Without several key players the 49ers (2-2) got back to .500 by relying on the running game and a stout defense.
Thursday’s 35-11 rout of the St. Louis Rams (1-3) at the Edward Jones Dome was San Francisco’s first win since Week 1 and their first NFC West victory of 2013.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh avoided a three-game losing streak and seemed pleased at the post-game press conference:
“You know I think everybody did a good job. You know the toughness and energy was there the whole time. Great team win.”
Motivated by negative tweets after back-to-back losses, Colin Kaepernick beat the Rams for the first time in his career, completing 15-of-23 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns, one each to Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis.
Boldin led the receiving corps with five catches for 90 yards on seven targets. But it was the running back committee of Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon who set up the passing game burning the Rams defense for 208 rushing yards and three touchdowns, one each.
Gore averaged 7.7 yards on 20 carries while Hunter gained most of his 49 yards on a 29-yard dash. Dixon fulfilled his role as a short-yardage bulldozer, adding a tackle, forced fumble and a piece of a punt on special teams.
Hunter’s fourth quarter fumble led to the Rams only touchdown, a six-yard pass from Sam Bradford to Lance Kendricks. Kaepernick also lost a fumble earlier in the game, but otherwise protected the ball.
In his first action of the season, Jon Baldwin caught both passes thrown his way for 19 yards. In the absence of Michael Crabtree, Baldwin is clearly the 49ers second-best wide out.
Yet it was the 49ers defense minus Patrick Willis (groin), Aldon Smith (rehab), Nnamdi Asomugha (knee) that stepped up, holding the Rams to just 18 rushing yards and 188 yards of total offense. This marks the seventh best single-game defensive rushing performance if 49ers history.
Michael Wilhoite, Tarell Brown and Ahmad Brooks each recorded seven tackles while Dan Skuta and rookie Corey Lemonier were solid replacing Smith on the outside and in the nickel.
The defense sacked Bradford five times on eight hits and defensed 10 passes; Dontae Whitner intercepted one in the endzone off a tipped ball by Tramaine Brock.
Harbaugh pointed out the performance of All-Pro inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman to the media:
“Outstanding game by Navorro Bowman. Had a bunch of tackles, eight or nine tackles, two sacks. Just the way he led on defense. Great game for NaVorro. He’s a great player and his leadership was outstanding. “
Phil Dawson missed two field goals, notably a 71-yarder prior to halftime on a rare free kick made possible by a fair catch on a punt.
Meanwhile, rookie wide receiver Quinton Patton left the game in the first quarter with a foot injury and left tackle Joe Staley exited in the fourth after LaMichael James fell into his left leg.
Harbaugh gave a positive update on Staley saying:
“I think were going to dodge a bullet there, he’s going to walk that one off.”
The 49ers now begin preparing to face the Houston Texans at Candlestick Park on Oct. 6.