The San Francisco 49ers were very much in need of a strong showing when they faced the St. Louis Rams in a prime time game on Thursday night. They were playing without two of their best defenders. Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis were both out of the game. Despite that, the 49ers got a 35 – 11 win in St. Louis. Navorro Bowman took it upon himself to rise to the occasion. He played lights out in this game.
The 49ers needed to get back to their identity which is playing physical football by stopping the run and running the ball with authority. The Rams have been very bad against the run over the last couple of weeks. The right side of the defense is vulnerable and the 49ers exploited it.
Frank Gore got back on track against the Rams. Greg Roman made it a point to get him his touches early. He had 20 carries for 153 yards and one touchdown which went for 34 yards. That is more than the total rushing yards for Gore over the first three games. Kendall Hunter chipped in with a 29 yard touchdown as well.
The 49ers know that it is important to get Gore the ball. Kaepernick said; “I am willing to take over if I have to but we have a Hall of Fame running back. He has to get his touches.”
This game was a case of returning to what worked for the 49ers. They played smash mouth, conservative, low risk football. It is about time they let that offensive line do what it does best, mauling defenders. Vance McDonald was dominant on wham blocks and Bruce Miller lead the way for Frank Gore to get to the second level of the defense.
Make no mistake, the 49ers knew how important this game was. They even had a players only meeting in the short week prior to this game. Gore went over the main message that was delivered. “We told ourselves that we have to get back on track. We had a players only meeting and said this is a get back on track game. Our O line did a great job. I told Kap to just be him.”
Colin Kaepernick started to show signs of the dynamic play maker that we saw last season. He made some pretty good throws as he connected with Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis for touchdowns. He did however decline to make a couple of throws to a wide open Vernon Davis. He seemed a bit gun shy and unwilling to let it rip. It’s always easier to say what should have been done from the sideline though. All in all, he was very efficient today.
The game is always easier when the running game is working well. The play action pass worked well also. The thing that stood out to me was how Greg Roman simplified the game for Kaepernick. He was able to cut the field in half by using designed roll out passes and easy one or two read route combos. This was a way of getting Kaepernick comfortable and restoring his confidence. It also forced him to do what he does best, make plays throwing the ball on the move.
Kaepernick talked about what he was went on in the last two losses. “Just trying to figure out ways to execute better. We were missing things here and there that we shouldn’t have been missing. We knew we had to refocus and get back on track. I had to trust my receivers and give them a chance. I had to trust them more.”
A lot was made about how Kaepernick has used social media recently. It wasn’t a big deal to Kaepernick however. As he mentioned, he has favorited comments on twitter before. “The same people writing those things know nothing about me and know nothing about the work that I put in. They say things out of pure ignorance. It’s not a big deal, it’s not the first time I have done it. I have favorited tweets before. They can tweet to me tonite!”
No one stood out on defense like Navorro Bowman. The fourth year linebacker really came to play. “We really wanted to get this win so that we can get back on track and play 49er football. I woke up and I told our GM that I will go out there and get this win today. I left it all out on the field today, we hate losing and want to get back on track. I like to look at myself as raise the game. If a link gets taken out, someone has to step up. I was just playing my game.” Bowman said.
He was all over the field. The Rams couldn’t do anything to stop him. Bowman totaled five tackles, two sacks, a force fumble and a ball batted down against the Rams. The way he played today reinforced my belief that he is one of if not the best inside linebackers in the NFL.
Corey Lemonier, the rookie outside linebacker was also a force in this game. He was able to get pressure on Sam Bradford. Bradford had Austin Pettis wide open on a corner route in the first quarter but Lemonier was there to make him rush the throw.
Anquan Boldin got back on track as he beat Cortland Finegan and Janoris Jenkins on a couple of big plays including a 42 yard reception and a 20 yard touchdown.
The 49ers held the Rams to only 18 rushing yards as Sam Bradford threw the ball 41 times.
Andy Lee continued to show why he is the best punter in the NFL. He averaged 52 yards per punt.
The 49ers controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. This is exactly what wins football games. The offensive line has said that they got what they wanted, a chance to maul the defense and give Frank Gore the ball.
Mike Silver talked about how the offensive line was mocking Joe Staley’s reaction to his injury. Apparently, Staley thought he broke his ankle but ended up being fine. Silver made a reference to Rod Tidwell from the moving Jerry McGuire when he described how Staley was able to walk off of the field. Silver also walked with Staley to the team bus. He said that the injury is not as bad as it looked.
Tremain Brock played very well as the nickel corner. He was beat out by Nnamdo Asomugha for the job in the preseason. Brock made a very good play when he tipped a ball that was intended for Brian Quick. Donte Whitner made the interception in the 49ers territory.
Highly touted rookie, Tavon Austin was held to two catches for just six yards. Credit Carlos Rogers with doing a stellar job against him in the slot position.
Michael Wilhoite filled in admirably for Patrick Willis. He had four tackles but was used on a few A gap blitzes. Wilhoite, a former safety in college, was able to drop back and clog passing lanes against the Rams.
Vance McDonald continued to block well. This is an area that has really improved for him. He was in on a few wham blocks and did a good job of holding his ground to open running lanes for Gore.
Jonathan Baldwin was activated today and had two catches for 19 yards. He was able to use his big body to get position on a cornerback when Kaepernick hit him on a slant that went for 15 yards.
This game was exactly what the 49ers needed. They came out and took control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football. The 49ers used a game plan that involved running the ball. Their defense was once again stout against the run. Execution was a major thing that was not happening in the previous week, but was definitely present against the Rmas. The 49ers got back on track and will not be able to prepare for their next opponent, a big game on Sunday Night Football against the Houston Texans.