The most painful moment for the 2011 St. Louis Rams, by far, came when the San Francisco 49ers beat them with a fake field goal for a touchdown in the Edward Jones Dome.
It was not the play that cost coach Steve Spagnuolo his job, but it did punctuate a five-year franchise run of futility.
Around the NFC West: Nov. 12, 2012
Veteran safety Quintin Mikell would later call that moment the lowest he had ever felt.
The reversal was striking Sunday as the Rams' new coaching staff, led by Jeff Fisher, authorized two successful fake field goal tries to help the Rams force a 24-24 tie against the 49ers at Candlestick Park. The first fake wasn't called in the moment. Rather, the staff had coached rookie punter Johnny Hekker throw if an opponent sacrificed pass coverage by sending a cornerback on a blitz. The second fake, on a fourth-and-8 during the Rams' go-ahead drive late in regulation, was one Fisher and the staff called from the sideline.
These plays reflect an opportunistic, aggressive nature. Their offense, though generally strong against the 49ers, has had trouble scoring consistently enough overall. Fake punts and fake field goals can manufacture scoring opportunities. Spagnuolo's Rams used one to defeat Detroit in 2009. Fisher has shown a willingness to use them more frequently.
The Rams, 0-6 in NFC West play last season, are now 2-0-1 against the division in 2012. They scored a 19-13 victory over Seattle in Week 4 largely because Hekker threw a scoring pass on a fake field goal. That pass accounted for the Rams' only touchdown in the game.