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Re-living ‘99: Isaac Bruce, Rams teach 49ers about new reality in Week 5

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St. Louis looks to stop a 17-game losing streak to a San Francisco team that was about to fall flat on its face

San Francisco 49er cornerback Darnell Walker (L) c Photo credit should read PETER NEWCOMB/AFP via Getty Images

Re-living ‘99: A week-to-week look back on one of the greatest seasons in NFL history.

Always a fan of horror movies above any other genre, I spent a period of my life attempting to watch all the movies they told us not to watch. Movies like Cannibal Holocaust, A Serbian Film, and Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, a 1975 film by Pier Paolo Pasolini, based on work by Marquis de Sade.

De Sade, the literal origin of the word “sadist,” was known for his libertine sexuality — a “libertine” being someone who lives without moral principles; a person who lives or attempts to live without limits. One person who was not shocked by the Marquis de Sade though was Kim Deal of the band The Breeders, who once said of their most famous song, “Cannonball”:

“My sister was reading a biography on the Marquis de Sade and I’m making fun of him. I’m saying, “Oh you little libertine! You’re a real cuckoo! If you wanna go to hell, come on, let’s go to hell! Don’t just jump in ... do a cannonball!”

“Cannonball” was released in fall of 1993, peaking at #44 on the Billboard Hot 100.

One person who would not have appreciated hearing this song on the radio might be Ichabod Crane, the lanky schoolmaster from Sleepy Hollow who was tortured by the Headless Horseman; it is rumored that he lost his head from a stray cannonball in the American Revolutionary War. Of course, this is all a made up tale by Washington Irving from his 1819 collection, “The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.” Another essay from that collection that remains relevant in story and pop culture even today:

“Rip Van Winkle.”

The villager who slept for 20 years and missed the Revolution altogether. And while you’d never want to confused The Breeders with Washington Irving, so too should you not confused his sleepy subject (the bearded one, not the headless one) with the guy who wants you to stop.

Collaborate.

And listen.

While it is practically the “Trent Green” to his eventual “Kurt Warner,” Robert Van Winkle released his very first single — “Play That Funky Music” — in January of 1989. Better known by his stage name Vanilla Ice, Van Winkle’s attempt to become the first white rapper to crack the mainstream, or arguably the first rapper to crack the mainstream at all, was nearly a complete failure. Though it seems to make logical sense to introduce the world to a white rapper by releasing a sample from the song that famously said to “play that funky music, white boy,” listeners weren’t all that interested at the time to the A side of his debut.

In hindsight, I think I’d rather listen to “Play That Funky Music” than anything else of Ice that I’ve heard and can remember at this time. Maybe it’s simply that it’s not an out-played song, but I don’t think an unbiased person can deny his rapping and dancing talent relative to the time he was in; I’m not saying he was even near the best but maybe we did sleep on him for 20 years.

But radio stations and MTV would not be sleeping on Ice for long.

While some have credited Darrell Jaye and others David Morales, some DJ at some point flipped over “Play That Funky Music” and attempted to get listeners interested in his other single, “Ice Ice Baby.” They must have felt under pressure to generate some interest. On November 24, 1990, “Ice Ice Baby” debuted at #3 on the Billboard 100 and by the next week, it had unseated a re-issue of the 1955 classic “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers to become the first rap song ever to hit number one.

Were it not for an ankle injury in 1986 which forced him to quit motocross and focus on rapping and dancing, we may never have heard of either Robert Van Winkle or his sleeper mega-hit, “Ice Ice Baby,” which you could call “I.I.B.” for short.

IIB.

Isaac Isadore Bruce was born on November 10, 1972 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to father Jesse and mother “K,” who stressed discipline and Christianity to Isaac and his 14 siblings.

“I never allowed defiance in my house,” she says. Every morning as the children got ready for school, K would sit in the hallway outside their rooms and read Bible verse aloud. On Sundays they went to church for six hours. “Church is all this family knows how to do,” says Bruce’s sister Charlotte.

A lover of God, family, and football, Bruce attended Dillard High School and was schoolmates with receiver Frank Sanders, an Auburn recruit and future second round pick of the Arizona Cardinals.

