ST. LOUIS – The 49ers returned to their proven formula for success on Thursday night.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick stepped aside. Or, actually, he merely handed the ball off, stood back and watched Frank Gore do what he does best.
Gore rushed for 153 yards and a touchdown – his highest output since 2009 – and the 49ers bounced back from consecutive losses with a resounding 35-11 victory over the St. Louis Rams.
“It was a get-back-on-track game, especially against a team that beat us last year and also tied us,” Gore said. “We lost two in a row and we knew we couldn’t do this again.
“We had to get back on track and just be us. Just be us. That’s playing smash-mouth football, and great defense and great special teams. That’s what we do.”
The 49ers rushed for 219 yards as a team, while holding the Rams to 18 rushing yards. And Kaepernick did not get involved in the run game, as he took off on just three run plays for 11 yards.
“We knew we had to get him his touches,” Kaepernick said. “He’s a Hall-of-Fame running back. You have to give him the ball.”
Five of the 49ers’ seven biggest plays came from their run game, as Gore's most-important moment came on a pivotal fourth-and-1 play that he turned into a 34-yard touchdown. He also had runs of 27, 18 and 17 yards.
“He was doing a great job of that all night, breaking through the first wave and the second level and getting into the secondary,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said.
The 49ers were coming off a game in which Gore had 82 yards rushing but had only 11 carries and just three after halftime in a 27-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. One reporter claimed he saw Gore yelling angrily at Harbaugh on the sideline during the final minutes.
“Erroneous, erroneous,” Harbaugh said.
Gore said all he cares about is winning. And, it just so happens, the 49ers’ best chance of winning often involves a heavy dose of Gore on power runs.
“There’s times when Frank says, ‘Give me the ball,’” Harbaugh said. “He said that a couple times tonight.”
Gore’s biggest play came with the 49ers leading 7-3 in the second quarter. Faced with a fourth-and-1 situation from the St. Louis 34, the 49ers went for it on fourth down.
Gore got the handoff on a power play to the right side. Left guard Mike Iupati pulled and made a big block in the hole. Gore also received strong blocks from Anthony Davis, Alex Boone and Adam Snyder to break free en route to a 34-yard touchdown.
“He had three big runs,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “Yeah, they blocked well. I was disappointed. We had people in position on two of the plays to make takes. The 49ers can run the football. They’ve always been able to run the football.”
Kaepernick completed 15 of 23 passes for 167 yards in a role of – dare we say? – a game manager. He threw touchdown passes to Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, who returned to action after missing a game with a hamstring strain.
“He was really locked in and focused all week,” Harbaugh said of Kaepernick. “He made big plays. Anquan Boldin, that was a great play on the touchdown that sparked us and got us going. Kap was seeing the field and delivering the ball and playing with great poise.”
Boldin had five receptions for 90 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown to get the 49ers on the board. Boldin beat Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan at the sideline, remained inbounds and dove into the end zone.
But Kaepernick’s best friend on this night was Gore. And Gore reciprocated his support for his quarterback, coming off his two worst games as a professional, when he kissed his biceps in classic “Kaepernicking” form after his touchdown run.
“I got to give my man some love,” Gore said. “The last two weeks, everybody was dogging him. I was just letting him know, ‘Just be you.’ He’s still young. He still has a lot of growing going on.
“I tell him, ‘As long as you keep working and believe in yourself, he’ll be one of the top quarterbacks in this league.’”