By Greg Beacham, AP Sports Writer
SAN FRANCISCO(AP) — Joe Nedney kicked a 29-yard field goal with 9:38 left in overtime, and Troy Smith passed for 356 yards while leading the San Francisco 49ers' late rally for a 23-20 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.
Smith earned his second straight victory as a starter for the 49ers (3-6), throwing a go-ahead 16-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree with 2:10 left in regulation.
After Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson led the Rams (4-5) back for Josh Brown's 33-yard field goal on the final snap of regulation, St. Louis couldn't get a first down after winning the overtime coin toss.
Smith swiftly moved the 49ers 55 yards, converting on third down for the first time in the game when St. Louis' Oshiomogho Atogwe was called for a 22-yard pass interference penalty. Nedney then made his third field goal despite injuring his leg on the opening kickoff of San Francisco's fifth straight win over St. Louis.
Bradford went 30 of 42 for 251 yards and a touchdown, while Jackson rushed for 81 yards and a score. The Rams have lost seven straight road games, including all four under their rookie quarterback.
Smith made his second straight start for the 49ers in place of Alex Smith, out with a separated left shoulder. With resilience and a knack for making open-field throws into St. Louis' porous secondary, Troy Smith started slowly but won the first NFL meeting of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks since Carson Palmer and Vinny Testaverde faced off six years ago.
Nobody will get any trophies after this often-ugly game - but thanks to the NFC West's overall mediocrity, San Francisco is still in the thick of the chase for its first playoff berth since 2002, just two games behind leader Seattle. St. Louis fell a game back of first place after losing on the road for the 20th time in 22 games.
The 49ers overcame 14 penalties and two fourth-quarter touchdown passes negated by penalties with outstanding drives on their final two possessions. Gore caught two big passes on the 49ers' 76-yard go-ahead drive in the final minutes of regulation, including a gutsy 23-yard reception on fourth-and-18.
Holding penalties wiped out Smith's apparent scoring passes to Crabtree and Vernon Davis in the fourth quarter, and a first-quarter penalty erased a long interception return by Nate Clements. The 49ers kept plugging, and their defense kept St. Louis out of the end zone in the fourth quarter and OT.
Danny Amendola caught an early TD pass for St. Louis, which went ahead 17-10 late in the third quarter on Jackson's 13-yard TD run through traffic.
On third-and-17 with 2:30 left in regulation, Davis made an acrobatic end-zone catch over two defenders, but left tackle Joe Staley committed an obvious holding penalty. St. Louis then left Gore wide open on fourth-and-long - and on the next play, Smith had all kinds of time to find Crabtree at the goal line.
The Rams needed every second of the final 2:06 to respond. Jackson made a difficult 25-yard catch at the San Francisco 18 with 43 seconds left to put the Rams in field goal range, but tight end Daniel Fells dropped a pass that hit his hands inside the 10 moments later.
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