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(Sunday, December 26th)
Final Score: St. Louis 25, San Francisco 17
St. Louis, MO (Sports Network) - Sam Bradford has the Rams on the cusp of the playoffs in his rookie season after throwing for 292 yards and a touchdown as St. Louis defeated the San Francisco 49ers, 25-17, in a pivotal NFC West clash.
Meanwhile, the 49ers fired head coach Mike Singletary later Sunday with one game left in their dismal season.
The Rams (7-8) simply need to win in Seattle next week to capture the division title and make the playoffs for the first time since 2004. The Seahawks lost to Tampa Bay on Sunday, dropping them to 6-9 on the year, but can win the West via a tiebreaker if they beat St. Louis next week, despite a sub-.500 record.
There has never been a division winner with a losing record in NFL history.
"I'm excited. When you set out at the beginning of the year you always want to have the opportunity to make the playoffs. Here we are going into our last regular season game and we control our own destiny," said Bradford, who broke Peyton Manning's rookie record of 326 completions.
Josh Brown made all three of his field goal attempts, and Steven Jackson rushed for a touchdown in the key victory.
The 49ers (5-10) were still alive for the division crown coming in and opted to start Troy Smith at quarterback. Smith was intercepted once and threw for just 153 yards -- most coming on a 60-yard TD to Michael Crabtree -- and was benched early in the fourth quarter for Alex Smith.
Ted Ginn returned a punt for a touchdown in the loss, which was followed hours later by Singletary's firing after two-plus seasons and an 18-22 record at the helm.
Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will replace Singletary for San Francisco's final game against Arizona.
In a release issued by the team, Singletary called coaching the 49ers one of the greatest experiences of his life.
"What made it so special were the players," said Singletary, whose tenure included a surprise 8-8 mark last year, followed by this season's wire-to-wire disaster. "They were some of the most outstanding men I have ever been around in my life."
The Rams extended their 15-14 lead early in the fourth, thanks in part to Danario Alexander hauling in a 49-yard bomb down to the San Francisco three- yard line. On the next play, Bradford threw across his body and hit Laurent Robinson in the end zone with 9:36 to play.
In a last gasp effort to save the season -- and, perhaps, his job -- Singletary switched quarterbacks.
"Time was running out. I was trying to give Troy some opportunities to get on track. Our offense just didn't seem to ever get in rhythm," Singletary said. "The only thing I felt I could do was to go back to Alex (Smith) and stabilize the offense."
Alex Smith stepped in and completed all four of his attempts to get into field goal range. Jeff Reed's 47-yard kick cut the deficit to 22-17 with 5:41 remaining, but Danny Amendola returned the ensuing kickoff 84 yards to the 49ers' 12, setting up Brown's 28-yard field goal.
Again the 49ers got across midfield, but this time Chris Long stripped Alex Smith of the ball at the St. Louis 46. Rams defensive tackle Fred Robbins recovered the fumble with 2:19 remaining, and the hosts chewed more than a minute off the clock before punting.
With no timeouts left, the 49ers took over at their own 19 with 1:06 on the clock. Robbins came up with a big sack with roughly 30 seconds to go, and Ginn was tackled in-bounds on the final play at the St. Louis 44, officially ending San Francisco's shot at the playoffs.
On the game's opening possession, 49ers cornerback Nate Clements was called for pass interference to negate an interception and put the ball at the one- yard line. From there, Jackson ran over several defenders for a 7-0 lead.
Later in the first quarter, Troy Smith was backed up in his own territory, fumbled a shotgun snap and recovered the loose ball in the end zone for a safety.
Patrick Willis then thwarted a promising Rams drive by forcing a Bradford fumble, and San Francisco got on the board when no one got a hand on Ginn during his 78-yard punt return 5:34 into the second quarter.
Brown made it 12-7 with a 43-yard field goal to conclude the ensuing drive, but the visitors took the lead going into the break with another big play.
On 3rd-and-12 from his own 40, Troy Smith found Crabtree on a deep slant, and the receiver broke free and added a stiff-arm on Rams safety Craig Dahl en route to paydirt. The 60-yard TD accounted for nearly half of the 49ers' yardage (126) the entire first half.
Troy Smith remained inconsistent early in the third, throwing a high pass near midfield that was intercepted by Oshiomogho Atogwe. St. Louis converted the turnover into a 30-yard Brown field goal with 9:39 remaining in the stanza.
Singletary and Troy Smith got into a heated discussion on the sideline following the pick. The former Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State stayed in the game for the time being and guided the club into field goal range in the final minute of the quarter, but Reed hooked a 34-yard try to the left.
In the release, Singletary called the 49ers coaches "professionals" and said he wished the team "nothing but the best." He thanked the owners for giving him an opportunity to coach in the NFL.
"I am indebted to them for that," Singletary said. "I am also thankful for the faithful fans, I am just sorry I couldn't give them more."
The Rams have exceeded their win total from the previous three seasons combined. They also snapped a five-game skid against the 49ers...Bradford completed 28-of-37 passes...Alexander finished with 99 yards on six receptions...Jackson was held to 48 yards on 24 carries...The 49ers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 21 consecutive games...Brian Westbrook led the 49ers in rushing with 40 yards on 10 carries...Crabtree ended with 122 yards on six catches...Troy Smith was just 7-of-19 through the air, while Alex Smith was 10-of-15 for 120 yards...San Francisco cornerback Phillip Adams was carted off the field after suffering a leg injury during the second-half kickoff.
12/27 03:31:03 ET