As a senior, Bruce caught 39 passes for 644 yards and his team won the state 4A Championship. Colleges were interested in his football services, but much like future teammate Az-Zahir Hakim, he wasn’t make the grades; Purdue had to withdraw their offer because of his low SAT scores. Bruce instead went all the way to Santa Monica College in Los Angeles and worked to improve himself as a football player and as a student, though he had his doubts:

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be back out here,” Bruce said of returning to Los Angeles. “Two years ago, I was out watching the Rams scrimmage the Chargers in San Diego, and I never figured then that I would get out this way again.”

It was right around that time, also in Los Angeles, that record producer Suge Knight threatened Robert Van Winkle’s life on a hotel balcony if he didn’t give him the rights to “Ice Ice Baby” and that’s what eventually helped finance Death Row Records.

After two JUCO seasons, Bruce did enough to transfer to Memphis State, choosing them over Cal and quite a few others. He was eventually persuaded by Memphis State assistant Randy Fichtner, the same coach who’d later be credited with developing many of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ great receivers since 2007, including Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Wallace, and Santonio Holmes.

The 1992 Memphis media guide had this blurb on him, which was much shorter than what they were writing for their non-transfer athletes:

Under head coach Chuck Stobart, Bruce caught 39 passes for 532 yards and five touchdowns in 1992, second-leading receiver on the team after Russell Copeland. By 1993, Bruce was headlining the media guide.

(Courtesy the Memphis media guide)

It’s now September 4, 1993, and the Memphis Tigers are opening the season against 23rd ranked Mississippi State. While “Cannonball” sits at 74 on the Hot 100, tumbling 22 spots from the previous week, the top song is “Mr Vain” by Culture Beat. Fittingly enough, the number one song when Isaac Isadore was born in 1972: “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon.

He probably thinks this post is about him. And it is.

Despite never once being ranked in school history, the Tigers could pull an upset now and then, and they did so on September 4, 1993, beating Mississippi State 45-35. It is harder to find box scores and individual performances from back then, but Bruce excelled that season in a way that no Memphis State player ever had.

In the midst of this mood, Bruce excelled. The 1993 season saw great wins and baffling losses, but his performance remained consistently excellent. He worked hard, played with enthusiasm and style, and carried himself with dignity off the field.

As his receptions and yards mounted, he began drawing the attention of NFL scouts. The final game of the season was a rare nationally-televised event against the Miami Hurricanes. As Sally Jenkins reported for Sports Illustrated:

Bruce, of course, wanted to make the most of the exposure, but in the first half he got blindsided and bit partway through his tongue. He took three stitches at the half but did not miss a snap, finishing the game with two touchdown receptions.

Whether severed tongue or fractured season, Bruce reacted to difficult circumstances with poise and determination, succeeding in spite of it all.

Memphis State went 3-0 against the SEC in 1993, but 6-5 overall with a 41-17 loss to the Miami Hurricanes in the finale in which only Bruce starred for the Tigers.

Bruce finished the season with a school-record 74 catches for 1,054 yards, plus 10 touchdowns. Shortly after he was drafted, the school dropped the “State” from its name; Bruce must have knocked it off like he was a cannonball.

As of 2020, Isaac Bruce is the only Memphis alum to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Impressive statistically, especially given his surroundings at Memphis, Bruce improved his draft stock even more by running a 4.48 40-yard dash at the 1993 NFL Scouting Combine. Rams receivers coach Steve Moore and director of player personnel John Becker liked what they had seen from Bruce and were waiting to make their move.

Moore had worked out Bruce, 6-feet and 178 pounds, at Memphis State and liked his athletic ability. Bruce ran a 4.48-second 40-yard dash and ran smooth routes during the scouting combines. It was enough to convince Becker and Moore that Bruce was their man.

“He’s just silky smooth,” Moore said. “He’s as quick as a cat, has a nice run after the catch and gets in and out of cuts.”

From Bruce’s perspective:

AE: Moving onto your time in the league you were drafted by the Rams in 1994. What was going through your mind from draft day up until training camp?

IB: Oh man. Just going through the process of being prepared for the NFL Combine. After that ended I think my body of work could only speak for itself at that time. I was prepared to play. I was just really anticipating being drafted. I thought I would be drafted pretty high. I ended up being drafted 33rd, which is alright with me. I couldn’t have been drafted to a better organization in Los Angeles with the Rams. Just having the guys that we had on that team, the veteran leadership, and the guys taught me a whole lot. I was very, very pleased to go there.

With the first pick in the 1994 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals select Joe Burrow Dan Wilkinson, defensive tackle, Ohio State. With the second pick, the Indianapolis Colts select running back Marshall Faulk, San Diego State.

