TSX: Rams Beat 49ers

The NFC West has gone prime-time. A division that could send a sub-.500 team to the playoffs for the first time (not including the 1982 strike-shortened season when 16 teams qualified), will be featured Sunday night when the Rams (7-8) travel to Seattle (6-9) in a game that will crown the division champion.

The Rams would win the division outright with a victory or if the game ends in a tie. A Seattle victory would make each team 7-9, but the Seahawks would capture the division by virtue of a better division record (4-2 to the Rams' 3-3).

When it was pointed out to quarterback Sam Bradford on Sunday that he had broken Peyton Manning's rookie record for completions, he said, "I guess it's pretty cool. There's been a lot of really good quarterbacks play as rookies, but I'm more fired up about the win. That was a big win for us. Here we are in a position to make the playoffs, controlling our own destiny going to Seattle. So I'm definitely more pumped up about that opportunity."

Against the 49ers, Bradford completed 28 of 37 passes for 292 yards, a touchdown and a passer rating of 107.0. More important, with the Rams trailing 14-12 at halftime, Bradford then completed 16 of 20 passes for 168 yards in the second half. He completed all four of his passes for 68 yards and a touchdown on a fourth-quarter possession that extended the Rams' lead to 22-14. The touchdown was his first in four games since he had three in a 36-33 win over Denver on Nov. 28.

"I thought our offensive line did a great job protecting me," Bradford said. "I don't think I got hit but maybe once, which is awesome. Those guys did a great job. And our wide receivers -- they did a great job of getting open. Saw a lot of man coverage and they beat it, which is what we ask them to do. Jack (running back Steven Jackson) had some tough runs. He kept them off-balance. We'd hand it to him, he'd grind out a couple. So really everyone played great."

Asked about feeling comfortable, Bradford again mentioned the offensive line.

"They gave me a great pocket to throw from today," he said. "I had time, all day, to sit back and go through my reads. And anytime you give a quarterback time, they're going to get comfortable. And I feel like that's one of the main reasons I was comfortable today."

Bradford recovered from a first-quarter fumble that kept the Rams from building on a 9-0 lead. Following a 41-yard pass to wide receiver Brandon Gibson that reached the San Francisco 10-yard line, Bradford was stripped of the ball by blitzing linebacker Patrick Willis on first down, and it was recovered by 49ers linebacker Manny Lawson.

"I've just got to do a better job of protecting the ball," Bradford said. "If he gets on me like that, just tuck it and take the sack."

Now, the Rams prepare for a game in the national spotlight that can give them an 8-8 record after they won a total of six games the previous three seasons.

Said right guard Adam Goldberg, "Next week will be a lot of fun. Out in the rain and misery of Seattle January weather. But we're going to have a blast and come home and start a whole new season."

NOTES, QUOTES

-- Coach Steve Spagnuolo said the Rams' appearance on the nationally televised game Sunday "is another step in this whole thing." He added, "We're happy and excited about it."

-- Spagnuolo had some choice words for the team at halftime Sunday against San Francisco. He reiterated what had been said in a team meeting the night before, that whatever the score was halftime, the next 30 minutes would determine their fate.

Kicker Josh Brown didn't hear what Spagnuolo said because he left the locker room early to warm up for the second half. But he described the atmosphere as the Rams entered the room trailing 14-12 after they led 9-0.

The 49ers scored on a 78-yard punt return and a 60-yard pass play. At the half, the 49ers had just 126 yards and three first downs, but two first downs and 85 yards came on the touchdown drive. The first downs came on third-and-13 (25 yards) and third-and-12 (60-yard score).

Said Brown, "This was a grim locker room at halftime when I was in here. And I don't mean to speak out of turn, but it was like a funeral in here. Whatever coach said got guys in the right frame of mind."

Asked about Spagnuolo's message, running back Steven Jackson said, "It was to leave everything out there. Thirty minutes of football between if we were going to have a possibility of winning the division or put ourselves out of contention to go into the postseason. It was a talk that I think really propelled us. It was good to see our leader do that -- coach Spags."

-- Wide receiver Danario Alexander has played in just seven games, and he hasn't participated in a lot of plays as he continues to recover from five surgeries on his left knee,

But Alexander's big plays have been major factors in three victories.

A 38-yard touchdown in his first NFL game against San Diego propelled the Rams to a 20-17 victory. He had four catches for 72 yards in that game. Against Denver, he had four receptions for 95 yards, including one for 45 yards that led to a touchdown.

Sunday against the 49ers, he totaled 99 yards on six receptions, and he had a 46-yard catch to the 3-yard line that led to a touchdown and a 22-14 Rams lead in the fourth quarter.

Alexander tumbled backward on the play after losing the ball in the lights.

"The ball was so high in the air, I had to wait until it got under the lights to catch the ball," he said.

Alexander noted that he had more plays than in recent weeks.

"I got a few more reps than I usually get every game," Alexander said. "I was happy to be in the game. I think I brought a little spark, trying to get some big plays for the offense. Big plays are always good for the offense."

Said quarterback Sam Bradford, "It was an awesome catch by Danario. We were trying to get the ball to (Danny) Amendola on that play. Their safety hung in the middle a little bit, and I think they were actually both open, but I looked down and saw Danario just running away from his guy and he made a great catch.

"I think he always has great body position, seems like he can adjust to the ball wherever it's thrown. He just keeps himself in good position and ends up getting the ball somehow."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

-- TE Michael Hoomanawanui, who has missed the last four games with a high ankle sprain, might be able to practice Thursday. Hoomanawanui will work with trainer Reggie Scott on Wednesday with the hope he would be available Thursday. "We hope to get him back this week," coach Steve Spagnuolo said, "but we will tread lightly."

-- CB Jerome Murphy broke a bone in a finger Sunday against the 49ers, but he continued to play with the injury and is expected to play this week against Seattle. Coach Steve Spagnuolo joked, "I told him he has nine other fingers."

-- DE Chris Long, who played Sunday with a bruised thigh, got through the game OK and shouldn't be affected in practice this week.

-- DE Eugene Sims, who injured his knee Sunday but came back in the game, was diagnosed with a bruise. He should be OK this week.

-- FB Mike Karney played Sunday after being inactive for the previous four games. Karney carried once for 2 yards on a third-and-1 play in the second quarter.

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