For the third time this season, Frank Gore surpassed the 100-yard mark in the 49ers convincing 35-16 victory over the St. Louis Rams at Candlestick Park.
Gore did most of his work early on, picking up 67 of his game-high 106 rushing yards, while scoring two touchdowns in the first half, which helped the 49ers jump out to a 35-3 lead.
"It felt great, especially getting a win," he said after his big day on the ground. "My offensive line did a great job and the receivers did a great job downfield. We played as a whole today – we played as one."
With head coach Mike Singletary emphasizing a physical brand of football, Gore delivered on his end of the bargain, running hard between the tackles and making big runs, once he got into the open field. Gore fumbled the ball on the 49ers first possession of the game, but he put the mistake behind him and continued to have success on the ground.
The turnover occurred when Gore took a Shaun Hill handoff, bounced the run to the right side and got loose for 37 yards down the sideline, until Rams safety O.J. Atogwe knocked the ball out from behind and cornerback Jason Craft managed to catch the ball while tip-toeing both feet in bounds.
After the turnover, Gore scored on the next possession from 5-yards out and capped off another scoring drive in the second quarter with a 1-yard run.
But as mad as Gore was with himself at the time of his fumble, he was glad that Coach Singletary got on him about it.
"One thing I love about him is he's going to let you know when you're doing good or when you're doing bad," Gore said of his head coach. "When the coach is doing that, you can't do anything but get better, as a player and as a team."
And if Gore keeps picking up over 100 yards on the ground, the 49ers will add on to the first win in Singletary's coaching career.
"I'm happy he got his first win as a head coach," Gore said. "Now, we're going to continue to get more and more."
**Shoring up the Run Defense
**After shutting down the Arizona Cardinals running game on Monday Night Football, the 49ers defense was looking to build on that performance against the Rams. But after Steven Jackson's replacement, Antonio Pittman was able to find open holes in the middle of the defensive line, the 49ers made some key halftime adjustments.
"They got some runs early, which shocked me," Singletary said afterwards. "I talked to Greg [Manusky] about it and we weren't getting moved quick enough. We would slant one way, they'd adjust and we would not. And guys were getting caught in the slide, and getting cut-off. We corrected that going into the second half."
The adjustments worked, as Pittman only picked up 26 of his 95 yards in the second half.
**With Delanie Walker out of action with a shoulder injury, backup tight end Sean Ryan saw his first action of the season on special teams and on offense. Ryan played as one of the wedge players on the kickoff return team and was called in to block on offense late in the game.
In the second half, with the 49ers holding a comfortable lead, veteran running back DeShaun Foster saw his most significant playing time of the year, finishing the game with 17 rushing yards and 40 receiving yards, including a 31-yard reception.
Starting right guard Tony Wragge shifted over to center late in the game, giving Eric Heitmann a break. The move allowed rookie Chilo Rachal to come in the game at right guard for Wragge.
"I'm the backup center right now and it's that time of the year, where you have guys who are banged up and have some injuries. It's a long season, we have guys who are tired, so we need to give them some rest," Wragge said of the rotation. "I've still been working at practice at center, so I had the opportunity to play some center and stay sharp with that.
"Chilo can come in and play guard at anytime of the game, that's refreshing to know that we have talent on this team and we can say, 'Hey, this guy can come in and play for this other guy.' That's huge this time of the year."
Bruce In Red and Gold
In his first performance against his former ball club, veteran wide receiver Isaac Bruce caught one pass for 20 yards.
"It was interesting. I was happy to see the guys and I miss them. It was good seeing them and I plan on seeing them again in St. Louis."
Bruce received several friendly greetings prior to kickoff, including a few special moments that he shared with close friend and former teammate Torry Holt.
The 49ers committed two turnovers, both on fumbles by their running backs. Gore fumbled on the second play of the game, while DeShaun Foster fumbled the ball away in the fourth quarter.
In the second quarter, after taking a 14-3 lead, linebacker Parys Haralson recovered a Marc Bulger fumble on the Rams 16-yard line.
