Balanced Rams breeze past 49ers

Monday, October 4, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO -- There was nothing wrong with the Rams' offense that a trip to San Francisco couldn't fix.

Marc Bulger passed for 186 yards, Marshall Faulk rushed for 121 more and St. Louis sent the woeful 49ers to their first 0-4 start in 25 years with a 24-14 victory on Sunday night.

Isaac Bruce had seven catches for 100 yards as the Rams (2-2) got their ninth victory in 11 games against their longtime rivals. This one was out of reach early: St. Louis built a 24-0 halftime lead, and the sellout crowd booed San Francisco off the field while heading for the exits.

Shaun McDonald caught a touchdown pass and Joey Goodspeed and Steven Jackson had 2-yard scoring runs for the Rams, who met little resistance while scoring on all four of their first-half drives.

The Rams rushed for just 108 yards in their previous two games, both losses to teams that missed last season's playoffs. Coach Mike Martz was criticized for failing to maintain a balance in his pass-heavy schemes.

But during four sophisticated drives consuming more than 20 minutes, Martz called 19 running plays and 18 passes in the first half. Running the ball was easy and fun for Faulk, who had his fifth 100-yard rushing game against the 49ers -- but so was passing, catching, blocking and tackling.

Tim Rattay, who missed the 49ers' previous two games with a separated shoulder, was 31-of-47 for 299 yards and two touchdowns, while tight end Eric Johnson had career highs of 10 catches for 113 yards.

But despite three lengthy fourth-quarter drives, the 49ers are winless after four games for the first time since 1979, the year Bill Walsh took over the franchise and led its transformation into a five-time Super Bowl champion.

Last week, the 49ers were shut out for the first time since 1977 in a 34-0 loss to Seattle. After three more scoreless quarters against the Rams, they avoided another goose egg on Curtis Conway's 9-yard TD catch with 13:33 to play.

Rattay, who passed for 134 yards in the fourth period, added an 18-yard TD pass to rookie Rashaun Woods with 16 seconds left.

The 49ers were an NFL-worst minus-7 in turnover differential entering the game, and they quickly padded their lead with a fumble and an interception in the first 16 minutes.

After St. Louis went 80 yards on its opening drive, Rattay lost the ball on a hit by Tommy Polley late in the first quarter. Leonard Little recovered at the San Francisco 11, setting up McDonald's short TD catch.

Jerametrius Butler picked off Rattay's pass down the sideline on the Niners' next possession, and St. Louis drove 79 yards for a field goal. The Rams then made a 91-yard drive, capped by Jackson's TD run with 29 seconds left in the half.

The boos began in the first quarter, reaching a crescendo when Rattay's final first-half pass sailed 5 yards out of bounds. Meanwhile, Bulger was 15-of-18 for 166 yards in the first half.

San Francisco lost cornerback Mike Rumph to a broken right arm in the second quarter.

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