ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Rams’ defense kept both of the Smiths on the run while keeping the franchise’s drive to end a five-year playoff drought alive.
While Sam Bradford ended a three-game slump and set an NFL rookie record for season completions, both Troy Smith and Alex Smith had tough days in the Rams’ gritty 25-17 victory Sunday. Bradford’s first touchdown pass in four games provided breathing room.
The Rams (7-8) need to win at Seattle next week to clinch their first playoff bid since 2004. St. Louis finished 5-3 at home, the franchise’s first winning record since 2004. They were 2-22 combined the previous three seasons.
The 49ers finished 1-7 on the road, where they were outscored 200-117.
Troy Smith was benched in the fourth quarter of a loss that eliminated the 49ers (5-10) from playoff consideration in the weak NFC West. Smith passed for 356 yards in the 49ers’ overtime victory over the Rams last month, but did not play the last two games.
Ted Ginn scored on a 78-yard punt return in the second quarter for San Francisco, his fourth career touchdown return.
James Hall had 1 ½ sacks for a defense that caught Troy Smith three times and Alex Smith once, plus got a safety in the first quarter when Troy Smith fumbled a poor shotgun snap in the end zone.
Troy Smith was 2 for 3 for 85 yards on a second-quarter drive capped by a 60-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree, but was only 7 for 19 for 153 yards when Alex Smith replaced him midway through the fourth quarter.
Bradford, the No. 1 pick of the draft, broke out of a three-game slump of no touchdown passes and five interceptions. He was 28 for 37 for 292 yards with no interceptions.
Bradford has 335 completions, topping Peyton Manning’s record of 326 in 1998. He passed Chris Weinke for second in rookie completions with 550, needing 26 in next week’s finale to eclipse Manning.
The Rams scored on their first drive for only the second time, benefiting from an interference call on Nate Clements, with Steven Jackson scoring from the 1 on the next play.
Josh Brown kicked three field goals for St. Louis and has matched his career season best with 31.
The 49ers led 14-12 at the half even though they totaled three first downs and 82 yards in penalties.
Ginn was untouched on the punt return for the 49ers’ first score in the second quarter. San Francisco had no return yards on 10 punts by Donnie Jones in the first meeting Nov. 14 in San Francisco.
St. Louis went up 9-0 late in the first quarter on the safety, but then went three-and-out on three straight series while the 49ers caught their stride.
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