SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Greg Zuerlein lifted his arms in the air, looked back to the sideline and waited for teammates to start running around celebrating his winning field goal.
As with so many other times Sunday, the St. Louis Rams thought they had the San Francisco 49ers beaten — until they didn't. Instead, after 75 minutes of physical, penalty-filled football, neither team really knew how to react.
Zuerlein's 53-yard field goal in overtime was wiped away by a delay-of-game penalty, and then he missed from 58 yards before the Rams and 49ers ended in a 24-24 tie.
"I didn't realize it," Zuerlein said. "I just kicked it like I thought that was going to be the game."
After the first NFL stalemate in four years, Zuerlein hardly shouldered the blame alone for the Rams not coming away with a win.
Punter and holder Johnny Hekker took full responsibility for the blunder, a 5-yard penalty that made an already tough try even tougher in the damp Candlestick Park air. Zuerlein attempted again from 58 yards as coach Jeff Fisher played for the win, missing wide right with 2:42 remaining in OT.
"Greg said he gave me the head nod at 4 seconds," said Hekker, who added that he should've been aware of the clock. "Never had a nod-to-hand flash take more than 4 seconds, so I'm still kind of puzzled how that happened. We had chances to win the game, and didn't win the game."
Same for both sides, really.
San Francisco's David Akers missed wide left on a 41-yard attempt that could have sealed it for the 49ers (6-2-1), who lost quarterback Alex Smith to a concussion in the second quarter.
And just when it seemed the 49ers — and Akers' typically reliable left leg — would have one more chance to win it, San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis was flagged for holding Lance Kendricks on third down. That extended St. Louis' last drive, one of costly and uncharacteristic mistakes by coach Jim Harbaugh's team.
Akers booted a tying 33-yarder with 3 seconds left in regulation after Sam Bradford threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Austin Pettis with 1:09 remaining.
On the first play of OT, Bradford completed an 80-yard pass to Danny Amendola that took St. Louis (3-5-1) to the 2, but the play was called back for an illegal formation — which both Bradford and Fisher said they thought was late, but not necessarily incorrect. Some 49ers fans even got up to leave, then returned to their seats.
The last tie was between Philadelphia and Cincinnati, 13-13 in 2008.
"I have to say, I've been doing this a while. I don't think I've ever been in a game like this," Fisher said. "As I told our guys, we had a number of chances to put the game away. And, unfortunately, we didn't."
Frank Gore ran for a 20-yard touchdown with 8:23 to go in regulation just 17 seconds after backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick scurried 7 yards for a score. Kaepernick finished 11 for 17 for 117 yards and also had eight carries for 66 yards, calmly leading the Niners after it took several series to find his groove.
Continue reading this story on the...