Ram fans came to Anaheim Stadium in team colors to watch a burial Sunday but witnessed a resurrection instead.
Long after the blue and gold in the sellout crowd of 65,939 had dissipated, a red flock of San Francisco 49er faithful remained high in the upper deck singing and chanting and savoring the last morsels of a 28-14 feast.
Tell the 49er fans that Dieter Brock completed a Ram club record 35 passes. Tell them their team (4-4) still doesn't have a chance to win the NFC West. Tell them the Rams (7-1) have become the dominant team in the division. Tell anybody.
Joe Montana is still king in Anaheim, where he has led the 49ers to five consecutive victories since becoming a starting quarterback. Brock's passing statistics were impressive--35 of 51 for 344 yards--but he also threw three second-half interceptions and was sacked four times.
And, Montana (22 of 30 for 306 yards) did it when it mattered. Sunday he threw three touchdown passes as the 49ers scored all their points in the first half to knock the Rams for a loop. He put himself out of the game with a strained sternum on a reckless scramble late in the third quarter--the only serious error he committed all day.
The Rams' defense ranked second in the National Football League, but Montana turned it inside out. The secondary that shared the league lead with 18 interceptions was embarrassingly unable to cope with his quick, short passes, and the stout ground defense took more false steps than a kindergarten chorus line, falling for the 49ers' misdirection plays and over-running on cutbacks by Wendell Tyler and Roger Craig.
Montana, reviving the 49ers' quick-strike ethic, directed drives of 79, 88 and 88 yards on their first, second and fourth possessions. Touchdowns were scored by Craig on a 14-yard run through a thicket of arm tackles, a nine-yard pass to Tyler and an eight-yard pass to Dwight Clark, all of which left Rams looking silly.
Late in the second quarter Montana threw a rollout jump pass to Craig over safety Johnnie Johnson's head, the play covering 35 yards.
Johnson, also victimized on Tyler's tally, said he never saw the ball. He may have lost it in the sun.
Brock's scoring throws to Henry Ellard for 23 yards and tight end Tony Hunter for 3 yards came in the last 20 minutes, and the 49er fans didn't even seem to mind.
"It's clear we were overwhelmed in the first half," Ram Coach John Robinson said. "It's also clear we're three games ahead of them halfway through the season."
Robinson revived his "16-round fight" analogy for the team and the press afterward.
"We got knocked down for an eight-count," he conceded. "We saw the 49ers at their best."
It would have been worse if rookie receiver Jerry Rice and tight end John Frank hadn't dropped apparent touchdown passes, and Rice and running back Derrick Harmon hadn't been an eyelash out of bounds on other near misses.
The Rams hadn't been behind by more than seven points all season, so this was an ideal day to prove they could play catch-up. They tried, but they started too late and had too far to go. If they had played until this morning they might have made it.
They went 80 yards with the second-half kickoff, Brock completing six of seven passes along the way, the last to Ellard, who leaped high over Dwight Hicks in the end zone.
Then Brock threw interceptions to Ronnie Lott, Hicks and Eric Wright on the Rams' next three possessions before hitting Hunter for the final score with six seconds remaining.
By then, at least nobody was calling the Rams' offense boring--just futile--but it required an emergency to break the glass. Ellard caught 9 passes for 120 yards, his biggest day as a pro.
The Rams' most interesting call was a handoff to Eric Dickerson, who lateraled back to Brock, who overthrew Ron Brown to give Lott an easy interception in the end zone.
Robinson bristled when asked if Brock's timing was off.
"I suppose his timing was off on those he didn't complete," Robinson said. "Obviously, he's an effective passer. He's a competitive guy. I don't think he ever blinked."
If he did, it would have been whenever 49er defender Fred Dean got in his face. Dean not only accomplished his first sack of the season but deflected three passes and crushed Brock a couple of other times after he released the ball.
"He throws it sort of sidearm and he throws it low," Dean said, "so we knew if we came in with our hands up . . . "
If they 49ers came to Anaheim with their hands up, it certainly wasn't to surrender. They didn't even let up after Montana checked out. Backup Matt Cavanaugh threw their last five passes, although he completed only one, that for a loss.
Dickerson netted less than 100 yards rushing for the fifth straight game, although his dozen attempts included one run of 21 yards to finish with 61--two less than Craig's 63.
Craig also caught 6 passes for 132 yards, the first time anyone had gone over 100 as a rusher or receiver against the Rams.