ST. LOUIS - Frank Gore is over the hill. Colin Kaepernick is overexposed. And the 49ers' offensive line is overrated.
Those story lines, which started to emerge during the team's two-game losing streak, were decisively dashed Thursday as the 49ers (2-2) halted their skid with a 35-11 win over the Rams. San Francisco broke out of an offensive funk by abandoning flashy plays and simply handing the ball to Gore, who had been the linchpin of previous 49ers' offenses but who had been lightly utilized in this year's version.
The 30-year-old tailback had been held under 100 yards rushing in each of the first three games this year. On Thursday he ran with the burst and desire of a younger man, surpassing the 100-yard barrier by halftime and finishing with 153 yards and a touchdown. It was his highest total since Dec. 14, 2009 when he ran for 167 yards against the Cardinals.
Gore reached that total despite sitting out the last 14 minutes of the game because the 49ers were so far ahead. An offense that seemed quick to desert the running game in Sunday's loss to Indianapolis, rushed for 219 yards total Thursday. Anthony Dixon added a one-yard touchdown run while Kendall Hunter ran one in from 29 yards late in the fourth quarter.
Gore, who had 20 carries combined in blowout losses to the Seahawks and Colts, had 20 carries through three quarters against the Rams. "It was a get-on-track game," Gore said afterward. "Especially against a team that beat us last year and also tied us."
He said a more simple game plan by offensive coordinator Greg Roman was the key. "Coach G-Ro went back to doing basic stuff," he said. "And we got it going."
Kaepernick also bounced back.
After setting a personal mark in passing yards in Week 1, the 49ers quarterback plummeted to earth the following two weeks with four interceptions, two lost fumbles and the two worst passer ratings of his career.
Kaepernick wasn't prolific against the Rams. But with the offensive line blasting holes and Gore gobbling up yards, he didn't have to be. He merely had to manage the game. Kaepernick finished with 167 yards, a touchdown and a 115.7 passer rating.
It was Kaepernick and receiver Anquan Boldin who knocked the 49ers out the malaise that had gripped them over the last two weeks.
The 49ers began with two big plays - a first-down toss tofullback Bruce Miller and an 18-yard run by Gore. But as had been the case this season, mistakes and miscues halted the drive, and the 49ers had to punt. The 49ers entered the game as the league's second most-penalized team and had 10 more - for 85 yards - against the Rams.
San Francisco had faltered on third downs in the first half until, facing third and 10 in the second quarter, Kaepernick hit Boldin for 42 yards down the left sideline. Three plays later, this time facing third and 19, Kaepernick again looked to Boldin, who shook free of the cornerback, cut down the sideline and dove into the end zone for the 49ers' first score since the opening quarter against the Colts.
That series seem to wake the 49ers from their slumber.
On their next series, the Rams stopped Gore on a third-and-1 play at the St. Louis 34-yard line. But the 49ers decided to go for it on fourth down and let the Rams know what was coming by sending in their best run blockers.
Gore followed pulling guard Mike Iupati through the hole, Alex Boone and tight end Garrett Celek also sealed off defenders and Gore was off for his first touchdown since Week 1. "It was power play and it was well blocked," Jim Harbaugh said. "He squirted through, broke a tackle and finished it. He was doing a great job of that all night - breaking through the first wave and getting into the secondary."
Gore finished that run to the end zone by borrowing his quarterback's signature "Kaepernicking" move - kissing his biceps. "You know, I've got to give my man some love," Gore explained. "The last two weeks, everybody's been dogging him."
-- Matt Barrows