ST. LOUIS (AP) — Greg Zuerlein bounced a 40-yard field goal off the right upright and through to give the St. Louis Rams a 3-0 lead over the San Francisco 49ers after the first quarter Thursday night.
The normally slow-starting Rams scored in the first quarter for the first time in 10 games, breaking a drought that had spanned to Nov. 8 when Sam Bradford threw a touchdown pass in the first quarter against the New York Jets.
St. Louis moved into scoring range after Bradford connected with Brian Quick for a 14-yard gain and the 49ers' Justin Smith was flagged for a 15-yard facemask penalty. The Rams' drive stalled when Bradford overshot an open Austin Pettis after he had beaten rookie safety Eric Reid. Pettis made a diving attempt at the catch near the goal line but couldn't come up with it.
Zuerlein then connected to put the Rams up with 7:09 left in the quarter.
The 49ers played without two All-Pro linebackers, Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis. Smith, who set an NFL record with 33 1/2 sacks in his first two seasons in the league, left the team to enter rehab for substance abuse after his second DUI arrest in 20 months. Willis and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha were both out with groin injuries.
The two NFC West rivals entered already two games behind first-place Seattle in the division standings, attempting to keep from falling perilously behind. The 49ers (1-2), last year's NFC champions, found themselves below .500 for the first time in Jim Harbaugh's three seasons as coach.
After beating Green Bay in an impressive opener, San Francisco's offense has been caught in neutral in back-to-back losses to Seattle and Indianapolis. The 49ers totaled just 10 points in the two losses, with quarterback Colin Kaepernick limited to 277 yards passing with four interceptions and no touchdowns. He threw for 412 yards and three TDs in the opener.
The 49ers couldn't get anything going even after getting 20 yards gift-wrapped before their first offensive snap, courtesy of kick-catch interference and encroachment penalties. Frank Gore busted through three tackles on his way to an 18-yard gain right up the middle to get San Francisco into field-goal range, but Phil Dawson was wide-right from 53 yards.
The Rams, who managed just 18 first-half yards while falling behind 17-0 in a loss to Dallas last week, were able to respond right away and get on the board first.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org