NFL Team Report - San Francisco 49ers - INSIDE SLANT
If there are such things as "must-win" games after three weeks, Thursday's trip to St. Louis qualified for the 49ers. Teams with 1-3 records don't go on to win Super Bowls, they just don't. And that was what San Francisco was staring in the face. A loss at St. Louis, which happened a year ago, would have essentially killed all momentum the franchise gained over the last two years under coach Jim Harbaugh.
NaVorro Bowman didn't let that happen.
The All-Pro linebacker turned in one of the more dominant linebacker performances in recent memory and the 49ers got back to what has defined them on offense in a 35-11 win against the Rams.
Without All-Pro linebackers Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis, San Francisco turned in its best defensive performance of the year. And while the opposition -- specifically a poor performance by Rams quarterback Sam Bradford -- contributed to that equation, it wasn't just that.
"A huge piece of that is NaVorro Bowman," Harbaugh said. "A huge piece of that is a well-coordinated plan by (defensive coordinator) Vic Fangio and the defensive coaches, Donte Whitner and his presence and leadership and guys that stepped up, (linebacker Dan) Skuta, (linebacker Corey) Lemonier, Ahmad Brooks responded."
St. Louis managed just 188 yards of total offense, including 18 on the ground, as San Francisco got back to .500.
A week after being all but forgotten in the second half, running back Frank Gore carried 20 times for 153 yards and a score and Kendall Hunter added 49 yards on 11 carries and a 29-yard touchdown run.
After three weeks away from the style that led to a Super Bowl berth last year, the 49ers were, well, the 49ers again.
NFL Team Report - San Francisco 49ers - NOTES, QUOTES
--RB Frank Gore's 153 yards was the most he had in a game since running for 167 in 2009.
"Very Frank-Gore-like. Nobody does it better," coach jim Harbaugh said. "Pure attitude."
--The return of tight end Vernon Davis gave quarterback Colin Kaepernick a much-needed additional weapon in the passing game. He made just two catches, but one went for a touchdown.
"Vernon is just ... I guess a special creation," Harbaugh said. "He has different kind of blood flowing through him than you or I do for sure. The way he had never been sidelined for a game. Had a tear in his hamstring and then all of a sudden it just heals back together. He's got, his muscle structure, his DNA, blood flow is different somehow, someway."
NFL Team Report - San Francisco 49ers - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--QB Colin Kaepernick had a very Alex-Smith like performance against the Rams. He completed 15-of-23 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns without an interception.
--LB NaVorro Bowman had six tackles, two sacks and three tackles for loss against the Rams.
--LB Dan Skuta made two tackles in his first start for the 49ers.
--LB Michael Wilhoite made a career-high seven tackles against the Rams in his first career start.
--LT Joe Staley was deemed OK despite suffering what appeared to be a serious injury late in the fourth quarter. Coach Jim Harbaugh said the team "possibly dodged a bullet there."
--WR Quinton Patton has a fracture in his foot, but will not be placed on injured reserve.
REPORT CARD VS. RAMS
PASSING OFFENSE: B - QB Colin Kaepernick didn't try to do too much, throwing for 167 yards. He took what was there, managed the game and the results were what the team was looking for.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A - RB Frank Gore stepped out of a time machine just in time for kickoff. He looked like a 25 year old, not the older 30-yard-old back that he is. The team also got good production from Kendall Hunter, which it had lacked to this point.
PASS DEFENSE: A - QB Sam Bradford was terrible for the Rams, completing just 19-of-41 passes. He missed open guys, but the front seven did a good job putting pressure on him to force errant throws. Tramaine Brock might have earned himself more playing time, stepping in for Nnamdi Asomugha.
RUSH DEFENSE: A-plus -- Daryl Richardson led the Rams with 16 yards on 12 carries. That pretty much sums it up.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B - P Andy Lee averaged 54.7 yards on seven punts with a 52.0-yard net. Rams PR Tavon Austin totaled a mere 19 yards on six returns. K Phil Dawson missed a field-goal attempt from 53 yards after hitting all seven from 50 or more yards with the Browns last season.
COACHING: A -- It was a good bounce-back win on the road in a short week against a team that has given the 49ers fits. Harbaugh's first win against Jeff Fisher was both necessary and impressive. It quells concerns for at least another week.