State," said special teams player Darcel McBath. "We were well aware that he could throw the football pretty far." McBath and the 49ers seemed to have the edge on special teams when, following a 49ers touchdown, Tramaine Brock stripped the ball on the Rams kick return and McBath recovered at the St. Louis 20-yard line. Frank Gore scored a touchdown on the next play.

Hekker, however, struck again on the ensuing Rams drive when he threw a strike to Kendricks after the 49ers thought they had stopped St. Louis on third down. "We've been practicing that one for a while," Hekker said. "It was a genius brainchild of coach (Jeff) Fisher and (special teams) coach (John) Fassel. "It worked just as we drew it up in practice."

Receiver Danny Amendola, playing his first game since injuring his collar bone in Week 5, caught 11 passes for 102 yards against the 49ers. Amendola plays out of the slot in three-receiver formations, a position that has been a handful for the 49ers secondary dating back to last season.

Amendola's total would have been a lot higher if not for an illegal formation penalty on the first play of overtime that wiped away an 80-yard gain to the San Francisco 2-yard line. He was matched against Carlos Rogers on the play and ran a double move.

Et cetera -- The tie was San Francisco's 14th since joining the NFL in 1950. It also makes the all-time regular-season rivalry with the Rams: 61-61-3.

* Running back Brandon Jacobs again was a healthy scratch for the 49ers. Jacobs has been in uniform for just one game this season but has yet to play a snap.

* Michael Crabtree now has four touchdowns on the season, including three in the last three

* Aldon Smith had two sacks on the afternoon, giving him 9 1/2 for the season.

-- Matt Barrowa


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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