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Joe Staley appears to avoid serious injury late in 49ers’ victory over the Rams

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(USA Today Sports images)

With fewer than two minutes left in a 35-11 game, it might have been natural to wonder: Why was Joe Staley (or any significant San Fransisco 49ers starter) still in the game?

It's understandable, even though the 49ers had only seven offensive linemen active for the game Thursday night against the St. Louis Rams.

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Still, it was almost haunting to see — and then hear — Staley after he fell to the turf on a meaningless 3rd-and-4 play. The audio was startlingly clear in the mostly then-empty Edward Jones Dome, with most of the Rams fans having cleared out. Staley's painful yells suggested he might have suffered something terribly serious, even though he later walked off the field with minor assistance.

After the game Jim Harbaugh believed that Staley avoided serious injury, and NFL Network's Michael Silver spoke after the game to Staley, who actually saw the humorous side of the injury.

Staley then confirmed the report himself on Twitter. And had a little fun at his own expense.

Phew. The Niners put together their most balanced offensive game of the season, and right when they needed it most — following a 1-2 start, in a short week, on the road and against a divisional opponent. Losing Staley, who helped pave the way for 219 rushing yards Thursday, would have been a huge blow on what was mostly a very good night.

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