At pick seven, the San Francisco 49ers selected defensive tackle Bryant Young, and they were back on the clock at 28, choosing fullback William Floyd. The LA Rams picked tackle Wayne Gandy 15th overall, then were lucky to be able to select Bruce with the fourth pick of the second round, 33rd overall.

The #33 song on the Billboard Hot 100 on the day Bruce was drafted was “How Gee” by Black Machine, a group that also had singles such as “Get Funky,” “Funky Bananas” and “Funky Funky People.” Play that funky music indeed ...

Bruce was the sixth receiver off the board following Charles Johnson at 17, Johnnie Morton at 21, Thomas Lewis at 24, Derrick Alexander at 29, and Darnay Scott at 30. Those five receivers and Bruce combined to make four career Pro Bowl appearances; all by Bruce.

The Rams had three second round picks and three third round picks in 1994, but only Bruce and Keith Lyle would have long-term impacts with the team, including in the case of first rounder Gandy.

As a rookie, Bruce struggled but few members of LA didn’t at the time. The Rams went 4-12 under last-time head coach Chuck Knox and featured only one Pro Bowler in 22-year-old running back Jerome Bettis. The team featured Flipper Anderson and Jessie Hester at receiver and Bruce finished seventh on the team in receiving yards with 21 catches for 272 yards and three touchdowns.

From an article by SI that came out just before the 1996 preseason:

Bruce spent his rookie year utterly dumbstruck at being in an NFL locker room. In retrospect, his teammates have learned, he wasn’t standoffish so much as determined not to waste his chance. He slaved in the weight room and listened with rapt attention at meetings, two traits the veterans eventually took approving notice of. “Isaac has gotten here all by himself,” (running back Johnny) Bailey says. “He’s done it with his own discipline.”

On September 11, 1994, Bruce caught a touchdown from quarterback Chris Miller, his first in the pros. The fans yelled “Bruuuuce.”

The next year, the Rams moved from Los Angeles to St. Louis, putting him much closer to his home at Memphis than where he had started his career at Santa Monica. The team also hired Rich Brooks to be their next head coach and Jack Reilly to be the offensive coordinator. Miller and Bettis were back at quarterback and running back, but Anderson had left in free agency to sign with the Colts.

That left Bruce as the number one receiver who only a sadist would try to cover.

Over the first four games of the 1995 season, Bruce was good, catching 18 of 29 targets for 288 yards and two touchdowns. He also blocked a punt in Week 1 that helped them secure a win and he recorded his first 100-yard game in Week 3, and best of all, St. Louis was 4-0. The team and Bruce would head in different directions over the course of the next 12 games.

Two weeks after his first career 100-yard game, Bruce reeled off six in a row, catching 53 of 79 targets for 895 yards and seven touchdowns over that span; were you to see a player put up those kind of numbers for 16 games, he’d finish with 141 catches, 2,387 yards, and 19 touchdowns. This was not the Greatest Show, but it was a decent teaser trailer.

His 100-yard streak was broken when he “only” got 91 vs the Atlanta Falcons and it pissed him off.

As the season wore on, he faced growing harassment from defensive backs and didn’t always handle himself well. “I get a little shaky in the head,” he admits. When he got frustrated, the Bruce in him jumped out chin first. On Nov. 19 he had to be restrained from going after the Falcons’ Darnell Walker when, in a long day of jousting, the cornerback held him to 91 yards, breaking his 100-yard streak. “They’re going to slap you around and try to disrupt you,” 11-year vet Jessie Hester counseled. “You have to wait for your opportunities, and your moment will come.”

Bruce listened and obeyed. He closed the season with a career-high 15-reception performance against Miami. It was clear that if the defenders weren’t going away, neither was he. Bruce spent this off-season working on sprint drills, hoping to crank out another fraction of speed. “I’ll just keep catching passes until the defenders give up,” he says. “I think I’m a guy who can outrun them.”

Bruce then struggled in a blowout loss to the mighty 49ers (two of eight targets, 24 yards, one touchdown) but he eventually closed the season out with 15 catches for 210 yards and one touchdown in a 41-22 loss to the Dolphins.

The Rams lost nine of their final 12 games but Bruce caught 119 passes for 1,781 yards and 13 touchdowns as a 23-year-old with Chris Miller. Shockingly, that only placed him fourth in receptions after Herman Moore, Cris Carter, and Jerry Rice, plus second in yards after Rice; Bruce was not named to the Pro Bowl in 1995. Not only did the NFC have Rice, Carter, and Moore, but Michael Irvin caught 111 for 1,603 yards and 10 touchdowns.

