ST. LOUIS — Knees bent and arms moving in rhythm, defensive end Chris Long shimmied around the St. Louis Rams locker room, imitating John Travolta’s dance moves from “Pulp Fiction” as owner Stan Kroenke made the rounds shaking hands.
After 10 hard quarters proving Jeff Fisher’s rebuilding project belonged against the class of the NFC West, and more, heck, they deserved a little celebration.
“It’s gratifying,” Long said after Greg Zuerlein kicked a 54-yard field goal with 26 seconds left in overtime to give the Rams a 16-13 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, avoiding a second tie in three weeks between the teams. “I feel for everybody who’s come here and really put in the work and bought into what coach Fisher’s doing.”
The rookie’s winning kick on fourth and inches from the 36 came after he sent the game into overtime with a 53-yard field goal as time expired in regulation. The kick was right down the middle with plenty of distance to spare.
“I was just trying to make the kick and not think about anything,” Zuerlein said. “I was pretty relieved, you know.”
The Rams (5-6-1) scored twice in the final 3:04 of regulation, getting their lone touchdown when rookie Janoris Jenkins returned an errant pitchout by Colin Kaepernick 2 yards for his third defensive score in two weeks. They’ve won two straight after an 0-4-1 skid.
Kaepernick also gave up a safety in the third quarter that cut the 49ers’ lead to 10-2 when he was penalized for intentional grounding passing out of the end zone while under duress. Referee Carl Cheffers said it was intentional grounding because the pass did not cross the line of scrimmage.
“Our defense played a great game,” said Kaepernick after his third start since replacing Alex Smith. “I gave up those points that were on the scoreboard for the Rams so that’s 100 percent my fault.”
The 49ers (8-3-1) failed to take advantage of a 14-yard punt by rookie Johnny Hekker to midfield when David Akers was barely wide right on a 51-yard attempt with 4:11 to go in overtime. Akers is just 7 for 15 from 40 yards and beyond.
“I probably missed it by 3-4 inches to the right,” Akers said. “I just feel horrible for letting my teammates, the organization and the fans down.”
49ers coach Jim Harbaugh had only compliments for Kaepernick and blamed the coaching staff for calling the botched pitchout, and indicated Kaepernick would get his fourth straight next week at home against Miami.
“I’ll let you know if there’s a change, but right now I think it’ll be the same as it was this week,” Harbaugh said. “I’m proud of Kap, proud of the way he played.”
Zuerlein is 7 for 11 from the 50 and beyond. Before the 53-yarder at the end of regulation, he had missed four of his previous seven attempts including a 58-yarder near the end of the half.
The last time teams tied twice in a season was in 1963, in games between the Eagles and Steelers. The last time teams had two ties in a season was in 1973 when it happened to four teams.
The first 49ers-Rams meeting this season was the NFL’s first tie in four seasons, and was a lot more wide open with both teams missing chances to end it in overtime. Fisher bristled during the practice week that the tie was a wakeup call for the 49ers.
“I think the perception was well, we might have caught them on a bad day,” Fisher said. “It’s a good feeling in the locker room.”
Most of the game was a defensive struggle, nothing like the 24-all tie in San Francisco. Michel Crabtree was a rare offensive standout with seven catches for 101 yards, while rookie Chris Givens had 11 receptions for 92 yards for St. Louis.
Neither team had any success running the ball. The 49ers’ Frank Gore was held to 58 yards on 23 carries for a 2.5-yard average with a 1-yard scoring run in the first quarter and the Rams’ Steven Jackson had 48 yards on 21 carries for a 2.3-yard average against the No. 2 rush defense.
“I’ll tell you, they put their whole team in the box,” Gore said.
Akers’ 33-yard field goal put the 49ers ahead with 1:38 remaining, a score set up by Kaepernick’s 50-yard carry on a rollout. It left just enough time for Sam Bradford to guide the Rams 45 yards in seven plays.
The Rams were suddenly in the game when Kaepernick was well off the mark on a pitch to Ted Ginn Jr. from the 17 and Jenkins fell on it at the 2 before flopping into the end zone. Kendricks beat coverage from Patrick Willis on a 2-point conversion catch that tied it at 10 as the Rams succeeded even after a false start penalty on tackle Rodger Saffold.
Both teams kept it close to the vest in the first half with the 49ers ahead 7-0 after outgaining the Rams 113-85 and putting together one nice drive capped by Gore’s 1 yard scoring run late in the first quarter.
Zuerlein had the distance on a 58-yard attempt with 25 seconds to go in the first half, but was well wide to the right.
The Rams wore retro jerseys from their 1999 championship season, featuring yellow numbers and striping, and marked the franchise’s 75th anniversary. Several former players were introduced at halftime with fan favorites who played in St. Louis such as Isaac Bruce and Todd Lyght getting the strongest ovations.
NOTES: 49ers wide receiver Mario Manningham (shoulder) did not return after getting hurt in the fourth quarter. Harbaugh said the team “won’t know right away” about the severity of the injury. … Aldon Smith’s sack late in the first half gave him an NFL-best 31½ his first two seasons, a half-sack better than Reggie White in 1985-96. … The Rams sacked Kaepernick twice at the end of the half, including Bill Hayes’ second of the game. …