In like a lion, out like a lamb. And so it came to pass, as the San Francisco 49ers sent the red hot St. Louis Rams bleating and whimpering into the sunset, 23-13.
The 49er defense had yet another outstanding afternoon, holding the Rams to six points and 122 net yards through the first three quarters and not allowing the Rams into the end zone until there were only 18 seconds left in the game. The recently dangerous Tavon Austin caught only four passes for 25 dinky yards.
Despite dominating the game from the opening kickoff onward, the 49ers only led 16-6 as the 4th quarter started. They had just squandered a promising drive when Frank Gore fumbled on the Rams’ twenty. The natives were restless, or at least concerned. Then Rams’ coach Jeff Fisher decided to call a fake punt on 4th and 8 from the St. Louis 22. It worked twice last year, but was a bit of a disaster this time around. Boobie Dixon smelled out the chicanery and stuffed the play. Moments later, Vernon Davis caught a pass at the eleven and high hurdled over a startled Rams DB into the end zone for a 23-6 lead. Game over.
This game marked the return of Michael Crabtree, who had been out all year with a torn Achilles. It also marked the return of the 49ers’ passing game. Coincidence? I think not. Crabtree only caught two passes, though one was a 60 yard stop and go beauty. But his presence in the line up opened things up for Anquan Boldin and VD, who caught 13 passes for 180 yards between them. It also helped that the Rams, who had been trampled by our running game in the first meeting back in September, were loaded up to make sure it didn’t happen again. In that, they were successful. Gore had only 42 yards on 15 carries.
Having his 2012 go-to WR finally back in action was clearly a rejuvenating event for embattled 49er QB Colin Kaepernick. He looked more confident, comfortable, and even happy throughout the game. When he dropped back to pass, he knew somebody would probably be open. And they usually were.
The game was not without midadventure for the 49ers, however. All pro LT Joe Staley suffered a sprained MCL early, causing a shuffling on the O-line. Alex Boone moved from RG to LT and Joe Looney took over at RG. Boone had an outstanding day, completely shutting out Rams pass rushing star Robert Quinn.
There was also the matter of Vernon’s jewels. The family sort of treasure. For perhaps the first time in NFL history, these precious items were used to make a tackle. Yep. A Ram defender got his hands on the goods and hung on until Davis went down. Ouch!
With the victory, coupled with losses by the Cardinals and Bears, the 49ers moved into sole possession of the sixth and final playoff seed. That might be a short lived joy, with Seattle coming to town next week, but for now, all is good. We’re three quarters through the 2013 season, persons of interest among you. Time for the stretch run.