A signature win for the St Louis Rams turned into a prime-time display of catastrophic failures that still plague this franchise, as well as the tantalizing possibilities inherent in this young and spiritied team. The result was a 24-24 tie that leaves Rams nation stunned, and gives the 49ers fans a huge sigh of relief.
The Rams had this game won - and then taken away - so many times that we have to count them to be sure.
1) They had it won early, jumping out to a 14-0 advantage on touchdowns by Brian Quick and Steven Jackson, and then knocking Alex Smith out of the game after he led a scoring drive.
2) They had it won even after the Niners closed the gap under Colin Kaepernick in the second half, ready to receive the kickoff up 17-14 with eight minutes to go.
3) They had it won even after the Niners recovered an awful fumble by Isaiah Pead on that kickoff and scored a murderously quick touchdown, as Sam Bradford led his team down the field on a signature comeback drive, scoring a go-ahead touchdown and leaving just over a minute on the clock.
4) They had it won even after their defense couldn't hold onto that lead, utterly failing to set the edge on defense and allowing Kaepernick to make plays with his feet again and again to send the game into overtime.
5) They had it won on the first play of overtime, as Sam Bradford uncorked a gorgeous downfield pass to Danny Amendola, who somehow got behind his man and made a brilliant catch and run to give the Rams a first and goal inside the five yard line ... until the referees took it away.
6) They had it won even after having to punt the ball away and watching their defense continue to have no idea how to play against a mobile quarterback, as David Akers honked an easy field goal.
7) They had it won as rookie sensation Greg Zuelein drove a 53-yard coffin nail straight through the uprights at Candlestick, until the referees noticed the play clock standing at zero.
8) They had it ... maybe ... until the referees made one final intrusion into the game by failing to get the ball spotted as time ticked ominously away. A final ten seconds that may or may not have made the ultimate difference in our last gasp.
In one sense, this game was an astounding victory of spirit for a Rams team that showed up with fight on their minds and refused to back down against the bullies of the division. In another very real sense, this was a horrendous opportunity lost, an opportunity - multiple opportunities, as stated above - to get a statement win to start the second half.
A game the Rams won and lost... could only end in a tie. A tie that means essentially nothing in the standings - not a loss, not a win, just a void. A void that utterly fails to capture the torture of conflicting emotions that comes out of this game. Every judgement of every component of this game comes with nearly equal parts good and bad...