Midway through the 2nd quarter, the long slumbering 49er offense lurched out of bed with a 42 yard bomb from Colin Kaepernick to Anquan Boldin, followed shortly thereafter by a 20 yarder for a TD, and just that quick the 49ers were back in business and on their way to a 35-11 trashing of the Rams, the team the Niners had been unable to defeat last year.
Up to this turning point, the team had 52 yards of offense, and Frank Gore had accounted for 51 of them. Kaepernick was 1-5 passing for 11 yards. He then went 12-13 for 147 yards and 2 TDs. He finished the game with 167 yards, 14 more than Gore’s 153.
But the key to the turnaround was the dominant play of the 49er offensive line. This group had not been in sync since the opening game against Green Bay, but Thursday night they regained their identity, opening massive holes for Gore and providing solid protection for Kaepernick. If Gore has room to run and Kaepernick has time to pass, the 49ers can beat anyone.
On defense, there was concern how the team would fare without the injured Patrick Willis’ leadership. Nate Bowman answered that question with a superb game. He was all over the place, registering 2 sacks, 3 tackles for a loss, 1 pass defensed, 2 QB hits, and 6 tackles. Willis’ replacement, Michael Wilhoite, led the team in tackles with 7. NT Glenn Dorsey had a good game and the Rams running game was completely stuffed, with 19 carries for 18 yards.
The 49ers have been looking for a second WR to complement Boldin since Michael Crabtree broke his Achilles in May, and they might finally have the answer. Newly acquired Jon Baldwin stepped in when Quinton Patton left with a foot injury and the big guy had two catches. Not that many, for sure, but one was a tough third down catch. More importantly, he actually looks like a WR the opposing defense would have to bother covering.
This was pretty much a must win game, and the Niners responded to the challenge. They have a week and a half to prepare for Houston. If they win that game, the schedule eases up and a 7-2 record beckons. At that point, they will get Mario Manningham back from injury and maybe even Crabtree, as well has rookie DT Tank Carradine.
Still, you have to wonder if this victory was the 49ers regaining their mojo, or the Rams being your basic dog crap. Don’t get me wrong. In the 49ers’ recipe book, the Rams are ALWAYS dog crap. But perhaps they’re actually, really, football-team-wise dog crapola. The game against Houston will tell the tale.