Hall's fumble costly as 49ers beat Rams; Gore overcomes grief


Frank Gore struggled through a hard week and a tearful Sunday morning, then made the play that helped turn a loss into a win.

The San Francisco Pro Bowl running back rammed through the line on a fourth-and-1 late in the third quarter, broke a tackle and broke free for a 43-yard score that spurred the 49ers (2-0) to a 17-16 win over St. Louis.

Gore's mother, Liz, died Wednesday in Miami after battling a kidney ailment for years. Gore missed Thursday's practice to be with relatives but decided to play. Not that it was easy.

"Every time before the game, my mom would call," Gore said. "I kept looking at my phone and I thought, 'She ain't called.' I shed a few tears. It was tough getting up for the game."

Even after Gore's run, the Rams again took the lead on Jeff Wilkins' 53-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. The Rams (0-2) were about to get the ball back when punt returner Dante Hall fumbled at the St. Louis 25, setting up Joe Nedney's game-winning 40-yard field goal with 3:28 to play.

"It was a routine play for me," Hall said. "I fair-catch it and call it a day. It was frustrating. I was just trying to make a play."

St. Louis had one last chance, getting the ball at its 20 with 1:53 to play. The Rams drove to the San Francisco 38, but Wilkins missed a 56-yard field goal try with 59 seconds to play, the ball falling about a yard short.

"He's got a good leg," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said of sweating out Wilkins' kick. "I wasn't thinking, 'Oh, we got this.'"

The 49ers struggled offensively most of the game. Alex Smith was 11-for-17 for 126 yards. Gore scored twice and gained 81 yards on 20 carries.

The Rams' Marc Bulger was 24-for-41 for 368 yards and one touchdown and completed passes to seven receivers. Isaac Bruce had eight catches for 145 yards. Running back Steven Jackson gained 60 yards on 21 carries.

St. Louis lost despite outgaining San Francisco 392 yards to 186, and despite a 20-8 edge in first downs.

"You can't have opportunities and squander them," Rams coach Scott Linehan said. "And we did."

The Rams were up 13-7 late in the third quarter and on the verge of another score when Torry Holt caught a pass at the San Francisco 10 and was stripped from behind by Nate Clements. The ball skipped into the end zone, then out of bounds, giving San Francisco the ball at the 20.

The 49ers' drive appeared to stall with a fourth-and-1 at the St. Louis 43, but Nolan went for it, and Gore made it work.

"They had nine in the box &

everybody was up there," said Gore, who also scored from the — in the second quarter. "I got through and kept pumping my legs."

The Rams scored in the first quarter when San Francisco's Brandon Williams made an ill-advised decision to field a punt that was tailing away from him. Long-snapper Chris Massey recovered at the 49ers 25 and five plays later, Bulger split two defenders and hit Holt with a 12-yard scoring pass.

Wilkins kicked second-quarter field goals of 27 and 29 yards.

The 49ers had six sacks against a rebuilt Rams offensive line that was without left tackle Orlando Pace, out for the year with a shoulder injury, and guard Richie Incognito, who missed his second straight game with a high ankle sprain.

San Francisco's 2-0 start is its first since 1998, and it comes against two NFC West opponents.

For the Rams, both losses were at home. St. Louis plays four of the next five on the road.

"We will continue to work on the solutions to problems and not focus on the negative," Linehan said.


Roger Wehrli, the longtime St. Louis Cardinals cornerback who entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer, was honored at a halftime ceremony, adding his name to the "Ring of Fame" of Hall of Fame Rams and St. Louis Cardinals. ... Gore left immediately after the game and flew to Miami for his mother's wake on Monday and funeral on Tuesday. He'll return to San Francisco on Wednesday. ... Bulger played the latter part of the game with sore ribs after taking several hits. ... The Rams have a 59-55-2 lead in the all-time series which dates to 1950.

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