By Brandon Burnett
Cold, Hard Football Facts Wizard of the NFC West (@B_Burnett49er)
For the first time in four years, two NFL teams took the field in search of a win and neither of them came away with one.
A 24-24 tie.
That's how the 49ers and Rams concluded their penalty-filled slop-fest at Candlestick Park Sunday. Oddly enough, these NFC West foes were facing off at the Stick the last time the National Football League experienced a game ending with such an unsatisfying result.
Remember when Donovan McNabb and the Eagles shared defeat (by no means should any man mistake a tie for victory) with the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 16, 2008? Indeed, that was the last time we football fans witnessed an unwelcome occasion such as this.
To make things even more unusual, it was David Akers who sent that game to OT with a fourth-quarter field goal, much like he did this one.
Ironically enough, the tie pushed the Rams and 49ers' all-time series record to 61-61-3 in regular season games.
So, how does the third tie since the new millennium shake things up in the NFC West? For starters, it keeps the Seahawks (who were busy obliterating the Jets while this madness took place) very much in the thick of the divisional race.
On a personal note, it frustrates the living hell out of me. My take on the matter is that if ties are no longer a part of the NHL (where games routinely require a shootout to decide a winner), we shouldn't have to deal with them in football, either. Honestly, I'd rather wear wet socks every day for a week than be forced to stare at such an unnecessary blemish for the rest of the season.
For the record, there are few things I despise more than wet socks.
Moving on from my utter hatred for ties (including the ones that go around your neck), here's what else we learned in Week 10.
1. For the 49ers, This Sure Feels Like a Loss
I'm really not sure where to begin here.
After not allowing a touchdown in four of its last five games, San Francisco uncharacteristically trailed 14-0 after 15 minutes of football. At home, to the last place team in the NFCW, no less. Then, it lost QB Alex Smith to a concussion early in the second quarter and Colin Kaepernick filled in the rest of the way.
The 49ers were tricked twice by fake-punt pass completions by punter Johnny Hekker. The Rams put up 458 yards of offense—365 in regulation—and converted on 7 of 16 third-down attempts. St. Louis' three second-half drives averaged 12 plays apiece. Akers missed a 41-yard attempt in OT. Patrick Willis, to everyone's surprise, committed a drive-extending defensive holding penalty with a minute to go in the fifth quarter.
SF was extremely lucky that St. Louis was playing such undisciplined football, or Danny Amendola's 80-yard catch in OT wouldn't have been called back due to a an irrelevant illegal formation penalty for having too few guys on the line of scrimmage. Greg "The Leg" Zeurlein's 53-yard FG would have sealed the deal if not for a silly delay of game right before the snap. As you already know, he missed the 58-yarder that immediately followed.
The 49ers surely didn't deserve to win this game. The same could be said for the Rams, of course. As much as it pains me to say, it's probably fitting that neither team did.
The good news for the Niners, if there is any, would be that the Falcons, Bears and Giants—who all came into Week 10 at 6-3 or better—fell on their collective faces Sunday. Chicago and New York both lost to AFC opponents, which is basically a double bonus.
Nonetheless, a win would've pulled San Fran within a game of the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Now, that ugly little tie will ensure that no tiebreaker has a say in the 49ers' postseason plans. Unless, of course, the Rams make a miraculous playoff run or we experience yet another tie.
2. The Seahawks are Picking up Steam Again
I'm not going to get too carried away here, taking into account that both of Seattle's recent wins were home games. Still, the Seahawks' dominance at CenturyLink Field is pretty unreal, and it all starts with Russell Wilson.
Wilson's two TD passes in Seattle's nonchalant, 28-7 win over the Jets gives him 11 touchdowns to zero picks in five home games this season. He finished the game with a passer rating of 131.0, the fourth time he's had a passer rating of over 100 at home in his rookie season.
Even Golden Tate got in on the action Sunday, with a 23-yard TD pass.
Of course, having Marshawn Lynch in your backfield makes life much easier for whoever's throwing the ball. Beast Mode rumbled for 124 and a score on the ground, in addition to a 24-yard catch-and-run.Lynch's 124 yards on 27 carries put him at the exact mark he finished in Week 9's win over Minnesota (only took him 26 carries). He scored in that game as well.
