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ST. LOUIS – With Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and the rest of the 1999 Super Bowl champions back for a bobbing and weaving celebration of the St. Louis Rams' heyday, the current players came out with a fantastic flurry.
It turned out to be a disappointing flashback of the team's last time playing in the Edward Jones Dome, another lead blown.
Colin Kaepernick threw for 343 yards and three touchdowns, helping the 49ers erase an early 14-point deficit and beat the Rams 31-17 on Monday night.
Brandon Lloyd, Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree each caught a scoring pass for the 49ers (4-2), who have won three in a row. Ahmad Brooks and Dan Skuta had two sacks apiece for a stifling defense that sacked Austin Davis five times and permitted one first down on St. Louis' first six possessions of the second half.
"We just didn't play well enough to win. Obviously, we got off to a quick start and just couldn't do enough in the second half," Davis said. "It was a tough one."
The Niners' comeback really got going just before the Rams' halftime celebration, with several of the former players forming a circle in the north end zone to do the bob 'n' weave dance seen so many times during the "Greatest Show on Turf" days.
Lloyd blew past Janoris Jenkins along the left sideline to catch an 80-yard touchdown pass with 14 seconds left in the first half, and San Francisco opened the second half with an 80-yard drive to take a 17-14 lead on Kaepernick's 11-yard TD pass to Boldin as he came across the end zone.
"I feel like the game plan's good, the scheme's good. We've just got to execute and have that edge. For the most part, I feel like this second half was just a lack of effort, a lack of fight from the offense," Rams running back Benny Cunningham said. "That's something we've just got to go back and get fixed."
As the Niners were taking the 17-14 lead, several fans in the upper deck unfurled a large banner above the videoboard on the opposite end of the stadium as part of ongoing protests about the Michael Brown shooting in suburban Ferguson in August. Later in the quarter, about three dozen fans marched around a walkway in the upper deck with their hands up, a reference to reports that Brown may have had his hands up when he was fatally shot. When asked in the locker room, several Rams players said they were unaware of the protests.
The sign was quickly taken down, with ushers stepping in and leading the fans away. Team officials refused to comment.
The Rams (1-4) mounted a brief rally with Greg Zuerlein's 38-yard field goal that cut the deficit to 24-17 with 2:24 to go, and St. Louis got the ball back with 1:05 left and 95 yards to go to tie the game. Instead, Davis bailed out of a collapsing pocket and threw an interception that Dontae Johnson returned 20 yards for the clinching score with 53 seconds left.
It was a disappointing conclusion for St. Louis, which had 151 yards and a 14-0 lead after the first quarter on Benny Cunningham's 1-yard run and a 22-yard touchdown reception for Lance Kendricks. The Rams squandered a 21-0 lead in a loss to Dallas in their last home game, then scored the final 21 points in a 34-28 loss at Philadelphia last week.
"We've had the ball in every game with a chance to either win or tie. That's where hopefully my experience will help, the more opportunities I get. I'll learn from it," said Davis, who has had three of his four interceptions returned for touchdowns, all at home and all in the fourth quarter.
"You've got to be able to go win games at the end. Every game's going to be tough. I feel like this one's really on me. I didn't play very good and I've got to find a way to lead this team."
It wasn't enough for the Rams, who haven't made the playoffs since 2003, to wear throwback uniforms featuring the royal blue and bright yellow from a decade ago.
The 49ers scuffled to a 1-2 start coming off a third straight appearance in the NFC championship game, but have won 13 of their last 14 in October.
"I just feel like we came out with an edge, with a chip on our shoulders and executed, did what coach asked of us. And in the second half, we lost the edge, we lost the mental toughness and we didn't really have the same fight that we had in the first half," Cunningham said.