But Bruce made the team the next season with worse numbers (84 catches, league-high 1,338 yards, seven touchdowns) and it was undeniable who the Rams’ star was at the time. That wouldn’t be as clear over the next two years as injuries cost him four games in 1997 and 11 games in 1998. Bruce was productive (457 yards in those five games in ‘98) but the team drafted Hakim in 1998, then traded for Faulk and drafted Torry Holt in 1999.

With Orlando Pace at left tackle, Dick Vermeil at head coach, Mike Martz at offensive coordinator, and Kurt Warner now throwing the passes, Bruce was never given as great of an opportunity to shine in his career than in 1999.

They’d just need to be able to stop, collaborate, and listen. Bruce is back with another reception.

As the Rams were stunning the football world with a 3-0 start in 1999, Bruce wasn’t about to miss on his chances to eat: 17 of 26 targets for 312 yards and two touchdowns in those games. He had taken a backseat in Week 4, however, when Hakim caught three touchdown passes and scored a fourth on a punt return in a blowout win over the Bengals, who at that point had already parted with Wilkinson.

Though he was a bonafide NFL star in the 90s, Bruce had never caught more than two touchdowns in a single game. St. Louis was unstoppable and he was good too but when would Bruce get his day to be the headline?

It was Week 5 now and the 49ers were coming to town. In his final game of 1998, Bruce caught zero of two targets and was injured in a 28-10 loss to San Francisco, ending his season. He played the 49ers only once in 1997, catching two of nine targets for 14 yards as he was returning from injury. In two games against San Francisco in 1996, Bruce caught eight of 12 targets for 108 yards and no touchdowns.

Bruce and the Rams watched as the 49ers went to the playoffs in all but two seasons from 1981 to 1998, winning five Super Bowls and not winning fewer than 10 games in a non-strike season in every year since 1980. Almost two decades of grief came to a head when San Francisco traveled to face the 3-0 St. Louis Rams. The Niners were 3-1, but had just lost quarterback Steve Young for what would be the final time, turning the offense and the team over to Jeff Garcia.

And the Rams showed the rest of the NFL who the new boss was.

Week 1 - Rams 27, Ravens 10

Week 2 - BYE

Week 3 - Rams 35, Falcons 7

Week 4 - Rams 38, Bengals 10

Week 5 - San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams, October 10, 1999

It’s three weeks until Halloween, but that doesn’t mean Isaac Bruce is afraid of the 49ers just because they have a 17-game losing streak to San Francisco and Bruce is career 0-8 against them. At this point, Niners head coach Steve Mariucci is coming off of 13-3 and 12-4 campaigns to open his career, believing that for decades people will be talking about how San Francisco went from Bill Walsh to George Seifert to him probably.

But coming off of a 20-18 loss to the Falcons in the 1998 divisional round (the same Atlanta team that was then blown out by the Rams in Week 3 of 1999), the 49ers suffered a 41-3 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1. It was their biggest blowout loss since a 59-14 defeat to the Dallas Cowboys on October 12, 1980 — a period of roughly 20 years in which the team had only lost by 30 or more points twice.

San Francisco had been embarrassed by Mark Brunell, Fred Taylor, and Jimmy Smith in Week 1, with Steve Young going 9-of-26 for 96 yards and two interceptions, followed by Jeff Garcia going 5-of-9 for 45 yards and a pick-six. Jerry Rice was held to two catches for 17 yards, his worst effort since 1992.

But “Mooch” coached them to three straight wins, forcing eight turnovers in that stretch and culminating in a 24-22 victory over a Tennessee Titans team that would finish 13-3 (and more) in 1999.

So going into Week 5, it was a very simple pitch as to the Game of the Week:

The 3-1 49ers who’d won five Super Bowls in the last two decades and who hadn’t posted a losing record since E.T. ruled the box office vs early 1999’s hottest team and best story in the 3-0 Rams with Kurt Warner. Writer Norman Chad, who I’ll only ever associate with the World Series of Poker and now this, wrote a preview of the game for The Washington Post from which I’ll post the following contextual excerpts:

How much of a surprise is Kurt Warner? In his own Fantasy Football League, he wouldn’t even draft himself.

