Three and Out: Gore rights 49ers ship; Bowman steps up
Prior to rushing for 153 yards Thursday night, Frank Gore last gained more than 100 yards on Oct. 8, 2012 against the Seahawks, when he gained 131 yards. (AP)
ST. LOUIS – Frank Gore was not the forgotten man in the 49ers’ offense on Thursday night.
The reeling 49ers got a huge lift from the man who has been Mr. Steady through all the organization’s ups and downs since he arrived on the scene in 2005.
The 49ers returned to their power running game, and Gore thrived against an overmatched St. Louis Rams defense. Gore rushed for 153 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries to lead the 49ers to a 35-11 victory over the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome.
The 49ers (2-2) broke a two-game losing streak and rebounded strongly after a tumultuous week on and off the field.
On Monday, outside linebacker Aldon Smith took a voluntary leave of absence to check into in-patient treatment for substance abuse. He was placed on the reserve/non-football illness list and he is expected to miss at least a month.
On a short week, the 49ers returned to their proven formula to snap out of their doldrums after consecutive blowout losses against Seattle and Indianapolis.
Although Gore twice rushed for more than 100 yards in the postseason, including in Super Bowl XLVII, he had gone 12 regular-season games without getting into triple-digits prior to Thursday.
Gore last gained more than 100 yards on Oct. 8 against the Seattle Seahawks, as he gained 131 yards on 16 carries. That was also a Thursday night game.
Gore provided the 49ers with a 14-3 lead at halftime when he dashed through a huge hole on the right side of the line on a fourth-and-1 play. Gore picked up big blocks from Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati and extra blocker Adam Snyder to scamper 34 yards for a touchdown.
It took awhile for the 49ers’ offense to get going, but when it did, they looked a lot like the team that marched through NFC last season en route to the Super Bowl.
After managing just 25 yards of total offense in the first quarter, the 49ers rode Gore, quarterback Colin Kaepernick and wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
The 49ers took a 7-3 lead on Boldin’s 20-yard touchdown pass, on which he eluded Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan along the sideline and dove into the end zone.
The 49ers kept it rolling in the third quarter. Kaepernick hit tight end Vernon Davis with a 12-yard touchdown pass for a 21-3 lead. Davis returned to action after missing one game with a left hamstring strain.
Kaepernick, who was coming off the two worst games of his 13-start NFL career, missed some open receivers but he was a lot better. He completed 15 of 23 passes for 167 yards. Boldin caught 5 passes for 90 yards and a score.
Short-handed defense: The 49ers played without three players who opened the season as starters. All-Pro inside linebacker Patrick Willis (groin) was inactive, along with third cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
Also, nose tackle Ian Williams is on injured reserve with a season-ending broken ankle he sustained Sept. 15 against Seattle. Aldon Smith missed his first game after taking a voluntary leave of absence.
Michael Wilhoite made his first career start, as he took Willis’ place. And Tramaine Brock also performed well as the No. 3 cornerback for Asomugha. Brock made a good play in the second quarter to bat away a deep Sam Bradford pass intended for wide receiver Brian Quick, which safety Donte Whitner intercepted in the end zone.
NaVorro Bowman rose to the occasion for the 49ers’ defense. Although he dropped an easy interception, he also forced a fumble against Bradford, which Tony Jerod-Eddie recovered in the fourth quarter at the St. Louis 3.
Running back Anthony Dixon scored on a 1-yard touchdown run two plays later.
Depth chart: Rookie Quinton Patton, who was the 49ers’ No. 4 wide receiver in the first three games, was promoted ahead of Marlon Moore and Kyle Williams into the No. 2 role. Moore was not active for Thursday’s game, as Jon Baldwin suited up for the first time in the regular season.
Patton’s first NFL catch came in the first quarter when he caught a screen pass on third and 7 and got back to the line of scrimmage for no gain. But Patton left the game shortly thereafter with a foot injury. He did not return.
Fair-catch kick: Phil Dawson attempted a rare fair-catch kick on the final play of the first half. Kyle Williams made a fair catch of a Rams punt at the 49ers’ 39. Coach Jim Harbaugh then utilized the obscure rule to send out Dawson for a fair-catch kick of 71 yards.
Dawson’s attempt was short and wide to the left. Rams receiver Austin Pettis caught the ball 9 yards deep in the end zone and returned it the 9-yard line as time expired. If Dawson had kicked the ball through the uprights, it would’ve counted for three points.
The last time the 49ers attempted a fair-catch kick was Jan. 1, 1989, when Mike Cofer missed his attempt from 60 yards.
The last successful fair-catch kick was in 1976 when former 49ers kicker Ray Wersching, then with the San Diego Chargers, made a 45-yarder.
In the first quarter, Dawson missed a 53-yard attempt.
This ‘n’ that:Wide receiver Jon Baldwin, acquired in an August trade with the Kansas City Chiefs for A.J. Jenkins, suited up for his first regular-season game with the 49ers. Baldwin made a contribution with a 14-yard reception on a third-and-9 situation in the third quarter. Jenkins, the 49ers’ first-round draft pick in 2012, did not catch any passes in his one season with the club. . . . Justin Smith and Ahmad Brooks combined for a sack of Sam Bradford late in the first quarter. The NFL reviewed a sack from the 49ers’ game Sunday against the Colts that was originally credited to Justin Smith. The league determined the sack would be awarded to Aldon Smith, instead. . . . Glenn Dorsey picked up his second sack of the season. . . . Rams rookie safety T.J. McDonald, son of former 49ers safety Tim McDonald, sustained a serious injury in the third quarter. His right leg was placed in an air cast before he was carted off the field. . . . The 49ers’ defense had its way against the Rams run game. Through three quarters, the Rams had just 14 yards rushing on 14 rushing attempts. The 49ers surrendered 138.0 yards rushing per game in the first three games of the season. . . . Kaepernick fumbled an attempted handoff to Kendall Hunter, resulting in a turnover. The Rams cashed in with Bradford's 6-yard touchdown pass Lance Kendrick. Benny Cunningham ran in the two-point conversion in the fourth quarter . . . Kendall Hunter registered 49 yards on 11 carries, and made it 35-11 with a 29-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.