Don’t Count Us Out: Reaction to the Niners’ 35-11 win over St. Louis
It was a long night Thursday for Sam Bradford and the anemic offense of the St. Louis Rams.
For Vernon Davis and Frank Gore, business as usual never felt so good.
With the talking point of the evening being the 2012 Rams’ 1-0-1 record over rival San Francisco, the defending NFC champions made sure they laid to rest any questions over the division’s pecking order. The final score was 35-11, with NaVorro Bowman seizing his chance to shine in the absence of Patrick Willis.
Bowman’s stat line was impressive – 5 tackles, 2 sacks and a forced fumble – but what was even more impressive was his leadership on a unit that needed to bounce back. San Francisco had allowed over 1,000 combined yards through three games – this one ended with 188 yards of total Rams offense. No Aldon Smith, no Patrick Willis. This one was about Bowman and safety Donte Whitner.
The real takeaway (besides the fact that Colin Kaepernick earned his first NFC West road win) is the Niners’ depth. They caught a break when Davis stayed true to his tough ways was active, and helped Colin Kaepernick look more comfortable than he had the prior two weeks.
Sam Bradford struggled, both on the field and with a playbook that obviously bothers him on the sideline. At this point, Bradford is still making rookie mistakes, missing open balls and pushing his throws into coverage. His offensive line and coordinator aren’t doing him any favors, but Bradford (like the recently benched Josh Freeman) hasn’t improved his decision-making skills. The end zone interception he threw to Whitner was tipped, but Whitner had a pick taken away earlier by Jared Cook, so that was just football karma.
Phil Dawson attempted (and missed) a rare free kick field goal from 71 yards, the kick was terrible but the play call was interesting. I for one wonder why more coaches don’t train kickers and kick teams to try and nail these long kicks to ensure scoring even on fourth and long in the maroon zone.
As good as Kaepernick (and Anquan Boldin) looked, it was Gore who ruled the night for the Niners’ offense. Both Gore and backup Kendall Hunter scored on the ground, and Gore more than doubled his season total with 153 yards on the ground (he had 142 rushing yards through the first three weeks). He also fumbled, but he more than made up for it when the last ball had been snapped. His score came on 4th and inches, and he is averaging 4.8 yards per carry on the season, looking like the Gore of yore. He and his multi-talented backups remain the accelerator for Jim Harbaugh’s offense, which got back on track last night. They’re still in it, with a cushy schedule the rest of the way: following Houston’s visit in Week 5, they play host Arizona, then visit Tennessee and Jacksonville before their bye. Expect this dangerous team to be 6-2 or 5-3 by then, with the possible loss coming from the upcoming Texans visit.
St. Louis cornerback Courtland Finnegan, who has been a solid transplant from Tennessee, was injured during on Boldin’s touchdown catch (see photo) and his absence was notable for the Rams in the second half. He wasn’t having his finest day anyways, as he was flagged for defensive holding on Boldin’s largest grab of the night, a 42-yarder. It simply wasn’t the Rams’ night on defense or offense.
I picked the Niners to win the game, but only by three (23-20), and the spread was San Francisco by four, so that counts as a loss for me as I technically picked the Rams +4. My Friday picks column will be out later today, so be sure to check that out.
This week: 0-1.
gifs via reddit.com (r/nfl)