What it means: The Rams proved they'll be a tough out for every team in the NFC West, not just for Arizona and Seattle. They'll be tough on quarterbacks now that Jeff Fisher is their head coach. And with Sam Bradford at quarterback, they can challenge a quality defense on the road with strong fourth-quarter play. But they were a mess when it mattered, committing penalties and making questionable use of timeouts.
Meanwhile, the 49ers suddenly appear vulnerable heading into a highly anticipated "Monday Night Football" matchup against the Chicago Bears. They have injury questions after quarterback Alex Smith suffered a first-half concussion and did not return.
What I liked: This was another rough-and-tumble game in the NFC West. It was looking for a few weeks as though the Rams might not have enough to sustain the early fight they showed this season. Those concerns went away quickly Sunday. The Rams took the game to San Francisco by winning at the line of scrimmage in shocking fashion. They also took the initiative with aggressive plays, symbolized by the fake punt they converted from their own end zone while holding a 14-7 lead late in the first half.
Niners linebacker Patrick Willis and Rams running back Steven Jackson staged a memorable battle over the first-down marker on a third-and-long play. Both were the best players on bad teams in the past. They've become symbols for excellence no matter the circumstances. Jackson fought forward for the first down and got help from teammates, it appeared. His helmet popped off, allowing for a clear shot at just how much he was straining for extra yardage. For Jackson, losing the helmet carried practical value, too. It ended the play, pre-empting what might otherwise have been ruled as a fumble.
The 49ers' special teams haven't been as good overall this season, but they came through at least once when needed Sunday. Tramaine Brock's forced fumble during a Rams kick return set up Frank Gore's 20-yard touchdown run as the 49ers took a 21-17 lead midway through the fourth quarter. Gore ran with great effort.
The Rams succeeded on two fake punts, including one to prevent a three-and-out while trailing 21-17. Bradford, one of the better fourth-quarter quarterbacks this season, found Danny Amendola over the middle on third down to keep the same drive moving. Jackson did a great job picking up the blitz to allow Bradford's 2-yard scoring pass to Austin Pettis as the Rams took a 24-21 lead with 1:09 remaining.
What I didn't like: Roughing up the opposing quarterback is always the goal, but it's never good when anyone suffers a concussion. Smith suffered his second in as many seasons. He had completed 7 of 8 passes with a touchdown before departing in the first half. A hard hit from Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar might have been the culprit.
Smith joined Arizona's Kevin Kolb (sacked nine times by Rams) and Seattle's Russell Wilson (picked off three times by them) as quarterbacks suffering through rough games against St. Louis. His replacement, Colin Kaepernick, struggled with accuracy, missing Vernon Davis and Kyle Williams when they were open. But his scrambling ability was critical for the 49ers as they clawed their way back into the game.
The Rams, meanwhile, played without receiver Chris Givens and cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Both were inactive for violating team rules. Givens and Jenkins let down their teammates heading into a critical game as the Rams were looking to bounce back from a couple of tough defeats.
Question for the coach: Fisher deserves scrutiny for calling timeout before the Rams scored their go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. That left the 49ers with additional time to move down the field for the tying field goal. San Francisco did just that. The Rams' defense couldn't hold a fourth-quarter lead at Detroit in Week 1, and the same was true in this game.
Penalty problems: The Rams had completed what they thought was an 80-yard pass to Amendola early in overtime. They would have had possession in position to score the winning touchdown with a first-and-goal.
But officials flagged that left tackle Rodger Saffold did not report as an eligible receiver. These types of penalties often result from the wide receiver failing to line up properly. Receiver Brandon Gibson apparently wasn't on the line of scrimmage at the snap. That was a horrible error in a critical situation.
The Rams later had two players in motion while trying to move into position for an attempt at the winning field goal in overtime. They were also flagged for delay of game while Greg Zuerlein's attempt at the winning kick in overtime sailed through from 52 yards. That was the 12th penalty assessed against the Rams. The team still had a timeout to use, so there was no reason to take the delay.
What's next: The 49ers face the Bears at home on Monday night. The Rams are home against the New York Jets.