SAN FRANCISCO -- As the St. Louis Rams walked through the tunnel to their locker room, many of them with the same befuddled look quarterback Sam Bradford wore, one put it succinctly, if not logically.Sometimes you win and they say you lost, and sometimes you lose and they say you win, and sometimes you do both, and it ends up in a tie.In other words, nobody knows what to do with the 49ers-Rams 24-24 tie Sunday. The Rams think they sort of got jobbed, but arent sure why. The 49ers think they underachieved, but arent sure why.And everywhere else in the Bay Area, it is Christmas Eve. The 49ers have a real quarterback controversy again, and nothing opens arteries in these parts quite like a quarterback argument that cannot be settled.In fact, because these are the 49ers, where information is not their most important product, were not even sure when it all began, because nobody is quite sure when Alex Smith received the concussion that eventually put him out of the game, off the field and out of the stadium. Most people thought it was the shot he took from linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar on the first play of the last series of the first quarter, but head coach Jim Harbaugh claimed it happened on a quarterback sneak six plays later.
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But it happened, with the 49ers down 14-0, and Colin Kaepernick sort of rallied the lads to a hard-fought draw that left both sides feeling ... well, pretty damned meh.The players feel like I do, Harbaugh said. They dont know quite how to feel.
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Oh. Okay. Whatever that means. Maybe thats just his version of Sometimes you do both and it ends up in a tie.The 49ers played down to the Rams, that much is clear. But the Rams also played up to the 49ers, so in that way, the NFLs first split pot in 10 years was probably the right result.But that ignores the number of ways the Rams kneed themselves in the groin (never an easy thing to perform), like the 62-yard Danny Amendola punt return that was called back by a Justin Cole illegal block, or the 80-yard Amendola catch and run on the first play of overtime that was called back because Brandon Gibson didnt cover Roger Saffold in the Rams original formation. Or Greg Zuerleins 53-yard field goal in overtime that would have won the game if not for a delay of game call.And it also ignores the ways the 49ers tried to lose control of the game before that, or the missed 41-yard David Akers field goal in overtime, or the two fake punts the 49ers didnt cover that allowed the Rams to extend possessions. Or, frankly, how the loss of Smith probably damaged their offensive cohesion in a game that was much more difficult than they expected it to be.But hey, you still got more useful evidence of the Smith-v.-Kaepernick death struggle youve been itching for all these months. Over the years, Smith has been unencumbered by true competition (with all due respect to Shaun Hill), and now Kaepernick brings a crypto-comeback to the argument.An argument, frankly, that still shouldnt really exist. Smith is still the better of the two for obvious reasons, and Kaepernick showed more with his feet Sunday than with his arm (which is still the major complaint against Smith).But weve never let logic chase us away from a quarterback argument when were spoiling for one. And Kaepernick did say while the result didnt feel very good, I thought I did pretty well.He did throw some smart-looking balls to Michael Crabtree on the 49ers first touchdown. He did hold serve on two long drives, one of 15 plays and 8:34, the other of 11 plays and 6:38. And he did gain 29 of the 63 yards needed to set up Akers game-tying field goal.So yes, he did pretty well, and that will keep the fires of tavern-based shouting burning at least until Smith is cleared to play again. He has protocols to endure and baseline tests to match between now and next Mondays game against Chicago, and between now and the day Smith is cleared, the customers will get the gift that keeps on giving.The Eternal QC. An argument that cant be settled because nobody admits that theyre wrong, and the kind of thing that makes coaches very uncomfortable because it introduces so many unknowns into a world that demands as much certainty as possible.In other words, good times, children. The 49ers are 6-2-1, and the 1 is the biggest game of them all because of the rhetorical bloodsport it has just spawned.In other words, a tie has the area all in knots. How does it get better than that?