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Back on Track, 49ers Beat Rams, 35-11

Posted Sep 26, 2013

San Francisco ended its two-game losing streak with a blowout victory over St. Louis, a team it failed to beat in 2012.

Vernon Davis was on the field. Patrick Willis was not. But other members of the 49ers Mount Rushmore, Frank Gore and NaVorrow Bowman in particular, made their mark on Thursday night’s Week 4 game in St. Louis.

Gore rushed for 153 yards on 20 carries, his first 100-yard game in 2013, and Bowman wreaked havoc in the opposing backfield to lead the 49ers to a 35-11 victory over the host Rams before a nationally-televised audience. The win snapped the visiting team's uncharacteristic two-game skid.

“It was get-back-on-track game,” Gore said.

San Francisco (2-2, 1-1) and St. Louis (1-3, 1-1) played 10 quarters in two games last season -- a November tie and a December Rams win -- but this one was decided in four – or before the fourth even started.

Wearing their home red jerseys on the road – the Rams chose to wear their whites – no player seemed to be more of a blur than Gore. The 49ers all-time leading rusher contributed runs of 17 yards, 27 yards, 17 yards and 34 yards. That was in the first half alone.

Cruising behind fullback Bruce Miller much of the night, Gore had 10 carries for 107 yards before intermission.

He wasn’t perfect. Gore fumbled on his first carry of 10-plus yards in the third quarter, when Rams linebacker Alex Ogletree knocked the ball loose from behind.

But the 49ers Bowman-led defense forced a three-and-out on the Rams ensuing position, setting up a 12-yard touchdown pass from Colin Kaepernick to Vernon Davis that gave the 49ers its 21-3 edge.

Davis (hamstring) was a limited participant in practice this week after missing the team’s Week 3 home loss to the Indianapolis Colts. He finished his first game back with two catches and 18 yards overall.

Gore was the face of the second quarter. His 27-yard scamper preceded a 42-yard pass-and-catch connection between Kaepernick and wideout Anquan Boldin.

With less than seven minutes remaining before half during the same drive, Kaepernick found Boldin on an out route from the slot – Boldin beat Rams defensive back Cortland Finnegan for a 20-yard touchdown, narrowly keeping his right heel in bounds before stretching for the goal line. That capped a seven-play, 80-yard drive.

"We wanted to have a good mix (of pass and run), and it takes that against a good team like the Rams," Jim Harbaugh said.

Boldin finished the night with 90 yards receiving and the score. His signal-caller, Kaepernick, was 15-of-23 for 167 yards passing and his two touchdown pass.

"He was really locked in and focused all week, made big plays," Harbaugh said of Kaepernick postgame. "'Kap' was seeing the field, delivering the ball and playing with great poise."

The explosiveness of San Francisco’s offense was reminiscent of its Week 1 win over the Green Bay Packers. That continued on the team’s next possession, which came off a turnover.

Safety Donte Whitner picked off Rams quarterback Sam Bradford in the end zone – Whitner caught cornerback Tramaine Brock’s deflection on a pass intended for tight end Jared Cook. The seven-inch difference in height between Brock and Cook didn't come into play.

Then Gore got back to business. His second 17-yard run preceded a 4th-and-inches play from the Rams 33-yard line with less than a minute in the quarter in which he broke through a congested Rams front and went untouched 34 yards into the end zone. Left guard Mike Iupati paved the way with an inside block.

This gave the 49ers a 14-3 advantage entering intermission. It could have been larger.

Gore’s 18-yard rush on the team’s opening drive of the game led to Phil Dawson’s 53-yard field goal attempt, which missed wide right. Dawson has missed as many field goals through four games this season, two, than he did all of last season, when he was 29-of-31 with the Cleveland Browns.

San Francisco’s defense held up its end against the running game. St. Louis’ Daryl Richardson had just 16 yards on 12 carries.

Speaking of, since 2008 entering Thursday, the 49ers had yielded 86 yards per game on the ground, ranking first in the NFL over that five-year span.

A re-worked linebacker corps helped. Reserve Michael Wilhoite started in place of Willis (groin) in the middle, and Dan Skuta and Corey Lemonier replaced Pro Bowl sack-master Aldon Smith on the outside.

There was nothing re-worked about middle ‘backer NaVorro Bowman. He was his best self: Already with two sacks to his name, the Pro Bowler stripped Bradford of the ball on the Rams second drive of the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately for St. Louis, defensive tackle Tony Jerod-Eddie fell on the ball at the 3-yard line. Two plays later, reserve running back Anthony Dixon added the team's fourth touchdown of the game.

As for the fifth: Gore's backup, Kendall Hunter, avenged his own lost fumble with a 29-yard touchdown run on a well executed sweep play.

The win didn't appear to come without consequences. Rookie wide receiver Quinton Patton, who hauled in his first catch, left the game with an apparent foot injury. Also, left tackle Joe Staley was helped off the field just after the two-minute warning.

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