A late fourth-quarter fumble as the San Francisco 49ers were trying to run out the clock against the St. Louis Rams cost them the lead and game on Sunday.
The Niners were leading the Rams 10-2 with around three minutes left in the game and had a 3rd-and-3 at their 17. They ran an option, but quarterback Colin Kaepernick botched his pitch to receiver Ted Ginn Jr., who was lined up as a tailback. Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins swooped in to pick up the loose ball and return it two yards for a touchdown. This was the third touchdown in the last two weeks scored by Jenkins, who returned two interceptions for a score against the Cardinals.
With the team down 10-8, the Rams elected to go for two. They had a false start penalty push them back, but Sam Bradford found Lance Kendricks for the conversion to tie the game.
Luckily for San Francisco, Kaepernick did what he does best and broke off a 50-yard run on the second play of the Niners’ ensuing drive to get them in field goal range. After using up some clock, they kicked a 33-yard field goal to go up 13-10. However, they allowed the Rams to kick a tying field goal in the final seconds of regulation, sending the game to overtime where St. Louis won 16-13 on another field goal.
Jim Harbaugh is often a masterful tactician, but you have to question the play call. Why call for an option where the ball is pitched by the goal line in that situation? Kaepernick ran the option his entire college career, so he should be expected to make a pitch like that, but why take that risk?
I wouldn’t use this loss as a reason to switch quarterbacks and go back to Alex Smith, but I would be extremely unhappy if I were a 49ers fan. This is a game they should have won. And those who are calling for Smith to start again should remember that Delanie Walker dropped what should have been a touchdown pass from Kaepernick that would have likely given them the game. I would continue to stick with the youngster if I were them.