After losing consecutive games for the first time in the Jim Harbaugh era, the 49ers defeated the St. Louis Rams 35-11 on Thursday night and are back at .500 with a 2-2 record. They are now 1.5 games behind the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West and have a 1-1 division record.
Frank Gore was the star of the game, rushing for 153 yards on 20 carries to go with a touchdown. On fourth and inches during the second quarter Gore was able to burst through the middle with a 34-yard touchdown run which made the score 14-3 at halftime.
"He did a fabulous job," Jim Harbaugh said of Gore after the game. "The offensive line blocked [well] against one of the best defensive fronts in the league. He did a great job all night breaking through the first wave and went to the second level."
Gore had five runs of 10 yards or more, four of which had at least 18 yards. This was Gore's highest rushing yard total since he ran 167 yards against the Arizona Cardinals in 2009.
"Like I always say, when my number is called I try my best to help the team," Gore said. "I just train hard and [keep working] in the offseason."
The veteran running back said he isn't worried about any potential declines for running backs who reach the 30-year old milestone with age. He was satisfied with the victory with how smooth the flow of the game was.
"I don't care about the age thing, that motivates me to keep going," Gore said. "This time, things were going our way. Last week, we couldn't get three and outs and knowing the rams played us hard, we were able to beat them."
After a pass interference penalty on Rams CB Janoris Jenkins, Anquan Boldin had an 18-yard reception to start the second half. Jon Baldwin had his first reception as a 49er with a 14-yard reception and set up a short touchdown pass to Vernon Davis to put the team up 21-3.
The defense put the game away when Sam Bradford was strip fumbled and the loose ball was recovered by Tony Jerod-Eddie on the Rams’ four-yard line. Anthony Dixon ran a four-yard touchdown to break the game open and put the 49ers up 28-3.
This was the first game of the season without Patrick Willis as NaVorro Bowman ended up being the captain on defense. Michael Wilhoite stepped in at ILB and Dan Skuta started at OLB in place of the suspended Aldon Smith. Corey Lemonier also had an impact as a pass rusher, making Sam Bradford force throws into coverage.
"If a link gets taken out of the chain, someone has to step up," said Bowman.
Harbaugh had nothing but praise for Bowman stepping in as the leader. The fourth year linebacker had six tackles, three of them for loss and two sacks. He also knocked down the quarterback twice under pressure and tipped another ball at the line of scrimmage.
"It was an outstanding game by Bowman," Harbaugh said. "A bunch of tackles and sacks just the way he led on defense. Great game for him. He's a great player and his leadership was outstanding."
After the Rams added a late touchdown by the Rams, Kendall Hunter ran 29 yards to the right for the 49ers fifth touchdown of the game for the final score.
The 49ers offensively were ineffective to start the game as Dawson missed a 53-yard field goal and the team started 0-3 on third down. The Rams started the scoring with a 40-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein.
Their ground game became a strength and it started with a 27-yard run by Frank Gore. Colin Kaepernick found Anquan Boldin on third down for a 42 yard gain down the left side. He hit Boldin a few plays later for a 20-yard touchdown pass on the right sideline. It was the first lead for the 49ers since Week 1’s win against the Packers.
In the final minutes of the game, Joe Staley went down on a freak accident with a leg injury. He initially did not want to be carted off and was helped by the 49ers training staff. Harbaugh said the team will "dodge a bullet" as he walked out of the training room with no limps.
Overall, Harbaugh was satisfied with this game. Everyone made plays from defense, offense and special teams to contribute to the victory.
"I thought everybody did a good job tonight," Harbaugh said. "The energy and toughness was there."
The 49ers will host the Houston Texans next week on Sunday Night Football.
-Jon Baldwin had two receptions in his debut as a 49er for 19 yards. He was played while Marlon Moore became inactive.
-The 49ers had 219 rushing yards total, averaging 5.5 yards per carry. There were no read-options by the 49ers offense.
-The defense held the Rams to 14 rushing yards. Daryl Richardson was completely stuffed with 16 yards on 12 carries.
-Donte Whitner caught the first interception since Week 1 for the 49ers. It was off a tip drill from Tramaine Brock.
-The 49ers are 5-0 when Colin Kaepernick throws multiple touchdown passes as he had 167 passing yards to go with two TDs.