Lynch now has six 100-yard performances in 2012, and he joins Adrian Peterson as the only running back in the NFL with over 1,000 yards rushing on the year.
Three road games in four weeks loom after a Week 11 bye, but Seattle's 6-4 record is currently good enough to have them occupying the No. 6 seed in the NFC. If the season ended today, the NFCW would send two teams to the postseason for the first time since 2004.
3. Danny Amendola is Clearly the Key to the Rams' Success
The St. Louis Rams are simply a more effective team with their No. 1 WR in the lineup.
Obviously, that statement holds true for basically any team. But I assure you, Amendola's presence on the field has a direct correlation to the Rams' success. For starters, St. Louis was 3-2 in games he played in before his collarbone injury. They went 0-3 in his absence.
We all know how 2011 went, and Amendola missed 15 games last year.
Even after finding a considerable amount of success (as much as a tie can possibly provide) against the NFC West's top dog, the return of Amendola quells only one of the Rams' many concerns.
For starters, St. Louis' Bendability score of 14.21 yards per point allowed against San Francisco is worse than they averaged coming into Week 10 (14.75 YPPA, No. 21 in NFL). Secondly, Jeff Fisher had to leave contributing rookies Janoris Jenkins and Chris Givens inactive for the game after each violated team rules.
The Rams' 13 penalties (many of them costly) proved they're every bit as undisciplined on the field as they are off it.
With Amendola in the lineup, they still managed to break even with the 49ers—in their house. Not quite as inspiring as a win would've been, but something to build on nonetheless.
4. San Francisco's Developing Trend is a Concerning One
The 49ers have been able to put together back-to-back dominant performances on three separate occasions this season.
San Fran started out 2012 by handling the Packers at Lambeau Field, and followed it up with an equally impressive performance at home in Week 2. In Week 3, however, it was the Niners who were handled, losing to the Vikings 24-13.
After consecutive blowout wins to bring them to 4-1, Frisco appeared poised for revenge over the defending champion Giants in Week 6. A 26-3 loss later, the 49ers had again failed miserably in their attempt to string together three straight wins.
SF would go on to beat the Seahawks and Cardinals before its Week 9 bye, only to have this debacle with the Rams' thwart a third straight attempt at a three-game winning streak. Much like in the losses to Minnesota and New York, the Niners came out looking flatter than than a frog on the highway.
You can't win a Super Bowl without winning three straight games. And there won't be any ties come playoff time, so no help there, either.
At 6-2-1 (see how inconveniencing that tie can be?), it's evident that the 49ers are a solid team. But if they want to be a great team, they'll have to stop falling on their collective faces every third game on the schedule.
5. Looking Ahead to Week 11
Seattle will enjoy a well-deserved respite this weekend. After the Week 11 bye, the 'Hawks head to Miami with a great chance to advance to 7-4 on the year. That's not to say they will, of course. Taking Seattle away from home is far from a safe bet. The Seahawks will also have to avoid looking ahead to a trip to Soldier Field in Week 13, but that shouldn't be an issue.
San Francisco will host those Bears on "Monday Night Football" in a game pinning two of the NFL's top defenses against one another. Chicago and San Fran came into Week 10 as the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in Bendability and Defensive Passer Rating, respectively. A win would give the 49ers sole possession of the NFC's No. 2 seed, while a loss would help Seattle close the divisional gap to just one game.
The Cardinals return to action in Week 11, desperate for a change of luck. Heading to Atlanta to take on the 8-1 Falcons does not seem like it'll be a promising source of what their looking for. Arizona had dropped five straight heading into the bye, but Atlanta will enter the game experiencing a similar amount of frustration after dropping one to the Saints in Week 10 and losing its undefeated record.
St. Louis will return home to hand the Jets their third NFCW lashing of the season. New York has already lost to the Seahawks and 49ers by a combined score of 62-7, so the Rams should be feeling confident in their chances to emerge victorious.