Even on an off-day, the San Francisco 49ers still own the St. Louis Rams.
Steve Young, misfiring more often than not, managed three touchdown passes and Darnell Walker had two first-half interceptions that led to scores as the 49ers beat the Rams for the 16th consecutive time, 28-10 Sunday.
"They made the plays when they had to. We made none," Rams cornerback Todd Lyght said.
The 49ers' winning streak dates to 1990, five years before the Rams (2-5) left the West Coast for the Midwest.
"I'm not going to try and explain it," Young said. "I just know that we see it as an individual effort. They're won one at a time."
Young's first touchdown pass, a 12-yarder to Rice, came on the 49es' first play. Rice broke the mark for consecutive games with a catch set by Art Monk from 1980-95 and became the first receiver to top 17,000 career yards, finishing with four catches for 64 yards.
"It's an honor to break his record," Rice said. "Art Monk, he was the ideal receiver."
Young was 13-for-24 for 227 yards and survived his first multi-interception game in nearly two years, throwing first-half picks to Mike A. Jones and Lyght. His record streak of six straight 300-yard passing games also came to an end, but he still leads the NFL with 20 touchdown passes and has only five interceptions.
The Rams, shut out last week at Miami, couldn't overcome losing their three best offensive players to injuries, producing just 62 yards in the first half and 168 overall. Wide receiver Isaac Bruce left with a hamstring injury in the first quarter, third-down back Amp Lee broke his left hand in the first and left tackle Orlando Pace injured his right shoulder in the second.
"Not making excuses, but when you lose those guys, it kind of takes away your game plan," coach Dick Vermeil said.
Then there was the excruciating start by Banks, who skipped the team flight out of Miami last weekend and missed a day of meetings and film study. The hometown fans greeted Banks with boos every time he trotted on the field and he responded by beginning the game 0-for-7 with two interceptions that led to 49ers touchdowns and two sacks.
| Amp Lee is trapped between 49ers Tim McDonald (46) and Darnell Walker (38) and would later leave the game with a broken hand. (AP) |
Banks finished 15-for-35 for 121 yards and three interceptions. San Francisco's Roy Barker had four of the sacks, tying his career best.
Banks apologized twice for his off-the-field actions, which resulted in a $5,000 fine.
"I feel like apologizing again," Banks said Sunday after the Rams wasted a solid performance by their defense for the second straight week. "They played such a great game."
The Rams lost 14-0 at Miami last week.
Vermeil thought about yanking Banks in the first quarter, then decided against it.
"The only way he's going to get better is to play," Vermeil said. "Hopefully, we'll do a better job around him."
Walker picked off Banks' first pass, an underthrown ball intended for Bruce, and returned it 13 yards to the Rams 12. On the next play, Young rolled out to his left and hit Rice with a 12-yard pass.
Another underthrown pass, this one intended for Eddie Kennison, was intercepted by Walker with 4:34 left in the first and he returned it 23 yards to the 35. Six plays later, the 49ers had a 14-0 lead after Young connected with Irv Smth on a 2-yard pass.
The 49ers, stymied most of the day by the Rams' defense, busted out with two long plays from Young to Owens to make it 21-3 with 2:07 left in the third. Young and Owens hooked up on 48-yard play, then Owens beat Ryan McNeil for a 27-yard score.
Owens finished with five catches for 120 yards.
The Rams scored their first touchdown in two games when Banks scrambled 6 yards with 11:44 to go, then Jeff Wilkins recovered his own onside kick. But Banks bobbled a low shotgun snap on the next play and Ken Norton Jr. recovered to give the 49ers the ball at the Rams 21. Owens scored on an end-around the following play.
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