49ers' offense awakens in rout of Rams
ST. LOUIS -- According to San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and running back Frank Gore, rumors of a rift between them are greatly exaggerated.
Apparently, so are the rumors that the 49ers were in trouble.
With Gore rushing 20 times for 153 yards and a touchdown Thursday night, San Francisco's offense was back in form after floundering in the previous two games, leading the 49ers to a 35-11 rout of the struggling St. Louis Rams at Edward Jones Dome.
San Francisco rolled up 386 total yards.
Colin Kaepernick threw for 167 yards and two touchdowns on 15-of-23 passing for the 49ers, which crafted a solid bounce-back performance. San Francisco (2-2) lost the past two weeks to the Seattle Seahawks and the Indianapolis Colts, scoring a total of 10 points.
With just three days of preparation and a flight across two time zones to face a Rams team that went 1-0-1 against them last year, the 49ers looked more like the defending NFC champions.
"We had a big task in front of us tonight, and I thought everyone did a good job," Harbaugh said. "I thought the energy and toughness were there from the start. That was a great job by the team."
Gore, 30, didn't run like a guy on the back side of his career. Making decisive cuts and regularly hitting the defense's second level, the veteran from Miami (Fla.) ripped off runs of 18, 27, 17 and 34 yards in a 107-yard first half.
The last run gave the 49ers a dagger touchdown with 37 seconds left in the half. After a replay reversal denied Gore a first down on a third-and-1 run, San Francisco lined up to go for it, and the Rams called timeout.
The brief break did nothing to help St. Louis. Gore tore into the hole between right guard and tackle, slipped a tackle and peeled off a 34-yard score to put the 49ers up 14-3 at halftime.
"The line did a great job," Gore said. "I had the easy part."
After the Rams (1-3) failed to capitalize on Gore's one mistake -- a fumble they recovered on the San Francisco 44 on the third quarter's second play -- the 49ers marched 88 yards to take an insurmountable 21-3 lead on Kaepernick's 12-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis.
San Francisco's defense dominated the one-dimensional Rams, limiting them to 18 yards on 19 rushes. That enabled the 49ers to tee off on quarterback Sam Bradford, who endured a long, miserable evening.
Bradford completed just 19 of 41 passes for 202 yards with one touchdown pass and one interception. He was sacked five times, twice by NaVorro Bowman. The second sack led to a 49ers fumble recovery at the St. Louis 3, setting up Anthony Dixon's 1-yard scoring run with 10:15 remaining.
"NaVorro had an outstanding game," Harbaugh said. "His leadership stood out in addition to what he did on the field."
The Rams endured a third consecutive loss, failing to get into the end zone until Bradford hit Lance Kendricks with a 6-yard touchdown pass with 5:44 to play in the fourth quarter. Opponents have outscored St. Louis 97-42 since the Rams rallied for a season-opening win over the Arizona Cardinals.
"We knew we had a tough schedule," St. Louis defensive end Robert Quinn said, "but 1-3 wasn't where we wanted to be. We still believe we have the talent to win games, but we have to work out the kinks."
Kendall Hunter tacked on a 29-yard scoring run for San Francisco with 4:25 left.
St. Louis scored first for the first time this season when Greg Zuerlein drilled a 40-yard field goal with 7:09 left in the first quarter. Zuerlein banked the kick off the right upright.
After failing to convert good field position into points on two of its first three possessions, San Francisco got its offense going midway through the second period. Kaepernick hooked up with Anquan Boldin on a 42-yard pass-and-run play to the Rams 11 as Boldin beat veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan.
Three plays later, Boldin beat Finnegan again for a 20-yard score with 6:22 left in the half, giving the 49ers a 7-3 lead. From there, San Francisco never looked back, playing with the sense of urgency it will need to catch up to division leader Seattle.
"This was a get-back-on-track game," Gore said. "We lost two in a row, so we knew we couldn't lose again."
NOTES: Pro Bowl LB Patrick Willis (groin) was among the inactives for San Francisco, as was backup CB Nnamdi Asomugha. St. Louis' inactives included starting RT Rodger Saffold for a second straight week, as well as backup RB Isaiah Pead. ... San Francisco WR Quinton Patton came out in the first half with a foot injury and didn't return. ... Finnegan left the game after Boldin's TD catch with a thigh injury and was unable to return.