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SAN FRANCISCO 37, ST. LOUIS 13

Rams on Horns of a Dilemma

October 07, 2002|From Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — The St. Louis Rams were winless and hurting, and the San Francisco 49ers were only too happy to shove their biggest rivals deeper into despair.

Jeff Garcia threw for a touchdown and ran for another, and Garrison Hearst rushed for 116 yards and a score in a 37-13 rout that ended the 49ers' losing streak at six games against the defending NFC champions.

Jason Webster staggered the already roughed-up Rams when he intercepted a pass from career backup Jamie Martin--starting for the injured Kurt Warner--and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown and 27-3 lead just before halftime.

The 49ers (3-1) looked forward to this game for months. Not only did they reclaim superiority in the NFC West, they all but ended St. Louis' playoff hopes--no team has come back from an 0-5 start to reach the postseason.

"They're down right now, and we wanted to take it to them and not allow them to get back into a playoff hunt or a position where then can get rolling," Garcia said.

"We didn't want them to have any breathing room."

At a team meeting Saturday night, Coach Steve Mariucci asked how many of his players had beaten the Rams.

"There weren't a lot of guys standing up," he said. "We have a really young team and it's a big win for all of us."

Not only were the Rams missing Warner, out for up to two months with a broken pinkie finger on his throwing hand, but cornerback Aeneas Williams sat out with a turf-toe injury, ending his streak of 177 starts.

"It's a step backward," Coach Mike Martz said. "This is a real challenge for this group."

Before the Rams started their three-year run as one of the NFL's most powerful teams, including two trips to the Super Bowl and one championship, they lost 17 in a row to the 49ers from 1990-98.

The Rams' start is their worst since the 1963 Los Angeles Rams opened 0-5 en route to a 5-9 finish.

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