NFL@L.A.: Kellen Clemens

Wrap-up: 49ers 34, Rams 27

January, 1, 2012
1/01/12
2:21
PM PT
Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams during their Week 17 game at the Edward Jones Dome, a 34-27 victory for San Francisco:

What it means: The 49ers played to win in securing the NFC's second seed in the playoffs and the first-round bye that goes along with it. Securing the bye was hugely important for the 49ers given their injury situation. Coach Jim Harbaugh showed how much this game meant to the team. He allowed Patrick Willis to play for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury. He approved a fake field goal when the 49ers led by 10 points late in the third quarter. The 49ers needed to play well because the Rams put together a furious comeback -- a potential last stand for coach Steve Spagnuolo. The Rams emerged with the No. 2 overall choice in the 2012 draft when Indianapolis also lost.

What I liked: Both teams played aggressively to win. Even the interception St. Louis threw on an ill-fated trick play showed Spagnuolo wasn't going to go quietly in what could have been his final game. The 49ers adjusted to their personnel issues by making Vernon Davis a bigger part of the passing game. Davis topped 100 yards. The fake field goal they executed was brilliant for the way it tricked the Rams into overlooking Michael Crabtree's presence on the field as a wide receiver. The Rams, meanwhile, put up a great fight in coming back from a 27-10 deficit even though they lost Steven Jackson to injury. Kicker Josh Brown provided a perfect onside kick that the Rams recovered. Third-string quarterback Kellen Clemens found Brandon Lloyd for the touchdown that pulled St. Louis within 34-27. And the 49ers, though reeling in the final minutes, came through with the defensive play they needed when NaVorro Bowman sacked Clemens and knocked him from the game with a leg injury at the 2:46 mark.

What I didn't like: Rams rookie tight end Lance Kendricks showed great promise in training camp, but his regular-season struggles continued in this game. The pass Kendricks dropped near the first-down marker with 6:15 left in the first half left the Rams in a third-and-10 situation. They fumbled the snap on their next play, setting up the 49ers to stretch their lead from 17-7 to 20-7. The 49ers gave up a rushing touchdown for the second week in a row. Willis, playing for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury Dec. 4, could not get around Rams tight end Stephen Spach when Jackson broke through the line for a 27-yard gain. The injury to Clemens was horribly unfortunate, but also an indication of the protection problems the Rams have had all season. The 49ers' defense, though facing the most limited offense in the NFL, blew a chance to set a franchise record for lowest points per game allowed. They needed to allow 15 or fewer points to break the 1976 team's NFL-era franchise record. They needed to allow 13 or fewer points to break the all-time franchise record, set in the AAFC era.

What's next: The 49ers have a week off before playing in the NFC divisional playoff round. That game will be at Candlestick Park. The Rams hold the second overall choice in the 2012 NFL draft.

Wrap-up: Steelers 27, Rams 0

December, 24, 2011
12/24/11
5:35
PM PT

Thoughts on the Steelers' 27-0 win over the Rams:

What it means: By routing the Rams (2-13), the Steelers (11-4) kept their hopes of an AFC North title alive and secured no worse than the No. 5 seed in the playoffs. Pittsburgh still needs the Ravens to lose in next weekend's regular-season finale to have any shot at the division title and a top-two seed. It was the Steelers' fifth win in six games.

No Roethlisberger, no sweat: The Steelers kept injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (ankle) active in case of an emergency, but there was nothing to worry about in this one. Charlie Batch was 15-of-22 for 208 yards in a workmanlike fill-in performance. His 46-yard pass to Mike Wallace in the fourth quarter set up a touchdown to increase the lead to 20-0 and essentially sealed the win.

Pound and ground: As expected, the Steelers hammered the NFL's worst run defense by gaining 169 yards on the ground on 28 attempts. Rashard Mendenhall recorded his second 100-yard game of the season with 116 yards and one touchdown. He almost had 100 yards by halftime. Mendenhall's longest run was 52 yards.

Dominating defense: The Steelers delivered their second shutout of the season and both times came against an NFC West team at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh limited the NFL's lowest scoring team to 232 yards. This was the second time in December that the Rams got shut out. The defense sacked Kellen Clemens three times.

Quiet yet impressive: Antonio Brown was a non-factor in the game with three catches for 34 yards. But Brown set a new franchise record with 2,048 all-purpose yards on the season. The second-year wide receiver broke the record of Barry Foster, who had 2,034 yards in 1992.

What's next: The Steelers wrap up the regular season at the Cleveland Browns. Pittsburgh beat the Browns, 14-3, earlier this month.

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TEAM LEADERS

PASSING
Philip Rivers
ATT COMP YDS TD
570 379 4286 31
RUSHINGCARYDSAVGTD
B. Oliver 160 582 3.6 3
R. Mathews 74 330 4.5 3
RECEIVINGRECYDSAVGTD
M. Floyd 52 856 16.5 6
A. Gates 69 821 11.9 12