ST. LOUIS – Expected to be an up-and-comer if not a full-fledged contender, the Rams have been, well, the same old Rams so far this season.
A 35-11 home loss to San Francisco on Thursday night dropped St. Louis to 1-3, a disappointing start for a young team that appeared on the upswing after going 7-8-1 last year in Jeff Fisher's first season as coach.
Five days after the Cowboys' DeMarco Murray gashed St. Louis for 175 yards rushing, veteran 49ers running back Frank Gore was dominant, too, gaining 153 yards on 20 carries that included a back-breaking, fourth-and-1 34-yard touchdown run in the final minute of the second quarter that put the 49ers up 14-3.
Gore also had runs of 18, 27 and 17 yards. Overall, San Francisco had 219 yards on the ground.
"It's disgusting," Rams defensive end Chris Long said. "It really is just disgusting. That's not who we are, but if we keep playing like that it'll be who we are."
The other side of the running game was just as horrific for St. Louis. The Rams entered the game 29th in rushing offense, and that got worse, with 18 rushing yards in 19 attempts. Second-year back Daryl Richardson, the replacement for departed free-agent Steven Jackson, carried 12 times for 16 yards.
The Rams haven't had a winning season since going 12-4 in 2003, the swan song of the "Greatest Show on Turf" years. Until last season they were an NFL-worst 15-65 over the previous five seasons. Last season's improvement, and what appeared to be a strong draft, seemed to have St. Louis on the verge of a turnaround.
Maybe not. After beating Arizona to start the season and losing by just a touchdown at Atlanta, the Rams have been outscored 66-18 in the past two games.
"I don't think anyone of us thought we would be in this position after the first quarter of the season," said Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, who was 19 for 41 for 202 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His fourth-quarter fumble at the St. Louis 3 set up a 49ers score.
The offensive line struggled, too. After surrendering no sacks in the first two games, St. Louis has given up 11 in the past two, including five on Thursday even though the 49ers were without cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and linebackers Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith.
The Rams did break one unsightly streak — Greg Zuerlein's 40-yard field goal in the first quarter put St. Louis up 3-0 and broke a string of nine games in which St. Louis had failed to score in the first quarter, dating a touchdown against the Jets on Nov. 12.
After that it was all downhill except for Bradford's 6-yard touchdown pass to Lance Kendricks with 5:44 to play and a 2-point conversion run by Benny Cunningham.
"We've got a lot of work to do," Fisher said. "I'm very disappointed for our fans. I had faith in this football team that we were going to get it fixed."
Colin Kaepernick had no touchdown passes and four interceptions the previous two weeks and completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes. On Thursday he was 15 for 23 for 167 yards and two touchdowns.
"We know the talent we have on this team," Kaepernick said. "We know what we're capable of."
San Francisco's Anquan Boldin had five catches for 90 yards. He had two highlight catches in the second quarter, a 42-yarder despite Cortland Finnegan getting flagged for holding, and a 20-yard score capped by a dive into the end zone after barely avoiding the sideline.
The Rams have trailed by double digits in every game, making up an 11-point deficit against Arizona in the opener but not gaps of 21 and 24 points against Atlanta and Dallas, and were down by 25 in the fourth quarter against San Francisco.
They got hit by injuries, too, the worst of them when rookie safety T.J. McDonald was carted off with a leg injury in the second half.
After mustering just 25 yards in the first quarter, the 49ers took a noisy crowd out of it in the second, averaging more than 11 yards per snap while piling up 176 yards and two touchdowns.
The Rams went for it on third-and-1 from the 49ers 34 and Donte Whitner's diving interception in the end zone set up an eight-play, 80-yard drive capped by Gore's 34-yard run on third-and-1 in the final minute that made it 14-3.
Vernon Davis, who had been questionable with a because of a hamstring injury, broke open for an easy catch in the left side of the end zone in the third quarter to push the lead to 21-3. Backup running backs Anthony Dixon and Kendall Hunter scored on runs in the fourth quarter — Dixon for 1 yard and Hunter for 29.
Boldin entered with 83 career receptions against the Rams, the most of any opponent he has faced.