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Sunday, November 14, 2010
Rapid Reaction: 49ers 23, Rams 20 (OT)

By Mike Sando

Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 23-20 victory against the St. Louis Rams in Week 10:

What it means: The 49ers remain very much alive in the NFC West after winning for the third time in four games. The 49ers also have a new starting quarterback after Troy Smith, though ragged for much of the game, repeatedly made huge plays, including in the clutch, to lead a fourth-quarter comeback victory. There's no way 49ers coach Mike Singletary can justify going back to Alex Smith in the short term. Troy Smith exploited an injury-depleted Rams secondary, particularly when he had time to throw. San Francisco finally won a game it absolutely had to win. This one should build confidence. The Rams, meanwhile, fell to 0-4 on the road heading into a tough Week 11 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons. This was another blown opportunity away from the Edward Jones Dome for the Rams.

What I liked: Smith continued to give the 49ers life at quarterback. He is not always pretty. Sometimes he holds the ball too long. But he's not afraid to make things happen, and that separates him from injured starter Alex Smith. Troy Smith has restored the big-play element to the 49ers' offense. He completed 17 of 28 passes for 356 yards, one touchdown and a 116.7 rating. He took five sacks, but was a big play waiting to happen.

What I didn't like: The 49ers appeared poorly coached throughout the game, wasting timeouts and committing costly penalties. They made negative plays even immediately following those wasted timeouts. This performance was far too sloppy, particularly for a team coming out of its bye week. The Rams, meanwhile, showed again they cannot close out road games against flawed opponents. They badly need another front-line target for quarterback Sam Bradford, who completed 30 of 42 passes for 251 yards, one touchdown and a 94.4 rating.

Injurie(s) of note: The Rams lost starting left tackle Rodger Saffold to an ankle injury. The 49ers' left tackle, Joe Staley, hopped off the field with an apparent left leg injury after the winning touchdown. He came out of the game previously and struggled holding up in protection while playing hurt. Anthony Davis, the 49ers' right tackle, also appeared to get hurt during the game, although he stayed on the field.

Hero: Joe Nedney's 29-yard field goal to win the game wasn't particularly heroic, but imagine if Nedney had missed? Making this field goal saved the 49ers' season.

Critical Call: Officials flagged Rams safety Oshiomogho Atogwe for a 22-yard pass-interference penalty on the 49ers' winning drive. Troy Smith threw toward the middle of the field in desperation while he was about to be sacked. Tight end Delanie Walker ran through Atogwe on his way to the middle of the field.

What's next: The Rams return home to face the Atlanta Falcons. The 49ers face the Tampa Bay Bucs at Candlestick Park in Week 11.