by Jay Flaherty

There is obviously a lot to praise from last night’s game against St. Louis. The Niners rushed the ball effectively (40 attempts for 219 yards), prevented Sam Bradford from beating us (he finished 19-41 for 202 yards, one TD and a pick), and proved that the Rams really don’t have a run game (19 carries, 18 yards, less than a yard per carry). But how heartily should the Niners be patting themselves on the back? With the way things started out last night, about as gently as one burps a baby.

At the end of the first quarter the score was 3-0 Rams and it looked like we were heading towards another lackluster performance. The O-line couldn’t protect Kap long enough for him to go through his progressions, our defense couldn’t get off the field on 3 rd down, and our offense couldn’t stay on the field past 3 rd down. But that all changed on a 3 rd and 19 catch, accompanied by a fantastic leap into the end zone, by none other than Anquan Boldin. The importance of this play can’t be overstated: we hadn’t converted on a 3 rd and long all year prior to Boldin’s TD, and it completely changed the momentum of the game. Shortly thereafter, Tremaine Brock (filling in for the injured Nnamdi Asomugha) tipped a Sam Bradford pass to Donte Whitner in our own end zone, which led to a Frank Gore 34-yard scamper on 4 th and inches for a touchdown. Add on the failed Phil Dawson 71-yard field goal and the Niners were back to being the Niners. (Seriously, how many Fantasy points would Dawson get for that? There needs to be a 60+ FG category on Yahoo!)

The biggest stud of the game was obviously Frank Gore, who rushed 20 times for 153 yards and a touchdown, but there were players stepping up all over the field. Glenn Dorsey (filling in for the injured Ian Williams) had a sack and four tackles, and was a brick wall against the run-game. Ahmad Brooks was huge with P-Willy sidelined, combining on 7 tackles and 1.5 sacks. I’ve said before how underrated Brooks is, playing in the shadow of Willis and Navarro Bowman (who was no slouch with two sacks and forced fumble); he is consistently putting pressure on the quarterback and setting hard edges that prevent running backs from getting to the outside.

On the offensive side of the ball, the run game was an obvious improvement. It’s no secret that in order to be successful, we need to run the ball effectively, and Thursday night we did just that. Gore, Kendall Hunter, and Boobie Dixon (on his birthday week! Happy 26 th , Boobie!) all had touchdown runs. However, the receivers still had trouble getting open. Without Anquan Boldin, this game would have been much closer as the Rams could have stacked the box and played one-on-one with our Wideouts. Bruce Miller, our fullback, had the second most catches (3) with many of them coming on play-action bootlegs that found him in the flats. Against a stronger defense, we will struggle to pass the ball after they double-team Boldin.

But overall it was a good win on a short week. We now get to rest up and head home for a Sunday night tilt with the Houston Texans, who have a vaunted defense and a stagnant offense — in other words we’re playing ourselves. Here’s hoping it comes down to a 71-yard field goal attempt.

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