By Gabe Schapiro
September 26, 2013
On Thursday night the San Francisco 49ers (2-2) returned to their roots, and in a ground and pound game dominated the St. Louis Rams (1-3), at a final score of 35-11. As many expected they would following two bad losses, the 49ers featured Frank Gore early and often, and he managed to run all over St. Louis, finishing with 153 yards rushing and a touchdown on 20 carries. As a team they finished with 219 yards on the ground. Colin Kaepernick played a smaller role, but avoided mistakes and made plays when he had to.
Both teams came out of the gate a little slow. The Rams offense seemed to click first, managing to string a few plays together. As a result they got on the board first, with a 40-yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein to give them an early 3-0 lead. St. Louis, however, struggled to find an answer for the 49ers defense from there.
Through most of the first quarter the San Francisco offense looked eerily similar to the past two weeks, with Kaepernick struggling to find open receivers and a couple of long runs from Frank Gore being their only positive gains. Heading into the second quarter, things took a turn for the better. Halfway through the quarter Kaepernick orchestrated an 80-yard touchdown drive, highlighted by two long connections to Anquan Boldin, including a 20-yard touchdown grab on third-down and twenty. The touchdown was there first score in over 73 minutes, and the 7-3 score represented their first lead since the opener against Green Bay.
Their improved play continued. On the next Rams possession Donte Whitner intercepted a deflected pass from Sam Bradford in the end zone. The 49ers again immediately mounted a drive, culminating in a huge 34-yard touchdown run from Gore on a fourth-and-one play, bringing the score to 14-3.
By this point in the game the Rams looked lost, repeatedly going three-and-out. Meanwhile, San Francisco kept piling on.
In the third quarter Kaepernick and co. marched down the field with relative ease again, to the tune of an 88-yard, 11-play touchdown drive than took over five minutes off the clock. This time it was a 12-yard pass to Vernon Davis in the corner if the end zone that finished it off, giving them a 21-3 lead.
In the fourth, during garbage time, the Rams finally found the end zone, but it was sandwiched between two more 49er touchdowns. Anthony Dixon punched in a one-yard touchdown run following a San Francisco fumble recovery on the three yard-line, and Kendall Hunter got into the action as well, scampering in for a 29-yarder of his own. Hunter’s run put this game on ice, bringing the final to 35-11.
Kaepernick finished the game with 15 completions on 23 attempts, 167 yards passing, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. He did fumble once in the fourth quarter on a muffed hand-off attempt, but by that point the game was out-of-reach.
Boldin was the teams leading receiver, hauling in five receptions for 90 yards and one touchdown. In addition, rookie Quinton Patton and Jon Baldwin played small roles, but both had their first career receptions in a 49ers uniform.
On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker NaVorro Bowman was the star, and more than filled the void left by the absence of Patrick Willis. He was all over the field, and racked up six tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble, and deflected a pass. Ahmad Brooks had a good game as well, chipping in seven tackles and one and a half sacks.
While it was almost nothing but good news on this night, it did appear as though the 49ers may have a couple new additions to the injury report. Patton limped off the field in the second quarter and did not return. In the fourth, Joe Staley had his legs caught in a pile up. He walked off the field under his own power, but was doing so very gingerly. No report yet as to how severe either injury is, but they will have a long week to hopefully recover.
Next week San Francisco returns home to take on the Houston Texans on Sunday October 6, at 5:25 PM.