ST. LOUIS (AP)—The St. Louis Rams set up a winner-take-all matchup at Seattle for the NFC West title, while the San Francisco 49ers will finish their disappointing season without Mike Singletary.
Sam Bradford broke Peyton Manning’s NFL rookie record for completions in a season and the Rams had four sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery in a 25-17 victory over San Francisco—which fired Singletary as coach later Sunday — to remain in position to end a five-season playoff drought.
“Another must win,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “It’s great to have that situation in the 16th game.”
St. Louis (7-8) has already accomplished much, rising from a 1-15 record in 2009. The Rams finished 5-3 at home, their first winning record since the last playoff appearance in 2004, and coming off a wretched three-year stretch in which they were 2-22.
The Rams ended a 10-game losing streak against Seattle with a 20-3 victory in October. Another win would give them their first season sweep since 2004, when they beat the Seahawks a third time in the playoffs.
“That’s exactly what we want,” running back Steven Jackson said. “We control it. We have another tough division foe that matches up with us, but I think the guys showed that we’re hungry to be successful.”
Bradford broke out of a three-game slump of no touchdown passes and five interceptions, throwing a 3-yarder to Laurent Robinson to put the Rams ahead 22-14 in the fourth quarter, one play after Danario Alexander’sspectacular 49-yard grab while flat on his back.
Bradford was sharp in the second half, going 16 for 20 for 168 yards. The lone miscue came when Patrick Willis stripped Bradford on a sack in the first quarter and the 49ers recovered at their own 32.
“I was very comfortable,” Bradford said. “Any time you give a quarterback time, they’re going to get comfortable.”
The 49ers (5-10) got a 78-yard punt return from Ted Ginn and a 60-yard touchdown grab by Michael Crabtree. But they’ll miss the playoffs for the eighth straight season.
In one of Singletary’s final moves, he benched quarterback Troy Smith in the fourth quarter, one series after the two had a heated exchange.
Smith had 356 yards passing in the 49ers’ 23-20 overtime victory over the Rams last month in San Francisco but was 7 for 19 for 153 yards in the rematch. He put it together for just one series, going 2 for 3 for 85 yards capped by a 60-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree int he second quarter.
Singletary and Smith shook hands in the locker room and the coach did not apologize for the sideline scene.
“I’m sure there’s a right way and a wrong way in today’s life,” Singletary said. “There are many different rules, being politically correct. All I know is I was trying to win a game and the bottom line is you have to do what you think is right.”
The 49ers were 1-7 on the road, where they were outscored 200-117. They appeared to sag after missing a chance to take a 17-15 lead late in the third quarter when Jeff Reed shanked a 34-yard field goal attempt.
San Francisco cut the gap to five on Reed’s 47-yarder
The Rams totaled four sacks, one of them by James Hall for a safety after Smith couldn’t handle a poor shotgun snap in the first quarter. O.J. Atogwe’s interception in the third led to one of Josh Brown’s three field goals.
St. Louis scored a touchdown on its opening drive for only the second time all season, benefiting from an interference call on Nate Clements, with Jackson scoring from the 1 on the next play.
The 49ers otherwise stuffed the run, limiting Jackson to 48 yards on 24 carries and making Bradford beat them. He has 335 completions, topping Manning’s record of 326 in 1998, and passed Chris Weinke for second in rookie attempts, needing 22 attempts next week to eclipse Manning.
The 49ers led 14-12 at the half despite totaling three first downs and 82 yards in penalties.
Ginn was untouched on his fourth career return touchdown, beating special teams that allowed no return yards on 10 punts by Donnie Jones in the first meeting. Smith converted twice on third and long during the touchdown drive, hitting Vernon Davis for 25 yards on third-and-13 and then connecting with Crabtree on the 60-yarder on third and 12.