Monday, November 26, 1990

RAMS RUIN 49ERS' SHOT AT RECORD

Compiled From News Services

SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco 49ers say they were concentrating on the Los Angeles Rams, not the New York Giants.

A week before a much-ballyhooed game against the Giants, the 49ers turned over the ball six times and their 18-game winning streak, one short of breaking the National Football League record, ended with a 28-17 loss to the Rams on Sunday.

''The Rams have a bad record, but they're not a bad football team, for whatever reason,'' 49ers linebacker Matt Millen said. ''. . . I don't think we were looking ahead.''

Cleveland Gary scored three touchdowns and fullback Buford McGee threw for one touchdown and ran for another as the Rams (4-7) became the first team to defeat the defending Super Bowl champions since Nov. 19, 1989.

The 49ers' loss - and the Giants' defeat in Philadelphia - spoiled what would have been a blockbuster matchup of unbeatens next Monday night.

''Maybe they were looking ahead,'' Rams coach John Robinson speculated of the 49ers, who are 10-1. ''I don't know. That's not my problem.''

Some San Francisco players said that factor wasn't their problem.

''Coming into this game, I thought this game was more significant than the Giants game,'' 49ers safety Ronnie Lott said. ''When you play a team that is very familiar with you - I think we played these guys four times last year - they definitely know us. They definitely know where to attack.''

For the Rams, the outcome made up for some of this season's disappointments.

''This proves we can play with the big boys,'' said Rams linebacker Kevin Greene, a Granite City, Ill., product who recovered two fumbles.

The 49ers' Joe Montana turned the ball over four times in a wind-driven rainstorm, fumbling once and throwing three interceptions for the first time since Sept. 18, 1988.

Montana completed 22 of 37 passes for 235 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.

''We gave them the ball a lot,'' Montana said. ''Those are things you can't do against a team like the Rams.''

Tom Rathman and Jerry Rice also lost fumbles for San Francisco, which lost for the third consecutive year to the Rams at Candlestick Park.

''I don't know why the Rams seem to play us so tough at Candlestick,'' San Francisco running back Roger Craig said. ''But when you make as many mistakes as we did, you're going to lose the ballgame.''

The Rams opened a 21-7 halftime lead thanks in large part to four San Francisco turnovers.

But the 49ers scored 10 third-quarter points, cutting the lead to 21-17 on a 42-yard field goal by Mike Cofer with 1 minute 20 seconds remaining in the period.

A 23-yard touchdown pass from Montana to Harry Sydney with 6:05 left in the third quarter started the rally. Sydney took a screen pass left, then zig-zagged off three tacklers before reaching the end zone, capping a four-play, 62-yard drive.

However, the 49ers' next possession ended when Montana was intercepted by Vince Newsome at the Los Angeles 10-yard line. The Rams then marched 90 yards in 17 plays to the clinching touchdown.

The climax of the drive, which lasted 10:37, was a 1-yard touchdown run by Gary. He lost control of the football and appeared to dribble and kick it before slicing into the end zone for the winning score.

Gary, who fumbled near the goal line in the fourth quarter during last week's 24-21 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, was asked what went through his mind when the ball slipped from his grasp. ''Holy Cow!'' he said. ''I just wanted to continue to go forward. Then nobody touched me and that was the sweet part of it. Yeah, it was a bizarre play in a lot of ways.''

The touchdown, for all practical purposes, wrapped things up.

''I thought the key was that last drive,'' Robinson said. ''It took a lot of time off the clock. . . . I liked the way we drove the ball in the last quarter. That's why we won.''

The 49ers were the fourth NFL team to win 18 consecutive games. They share the record with the 1933-34 Chicago Bears, the 1941-42 Bears and the 1972-73 Miami Dolphins.

The Rams started off by turning Greene's second fumble recovery of the game and some trickery into their first touchdown.

The Rams took over on their 49. Four plays later, on third and two from the San Francisco 22, quarterback Jim Everett handed off to McGee, who ran into a pile of humanity. As he did, he pitched the ball forward to Gary, who raced 22 yards untouched for the score.

Because McGee was behind the line of scrimmage, it went as a touchdown pass that gave LA a 7-0 lead.

The Rams' second touchdown came three plays after Mike Wilcher recovered a fumble by Rice at the San Francisco 19-yard line. Gary scored on a 10-yard run, putting Los Angeles ahead 14-0.

Gary hurdled two players at the line of scrimmage, then bounced off a diving Dave Waymer, before gliding into the end zone 2:25 into the second quarter.