I checked my notes from the 1994 NFL scouting combine—that’s right, I do some free-lance player personnel work for a number of unidentified, sub-.500 teams—and this is what they said:

“Warner, Kurt, QB; 6-2, 220. No arm strength, no accuracy, no agility. Not sure if he’s left-handed or right-handed. Wearing helmet appears to impair ability to read defenses. Polite to defensive linemen after being sacked. Nice kid, but more suited for a desk job, preferably in the field of taxidermy or aerosol sprays.”

Warner leads his 3-0 Rams—a franchise without a winning season in the 1990s—in a showdown Sunday against the 3-1 San Francisco 49ers in St. Louis. The Rams have outscored their opponents by 100-27. (That is not a misprint. That is a miracle.) Believe me, The Man would love to see the Rams win—Warner is a fairy tale story, it’s hard not to root for teary-eyed Dick Vermeil and I’ve considered making St. Louis my winter home.

But, as a public service, I think it’s important to relay the final scores of the last 17 49ers-Rams games: 26-10, 27-10, 33-10, 27-24, 27-10, 40-17, 35-10, 34-19, 31-27, 44-10, 41-13, 34-0, 28-11, 15-12, 30-10, 28-10, 38-19.

Please note: The 49ers’ score is listed first in each of the above results.

As my Uncle Nathan used to say, “If something happens 17 straight times, I gotta think it’s gonna happen 18 straight times.” Take the 49ers as two-point favorites.

When most people think of the ‘99 Rams, they don’t think of an epic early season showdown against the ‘99 49ers. That’s because the ‘99-Niners were not going to be a playoff team. However, up until this game against St. Louis, San Francisco was as good as Golden as they had been for the last two decades.

By the end of the game, no doubt would be left as to what year it was and who the king of the division would probably be.

Hell, by the end of the first quarter ...

Game Highlights:

After an early 16-yard pass from Garcia to Terrell Owens (just to remind you that this team had Jerry Rice and Owens), San Francisco’s offense stalled and they punted it back to the Rams, where Az-Zahir Hakim promptly muffed it — and miraculously recovered it after a relatively long scrum.

“There’s no way in hell he should have tried to catch that ball.”

On the ensuing drive, Warner went 5-for-6 for 71 yards, plus a 10-yard run, culminating in a 13-yard touchdown throw to Isaac Bruce. Now in his ninth game against the Niners, it was only his second career touchdown of the rivalry. St. Louis forced a three-and-out and Warner went 3-of-3 on the next series, including a 49-yard strike to Torry Holt and a five-yard touchdown to Bruce.

Bruce had now scored more touchdowns against San Francisco in six minutes than he had in the previous five years. Rams 14, 49ers 0.

Garcia opened the next drive with a 21-yard completion to Owens and eventually the Niners got on the board with a field goal to make it 14-3.

On the ensuing kickoff, Tony Horne returned it 54 yards and if it weren’t for what happens on the next play, perhaps I’d have written 3,000 words on Horne today. Instead, Warner found Bruce for 45 yards and their third touchdown hookup of the game.

Of the first quarter. 21-3.

It was the first three-touchdown game of Bruce’s career and it felt like making up for a lot of lost opportunities against San Francisco specifically. Bruce had pretty much been a star year after year since 1995 but at a time when fantasy football was really starting to pick up heat, Warner and Bruce were immediately on every stat fiend’s mind.

“It’s not even 11 AM west coast time and Warner/Bruce have three touchdowns??? What??? And it’s 1999?! Imagine if this was 2019, this would be more understandable, but this is not quite a passing league yet!”

“What are you talking about? 2019? “Passing league”?”

“There’s something I haven’t told you yet, Laura ... I’m a time traveler. And ... a fantasy football player.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“No, I’m serious. You probably have a lot of questions.”

“What’s fantasy football?”

As “unstoppable” as the Rams looked at that moment, Garcia marched his offense down the field and the 49ers scored on a two-yard touchdown run by former St. Louis running back Lawrence Phillips; it would be the final touchdown of Phillips’ career as he played in only three more games before it was over.

The score was a reasonable 21-10 and Warner threw a pick on a deep attempt to Bruce.

But not even with Rice and Owens could San Francisco consistently move the football against the Rams defense and when Darnell Walker is called for pass interference on a bomb to Bruce, St. Louis picks up an easy 35 yards on 3rd-and-15. Two players later he hits tight end Jeff Robinson, just the second touchdown of his career.

