Rams, 49ers Trade Places


Seasons of discontent and disarray, years of anger and agony.

It has been 19 years since the Rams, St. Louis or Los Angeles, swept a season series from the San Francisco 49ers.

It has been 10 years since the Rams had a winning season.

It has been five years since they won a game in the state of California.

But no longer.

On a day Ram fans could usually only dream of and 49er fans couldn’t even imagine, all the streaks and all the losing and all the frustration came to an end.

The team that left Southern California with a whimper in 1994 came back to Northern California with a bang in 1999, blasting the 49ers, 23-7, Sunday afternoon.


With the Rams’ normally high-powered offense stopped at times, the team leaned on its defense, which took advantage of the absence of 49er quarterback Steve Young. The Rams recorded seven sacks, picked off three San Francisco passes, scored their league-leading seventh defensive touchdown and held the one-mighty 49ers to 251 total yards, leaving the 3Com Park crowd of 68,193 dispirited and disgusted.

At least those that didn’t disappear before things got really ugly.

“They kind of reminded me of the L.A. fans,” Ram receiver Isaac Bruce said. “Come late, leave early.”

Bruce ought to know. His first year with the Rams was their last in Anaheim before the move. He suffered through the miserable years and he reveled in Sunday’s victory.

It meant that the Rams:

* Have two victories over San Francisco--having beaten the 49ers, 42-20, last month in St. Louis--for the first time since the 1980 team won, 48-26, in Anaheim and 31-17 at the park formerly known as Candlestick.

That was the 1980 team of Vince Ferragamo and Jack Youngblood, a team one season removed from the Super Bowl.

But after that the Rams and 49ers went in opposite directions, San Francisco going on to win five Super Bowls while the Rams went into the tank, losing 17 consecutivegames to the 49ers at one point.


“I think it is a great tribute to John Shaw, my president,” Ram Coach Dick Vermeil said. “That is a long time to not be able to get something done and so I really salute my organization. . . . The mystique has ended. They have got a lot of problems in San Francisco. Maybe it is time for the Rams to dominate.”

* Can wind up no worse than .500 this season, having boosted their NFC West-leading mark to 8-2. The last time the Rams had a winning season was 1989 when they went 11-5. A Ram victory and a Carolina Panther loss next week would give the Rams their first postseason berth since that 1989 campaign.

* Went home with their first victory on California soil since they moved to St. Louis. Since their departure from Anaheim in 1994, the Rams had lost four games in San Francisco and one in Oakland.

“This means a lot to me,” said Bruce, who, along with defensive back Todd Lyght, was awarded a game ball by Vermeil for being among the longest suffering Rams.

“I went through a lot of turmoil with this team. The games I played here were usually over for us in the first quarter.”

With the old Rams, this one might have been over in the first quarter as well.

On the first Ram drive, kicker Jeff Wilkins booted a 42-yard field goal to open the scoring.


Only he didn’t. The officials waved the kick off because the play clock had malfunctioned.

Wilkins not only had to try it again, but he now had to do so from 43 yards out, having mysteriously lost a yard in the confusion. That yard may have been the difference, Wilkins’ second attempt bouncing off the left goal post for a miss.

Bad omen? Not for these Rams.

They came right back down the field on their next drive and Wilkins and the play clock clicked this time, his attempt from 40 yards out successful.

With quarterback Steve Stenstrom making his second consecutive start for San Francisco while Young continues to recuperate from his latest concussion, the 49ers briefly got back into the game. Fullback Fred Beasley’s one-yard leap into the end zone in the second quarter put the 49ers up, 7-3.

But once running back Marshall Faulk kicked it into high gear and quarterback Kurt Warner started zeroing in on Bruce and the now dominating Ram defensive line started zeroing in on Stenstrom and his ineffective backup, Jeff Garcia, San Francisco (3-7) was on its way to a sixth consecutive loss.

Warner, who was 22 for 40 for 201 yards, connected with Bruce on a five-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to put the Rams ahead for good. It was one of 11 passes Bruce caught for 93 yards.

Faulk had 21 carries for 126 yards and Wilkins had two more field goals, from 20 and 49 yards out.


The other Ram score came on a 44-yard interception return by linebacker Mike Jones in the third quarter, his second touchdown in as many weeks. Jones got an assist on the play from defensive tackle D’Marco Farr, who tipped a pass thrown by Stenstrom into Jones’ waiting arms.

The Ram defensive line has been causing all sorts of havoc over the past few weeks. The team has 19 sacks in its last three games, 17 of those by the defensive line. They have been led by defensive left end Kevin Carter, who has seven-and-a-half sacks in those three games, including two on Sunday.

As good as it has been for the Rams, that’s how bad it has been for the 49ers. The loss means that they cannot win at least ten games after doing so for 16 consecutive seasons. Their second-quarter touchdown broke a string of three straight games without an offensive touchdown.

“You are going to see this football team improve,” San Francisco coach Steve Mariucci said. “We are going to find a way to win some of these games.”

Sound familiar? Those words are all too familiar to Ram fans, in St. Louis and Los Angeles.



Dolphins intercepted five Drew Bledsoe passes and sacked him five times to stay in a tie for first. Page 5



The Jets won their third consecutive game, using a staunch defensive effort to defeat the Bills. Page 5


Ricky Watters scored three touchdowns to lead the Seahawks to their fifth victory in a row. Page 6


The Cardinals make a late defensive stand to upset the Cowboys, who fell to 5-5. Page 6


* Tampa Bay 19, Atlanta 10

* Carolina 31, Cleveland 17

* Green Bay 26, Detroit 17

* Indianapolis 44, Philadelphia 17

* Tennessee 16, Pittsburgh 10

* Baltimore 34, Cincinnati 31

* Chicago 23, San Diego 20 (OT)

* Washington 23, New York Giants 13

* St. Louis 23, San Francisco 7

* Jacksonville 41, New Orleans 23