SAN FRANCISCO (AP)—Coach Mike Singletary delivered another one of his motivational halftime speeches and the San Francisco 49ers woke up in a hurry.
And in all phases, no less.
“It was just a matter of reminding them what was at stake,” Singletary said.
Like first place in the NFC West.
Tight end Vernon Davis(notes) caught a 13-yard pass for his third touchdown in two weeks, Patrick Willis(notes) returned an interception 23 yards for a score and the 49ers overcame the absence of star running back Frank Gore(notes) with a 35-0 rout of the winless St. Louis Rams on Sunday.
The 49ers (3-1) scored in every way to take command of the NFC West after already beating reigning division champion Arizona and Seattle, recording their first shutout in 119 games since a 38-0 win at New Orleans on Jan. 6, 2002.
“Any day you look up and see a goose egg it’s great,” Willis said. “We made a step today. People are going to say it’s only St. Louis. That doesn’t matter.”
The Rams (0-4) lost their 14th straight, the longest skid in the NFL. St. Louis was blanked for the second time after losing 28-0 to the Seahawks in the season opener.
San Francisco scored touchdowns via special teams, offense and defense for the first time since Nov. 10, 1997, in a 24-12 win at Philadelphia. This also marked the 49ers’ largest margin of victory since a 50-14 win over Arizona on Dec. 7, 2003.
“This is our house,” Singletary quoted from his halftime message. “We want to set the tempo. We don’t want any team coming in here and setting the tempo. I felt like they were taking a fight to us.”
Josh Morgan(notes) caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Shaun Hill(notes) early in the fourth quarter, then Ray McDonald(notes) scooped up a fumble by Rams quarterback Kyle Boller(notes) and ran 11 yards for another TD 14 seconds later.
San Francisco found a fortunate, wacky way to finally get on the board late in the first half. Rookie fifth-round draft pick Scott McKillop(notes) recovered a botched punt return by St. Louis in the end zone. And a lackluster first half by the Niners’ offense turned lively in the last 30 minutes.
“That’s huge that every unit is pitching in,” Hill said. “We’re on top of the division. That’s right where we need to be at the quarter mark.”
McKillop capitalized when St. Louis’ Danny Amendola(notes) let Andy Lee’s(notes) punt go and teammate Quincy Butler(notes) tried to pick up the ball but couldn’t gain control. The 49ers swarmed and McKillop came up with the ball at the bottom of the pile.
“You have to communicate to the guys that are blocking for you that the ball’s on the ground,” Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “I don’t know if it was the noise or if Danny didn’t get out. But it hit Quincy and at that point Quincy knew he had to get on the ball. That’s what he tried to do.”
Boller had a tough return to the Bay Area in his first start for St. Louis. A former college star at Cal , he went 13 for 24 for 108 yards and was sacked five times in place of injured starter Marc Bulger(notes) (bruised rotator cuff).
Willis wreaked havoc, often blitzing untouched and coming at the Rams’ offense from every angle to finish with eight tackles—five solo, three for loss—and 2 1/2 sacks to go with three other hits on Boller.
Boller was clearly frustrated.
“It’s hard to explain. It’s just one of those deals where we can’t have it happen,” he said. “We can’t hit big plays and then all of a sudden there’s something that brings us back. That just kills your drives, kills all your rhythm and momentum.”
Without Gore, who injured his ankle during a last-second loss at Minnesota in Week 3, the 49ers struggled to move in their power run offense. Rookie Glen Coffee(notes) took on a bigger role, but finished with 74 yards on 24 carries.
Hill improved his career record at Candlestick Park to 7-0. He was 14 of 24 for 152 yards and four sacks.
There’s some concern he’s taking too many hits. How did he feel?
“I feel like I played in an NFL football game,” he said with a chuckle.
NOTES: Niners LB Jeff Ulbrich(notes) sustained a concussion late in the fourth quarter. … St. Louis S Craig Dahl(notes) suffered a head injury but it was yet to be determined whether he had a concussion. … 49ers WR Brandon Jones(notes) was active for the first time, making his debut for San Francisco after he injured his shoulder early in training camp. … San Francisco has an interception in each game so far. … The 49ers were held scoreless in the first quarter for the second straight week. … Backup QB Alex Smith was the lone 49ers player not to get in the game.