Though the 49ers would punt again (and Hakim would muff again, albeit on what could have been interference), San Francisco cut the score to 28-17 on a sack and touchdown-fumble-recovery by Tim McDonald and Junior Bryant. The score was 28-20 after the 49ers made a key stop on the Rams’ first drive of the second half and kicked a 43-yard field goal.

But here’s where Horne comes in again.

The historically-fascinating kick returner took it to the house for 97 yards, turning a one-score game into a 35-20 lead for the home team. Horne finished with four returns for 199 yards and a touchdown, the second-best day of his short career at that point after having four returns for 206 yards and a score against the Atlanta Falcons in 1998.

On 1st-and-10 early in the fourth quarter, St. Louis linebacker Mike Jones makes an unbelievable leaping interception of Garcia to give his offense the ball back with a chance to really end the game. Four plays later, Bruce had once again beaten his man and Warner went deep right to find him for a 42-yard touchdown.

Over an historic Hall of Fame career that spanned 232 games, this is Isaac Bruce’s only four-touchdown game. He had two three-touchdown games. To this day, only three players have ever caught four touchdowns against the 49ers: Harlon Hill in 1954, Ahmad Rashad in 1979, and Bruce in 1999. He is the fourth Rams player to catch three touchdowns against San Francisco, joining Bucky Pope, Damone Johnson, and Harold Jackson.

No other franchise has more than two players who have had 3+ receiving touchdowns vs the 49ers.

Bruce’s 22.33 yards per target is the fourth-most by any Rams player (targets go back to 1992) after a game by Eddie Kennison in 1996, a game by Holt in 2001, and a game by Bruce in 2000; in that game, Bruce caught eight of eight targets for 188 yards and a touchdown and that was also against the 49ers.

But in this game, Garcia managed two fourth quarter interceptions — one by Dre’ Bly, one by Taje Allen — and backup quarterback Paul Justin kneeled the Rams to victory.

Final Score: Rams 42, 49ers 20

Record: 4-0

Kurt Warner: 20-of-23, 323 yards, 5 touchdowns, 1 interception

Marshall Faulk: seven carries, six yards, four catches, 38 yards (in spite of an early game injury concern, Faulk returned the next week and was fine)

Justin Watson: 11 carries for 46 yards

Leading Receiver: Isaac Bruce, five catches for 134 yards, 4 touchdowns

Torry Holt: three catches for 67 yards

Sacks: None

Interceptions: Mike Jones, Dre’ Bly, Taje Allen

Returns: Tony Horne, four returns, 199 yards, 1 TD

Game Recap (Washington Post):

“Warner Helps Rams End Losing Streak vs. 49ers”

By Dave Goldberg

As usual, the Rams-49ers game was decided by brilliant quarterbacking and a receiver wearing No. 80.

With one big difference – the Rams prevailed, beating San Francisco 42-20 on Sunday to break a 17-game losing streak against the 49ers and improve to 4-0.

The heroes for the Rams were Kurt Warner, who threw five touchdown passes, and Isaac Bruce, who caught four, fitting for a team that had been repeatedly beaten by Joe Montana and Steve Young throwing to Jerry Rice, a more renowned ``80’’ than the oft-injured Ram.

Yes, the Niners were playing with Jeff Garcia instead of Young, who missed his second straight game with a concussion. But that hadn’t stopped San Francisco in the past: Elvis Grbac beat them here for the 49ers and so did Jim Druckenmiller.

Garcia wasn’t to blame, though. The Rams simply got another outstanding performance from Warner, the former Arena League quarterback who had three touchdown passes in each of his first three games this season.

The last time the Rams beat the 49ers was Nov. 25, 1990, when they were the Los Angeles Rams and Montana was the quarterback for the 10-0 49ers. Only Young and Rice of the current Niners played in that game and none of the Rams are left.

The game marked the return to St. Louis of Lawrence Phillips, who was the Rams’ first draft choice in 1996 but was cut in 1997. He was roundly booed when he came on the field for the first time and booed again when he scored San Francisco’s first touchdown on a 2-yard run.

Game Recap: (The New York Times):

Rams (4-0) Rout 49ers, but Show a Sensitive Side

By Thomas George

At the end, rather than shoot for 50, they took a knee at the San Francisco 49ers’ 1-yard line. The St. Louis Rams decided that 42 points were nice enough.

