COMMENTARY | The San Francisco 49ers bounced back in a big way against the divisional rival St. Louis Rams on Thursday Night Football. After a slow start, Colin Kaepernick and Co. scored five touchdowns in less than three quarters after putting up just 10 points in their previous nine quarters. It took a combination of Frank Gore on the ground and Anquan Boldin in the passing game to get it done. It goes without saying that this was a huge win for San Francisco, who is now at .500 after a tough four-game stretch to open the season.
Let's take a look at five stars from San Francisco's 35-11 win against the Rams.
This performance was coming from a mile away. After putting up 82 yards on 11 attempts against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 3, there was a lot of talk about how San Francisco failed to utilize Gore in the second half of what was a close game up until the fourth quarter. The 49ers decided to utilize Gore early and often on Thursday Night Football and the results were immediate. Gore racked up nearly eight yards per rush and broke runs of 17, 18, 27 and 34 yards.
It's not a coincidence that San Francisco executed five touchdown scoring drives with its running game taking off. Gore ended up with 153 yards on 20 attempts, as the 49ers outgained the Rams 219 to 18 on the ground. His early success set the pace for this domination.
The presence of Vernon Davis in this one had to help Boldin a great deal. Instead of getting double teamed on nearly every play, Boldin was able to go up against the likes of Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins in man coverage. Once Finnegan went down with an injury in the first half, Boldin took advantage of his size against Jenkins. The result was a five-reception, 90-yard performance with a touchdown. His ability to make the tough play in traffic enabled Kaepernick to rely on him throughout the game. This doesn't even take into account how well Boldin performed in the blocking him. Just imagine how good he'll be in this offense once Mario Manningham and/or Michael Crabtree return late in the game.
When you don't hear a free safety's name called that often during a broadcast, it is usually a good thing. Reid did a solid job forcing Sam Bradford underneath between the hashes to Jared Cook and closed off the back end of the defense much like a veteran free safety is supposed to do. It's stunning to see a rookie play at this level in coverage, which was an issue that many scouts had with Reid heading into the 2013 NFL draft.
Thursday's performance represents the fourth consecutive game that Reid has played at an elite level towards the back end of San Francisco's defense. Outside of being a solid presence against the run and in the box, Reid has showed that he has the natural instincts and technique to be an improvement over Dashon Goldson in coverage. If Reid can continue this level of consistency moving forward, San Francisco's safety play could actually be an upgrade from the 2012 season. That will only help what has been lackluster coverage on the outside at cornerback.
San Francisco's defense didn't miss a beat with Patrick Willis out of action against St. Louis. While Bowman recorded only six tackles, he was a dominating force in the 49ers front seven. The All-Pro linebacker recorded two quarterback hits, two sacks and three tackles for loss in what may end up being a NFC Defensive Player of the Week performance. It is becoming apparent that Bowman may be the best linebacker in the NFL. Bowman's performance on Thursday night was pretty much a representation of exactly how good he is now and what his ceiling is moving forward.
Someone had to step up with Aldon Smith in rehab. Brooks did just that against the Rams, recording 1.5 sacks and two quarterback hits. Overall, San Francisco's defense didn't miss a beat without Smith on the field. It sacked Bradford five times and hit him a total of eight times. If Brooks can continue to play at this level with Smith out, the 49ers' defense might not be in as bad of a shape as we might have first thought. Rookie Corey Lemonier can also play an important role opposite Brooks. Despite not showing up on the state line, the Auburn product played really well in the first extended action of his career.
Vincent Frank has been covering the National Football League for three years. He started out writing for Niners Nation and was a featured columnist at Bleacher Report. His work has been published on CNN, Pro Football Focus and BR, among other sites.
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- Anquan Boldin
- Frank Gore
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