The 49ers scored after the turnover on a 1-yard Gore touchdown run.
On the ensuing kickoff, cornerback Donald Strickland forced a Travis Minor fumble, but Minor was able to fall on the ball.
In the second quarter, cornerback Walt Harris and safety Michael Lewis both had blanketed coverage on Rams wide receiver Donnie Avery on a deep ball, in which Harris picked off Bulger's throw. Immediately after the interception, Nate Clements delivered a huge blow on Avery to give Harris a block on the return, which he was able to return 24 yards out to his 40-yard line. The 49ers scored as a result of the play, with a 1-yard touchdown run by Shaun Hill.
Later in the second, a sack by Michael Lewis on a 2nd and 2 play led to a 3rd and 10 play after the two-minute warning. Lewis, who had gotten a sack on the previous play, deflected a pass that Clements and safety Keith Lewis then battled for before Clements made the interception.
The interception set the 49ers up at the 44-yard line with 1:49 to go and the 49ers capitalized again, when Hill threw a perfect fade route to Bryant Johnson for a 2-yard score with 34 seconds remaining.
In all, the Rams turned the ball over three times in comparison to two turnovers for the 49ers offense. The difference, the 49ers scored 21 points of the turnovers while the Rams scored none.
The 49ers registered four sacks against the Rams. Michael Lewis, Walt Harris, outside linebacker Parys Haralson, and Manny Lawson were all credited with the sacks.
Numbers to Note
The 49ers had a 28-point second quarter to match a team record for most points scored in one quarter. The team has scored 28 points in a quarter five other times. It was the first 28-point quarter since the 49ers scored 28 points in the fourth quarter vs. Chicago (12-23-91) in a 52-14 win.
Rams running back Antonio Pittman gashed the 49ers defense early in the game on runs of 22 and 24 yards.
On a 3rd and 3 play early in the second quarter, Haralson had hold of Bulger for a sack, but the Rams quarterback managed to escape and scramble for a first down at the 5-yardline. The defense then held up, forcing a 24-yard field goal by Josh Brown.
The 49ers preach the need not to make self-inflicted mistakes but the offense did just that at the start of the fourth quarter with three consecutive false starts. Tight end Vernon Davis, fullback Michael Robinson and right Adam Snyder were guilty of the infractions, which occurred inside of their own 10-yardline.
While it wasn't as impactful as his return last week against the Cardinals, Allen Rossum picked up 29 yards on his first punt return of the game. Rossum made the first Rams defender miss and then used a perfect block from cornerback Tarell Brown to get to the Rams 34-yardline.
Shaun Hill completed the longest throw of his career to Johnson, who dashed his way down the field for a 42-yard gain before Rams safety Corey Chavous brought him down at the 7-yard line.
Michael Robinson was also the recipient of another long Hill pass, as he caught a 36-yard pass over the middle and was tackled just short of the goal line.
A similar play occurred, when DeShaun Foster got open for Hill as he was being chased out of the pocket. Foster caught the ball and a made an average gain into a 31-yard pass play.
Not only did Shaun Hill throw his longest career touchdown pass of 42-yards to Bryant Johnson, but he was the first quarterback in franchise history to have a perfect first half quarterback rating of 158.3. The previous record was Steve Young's rating of 156.5 vs. New Orleans (9-14-97).
The 49ers lost a challenge when Mike Singletary challenged a Donnie Avery catch down the St. Louis sideline. The downfield strike to Avery was ruled as a complete catch along the Rams sidelines at the 49ers 22. Mike Singletary tossed the flag with 1:23 left in the third quarter, but the call was upheld.
Special Teams Stops
With the 49ers stalling several times in the second half, punter Andy Lee was called to action to pin the Rams deep. With excellent pursuit and stops by special teams standouts, Tarell Brown, defensive back Marcus Hudson, wide receiver Dominique Zeigler and long snapper Brian Jennings, the 49ers held the Rams return man, Looker, to an average of 3.8 yards per return.