The Rams had already brought the 49ers to their knees in a humbling, piercing exorcism that served as a football game.

St. Louis ripped San Francisco, 42-20, and emerged today as the only unbeaten team in the National Football League.

What the 65,872 fans in the Trans World Dome saw was a shootout where the Rams sped like jets and the 49ers crawled like a tour bus.

The Rams led, 21-3, after the first quarter. Instead of trying to figure out a way to hold on, they kept firing, making the 49ers look silly. It was lopsided and embarrassing and often comical. It was what the 49ers used to do the Rams.

And the 49ers had smacked them good, winning 17 straight against the Rams during the last 10 years, dating to the Rams’ days in Los Angeles.

But today the Rams — moving to 4-0 and matching their victory total for all of last season — stood firm and stood tall and brought the 49ers to their knees. It was similar to an old schoolyard tussle where the loser’s arm is bent behind his back while the winner demands that he yell and then spell U-N-C-L-E.

‘’We used to be the team that dug ourselves into a hole and never stopped digging,’’ said Mike Jones, a Rams linebacker. ‘’This time we felt like we could take it to them. When they came off the field, I could see in their eyes that they were kind of baffled.’’

Baffled, blitzed, disgusted, beaten.

‘’There was no need to try to score again at the end because the game was won and we won it fairly,’’ said Dick Vermeil, the Rams’ head coach, who is in his third season here. ‘’I think they know that.’’

His players awarded him a game ball — ‘’a meaningful gift,’’ he called it, ‘’because it took me two and a half years to beat the 49ers.’’ And the Rams’ owners, Georgia Frontiere and Stan Kronke, got one, too.

For the Rams, it was a dream completed, a nightmare squashed.

‘’This is my sixth year here and I’ve seen a lot of those 17 losses to the 49ers,’’ safety Keith Lyle said. ‘’This locker room was celebrating because this game was not won by gimmicks. We earned it. A lot of guys were almost in tears.’’

Rams cornerback Todd Lyght, a nine-year veteran, said: ‘’This is the biggest win of my professional career. I have been with this organization since 1991 and they have beaten us every time we faced them. I know we can go from here and do some great things.’’

The Rams feel that way because they are in first place in the National Conference West, have a quarterback in Kurt Warner who is playing sensational football, a receiver in Isaac Bruce who is matching Warner, a defense that made three interceptions today and a special-teams squad that scored on a 97-yard kickoff return.

Warner to Bruce was the signature of this game. They connected on touchdown passes of 13, 5, 45 and 42 yards. Three of the scores came in the first quarter — all against the 49er cornerback Darnell Walker — and that established the tone for the game. In the first quarter, Warner was 9 for 9 and passed for 177 yards and 3 touchdowns. He finished 20 of 23 for 323 yards with 5 touchdown passes and was intercepted once.

Warner has 14 touchdown passes, the most any quarterback in National Football League history has thrown in his first four games of a season. His quarterback rating for the game was 140.2. For the season, it is a gaudy 136.0; a score of 100.0 is deemed superior.

‘’I always felt I could make the long throws, the short throws and the intermediate ones, and I made them today,’’ Warner said. ‘’The only way you can find out if a player can play is if he plays. The league hadn’t seen that much of me actually in a football game. I’ve never had the chance to play until now.’’

The 49ers saw enough. Warner — a former Arena League and World League quarterback — outdueled the 49ers’ Jeff Garcia, who for the second week replaced Steve Young at quarterback while Young recovers from a concussion.

‘’They’re a very good team,’’ said Steve Mariucci, the 49ers’ head coach, whose team fell to 3-2. ‘’Kurt Warner was terrific. I was impressed with their offensive line. We’ve got a ways to go before we beat that team.’’

The 49ers trailed, 28-20, with 1 minute 42 seconds left in the third quarter. Seven seconds later, Tony Horne returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown, and then early in the fourth quarter Bruce scored again, spinning the 49ers.

‘’We just went out and attacked in every way in this game,’’ said Bruce, who made five catches for 134 yards. ‘’We got everybody’s best from them today. They caught a hot team.’’

Biggest Takeaway:

Not only did the Rams show who the boss of the division was, by getting to 4-0 in yet another rout, St. Louis was immediately undeniable. You could see that this was not an ordinary start to an ordinary season. Even if it was still feasible to see how a team could flame out — it’s really improbable that any team can keep this kind of “momentum” going for a full season as we’ve seen over and over again — the Rams were the most exciting team in football.

