Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh likely expected there would be some growing pains by going with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback over veteran Alex Smith.
On Sunday, those pains in a 16-13 overtime loss to the Rams in St. Louis were felt all the way back to the Bay Area.
Kaepernick made some good plays in the game, including a 50-yard run late in the fourth quarter to set up a 33-yard field goal that gave San Francisco a 13-10 lead with 1:38 remaining.
But two key errors by the second-year quarterback had led to all the Rams’ points.
First, he was ruled to have thrown a pass while in his own end zone that did not reach the line of scrimmage, which was resulted in a safety in the third quarter. Then, in the fourth quarter with San Francisco up 10-2, Kaepernick made a horrible pitch over Ted Ginn Jr.’s head that was recovered by rookie defensive back Janoris Jenkins at the 2, then carried into the end zone for a touchdown. The Rams then went for two points and got it, to tie the time 10-10.
Then, after Kaepernick took the 49ers to the go-ahead field goal, the Rams came right back to tie the game on the last play of regulation on Greg Zuerlein’s 53-yard field goal.
It set up a second straight overtime game between the 49ers and Rams this season, after the first one in November in San Francisco ended in a 24-24 tie.
This time, it appeared the teams might have to settle for yet another tie – but the 49ers moved into position late in the OT period for David Akers to try a 51-yard field goal. The kick missed, however – matching the OT miss he had in the first match-up with St. Louis this season that would have given the Niners a win.
In response, Sam Bradford moved the Rams into position for Zuerlein to take another long kick, and he converted from 54 yards for the Rams' win.
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With the loss, the Niners fall to 8-3-1 and continue a confounding pattern to this season. So far, every third game the team has played has resulted in a stinker: win, win, loss; win, win, loss; win, win, tie; and win, win, loss.
Kaepernick finished 21-of-32 for 208 yards and no TDs or interceptions, and also ran nine times for 84 yards. But the 49ers’ offense was inconsistent, and couldn’t consistently maintain drives against St. Louis.
In his third start since take over for Smith, Kaepernick had by far his least-sharp performance.
He and his teammates will have a week to regain their edge, with a game at Candlestick scheduled against the Dolphins next Sunday.