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49ers notebook: Punter nearly passes Rams to victory

  • The Rams' Jo-Lonn Dunbar hits 49ers quarterback Alex Smith in the first quarter. Smith left the game later with a concussion. (JOHN BURGESS / The Press Democrat)

SAN FRANCISCO — Sam Bradford completed 26 of 39 passes for 275 yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Rams on Sunday. His passer rating of 104.1 was his best in seven weeks — but it wasn’t as good as Johnny Hekker’s 118.8.

Hekker is St. Louis’ punter, and he completed a pair of passes out of punt formation against the 49ers, both leading to first downs. The first was especially daring, out of his own end zone with 49 seconds on the clock before halftime. The second came at midfield in the fourth quarter and helped lead to Bradford’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Austin Pettis that gave the Rams a 24-21 lead.

“The punter was a quarterback at Oregon State,” San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said. “We’re well aware of the fact that he could throw the ball pretty darn good. He ran the scout team at Oregon State. It was good execution on their part.”

And a hard pill for the 49ers’ defense to swallow, twice thinking they had held the Rams on downs.

“It’s tough,” linebacker Patrick Willis said. “Anytime you think you are getting off the field on a third down, you are thinking you are going to go over there, look at the plays they just ran, get some Gatorade and get off your feet. Next thing you know, you have that sudden change and have to go right back out there on defense again.”

Rams coach Jeff Fisher said the first fake was called by coaches, but the second was a read by Hekker.

29 IS THE NEW 25

Niners halfback Frank Gore is 29 years old and has had a lot of wear and tear on his body, but continues to play at a high level. The same sentence could be written about St. Louis’ Steven Jackson.

Their styles are different, but these two old NFC West foes continue to shed tacklers and get upfield. Gore ran for 97 yards on 21 carries and added 18 yards on three catches Sunday; Jackson bulled for 101 on 29 attempts and added 26 on two receptions.

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