AE: You and the Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV. That has to be one of the greatest Super Bowl games in my mind. When did the idea of winning football’s ultimate prize set in for you?

IB: Actually about Week 6 in 1999. We were having a pretty good run. We just played against the 49ers. I would say once we started to play well against the 49ers and ended up winning that football game I thought we were a legitimate team. We had the ability to go out and play against anyone and win a championship. From there we got excited about what was going on.

Not just now, but in years based on the fact that they had also gone from 4-12 to 4-0 and with one of the most unknown Week 1 starting quarterbacks of all-time.

Coming off of their win against a Titans team that would go on to make the Super Bowl, the 49ers fell from 3-1 to 3-2. Eventually they would be 3-9 and finish the season 4-12. Under Mariucci, San Francisco had their worst season since going 2-14 in 1979 under first-year head coach Bill Walsh. The -158 point differential was their worst since 1963 though they’ve since done worse in seasons under Dennis Erickson, Mike Nolan, and Chip Kelly.

Bruce’s six touchdowns ranked second in the NFL by Marvin Harrison’s seven. Bruce was fourth in receiving yards after Terry Glenn, Harrison, and Keyshawn Johnson.

Kurt Warner was now at 14 touchdowns and three interceptions through four games. Peyton Manning was second in touchdowns (10) but had thrown six picks, also over four games. Brad Johnson remained at nine touchdowns and no picks over four games. Arizona Cardinals QB Jake Plummer had thrown three touchdowns and 12 interceptions over five games but somehow they were 2-3.

Warner’s 14 touchdowns through his team’s first four games still ranks tied for second all-time after Peyton Manning (16/0 in 2013) and tied with Patrick Mahomes (14/0 in 2018). His 10.77 Y/A through four games ranks second after only Kurt Warner in 2000. His 12.05 adjusted Y/A ranks first. And now over his previous two games Warner has completed an unreal 37 of 44 attempts (84%) for 633 yards (14.4 Y/A) and eight touchdowns for a passer rating of 148.9.

If you re-arrange 148.9, you get 1984.

In 1984, when he was only 16 years old, Robert Van Winkle wrote the first iteration of the song that would become “Ice Ice Baby.” He overcame injuries to persevere and eventually help evolve hip hop into the mainstream juggernaut — The Greatest Rage On Stage — as the rapper Vanilla Ice.

In the BDSM community, “vanilla” is a term for a person who is practically devoid of kink. They want only the most basic acts in the bedroom. They are perhaps the last person a sadist would ever want to interact with intimately. They are also referred to as “muggles” according to bdsmwiki.info.

These are not to be confused with the muggles in the world of Harry Potter, the young adult novels written by J.K. Rowling. And I know very little about Harry Potter, so if it were me I’m not even sure if I could tell the difference between a muggle and Nearly Headless Nick. For that matter, I don’t think I could tell the difference between Nearly Headless Nick and the Headless Horseman.

The creator of said Horseman, Washington Irving, died of a heart attack at the age of 72. He had just completed his biography of George Washington — an epic five-volume breakdown of the first U.S. President and what Irving expected to be his masterpiece. Surely it could be read in Washington State, which like Irving, was named after him. Oddly enough, Nirvana, the “most Seattle band ever,” never played in The Gorge Amphitheatre, which is located in George, Washington.

(Yes, there is also a Martha, Washington.)

Perhaps not that odd though given that lead singer Kurt Cobain was gone by age 27, having taken his own life in April of 1994, the same month of a certain NFL draft. One thing we did know about Kurt before he died though was that he was a fan of a band called The Breeders, calling their album “Pod” one of the best of all-time.

Though not commercially successful, “Pod” garnered critical acclaim and that was quite an achievement for young music producer Steve Albini.

So in love with Albini’s work, Cobain hired him to produce “In Utero,” Nirvana’s final studio album. And he would certainly get more headlines for that than he would for his band “Rapeman” — the naming of which he would later come to deeply regret. Albini was no stranger to controversy with that artistic choice, and neither was Pier Paolo Pasolini when he shot the film Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom in 1975.

Salò has since been cited as one of the main catalysts for an “extreme” sub-genre of horror films featuring “torture porn” and other violent acts, alongside Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left, which was ran from September of 1972 to November of that same year.

The same month that Isaac Isadore Bruce was born.

I like horror movies.

Up next: a rematch against the Atlanta Falcons