The buzz this past week was that the St. Louis Rams were a much better football team than the one the 49ers defeated soundly in Week 4.
Since losing that game, the Rams had gone 4-3 and were coming off consecutive victories over the Colts and Titans.
“They’re a lot better and they’re playing like it,” 49ers defensive end Justin Smith told Bay Area media.
Yet for the second straight game, the 49ers showed that they appear to be much better, too, after a midseason slump.
Despite losing left tackle Joe Staley early in the game to a right knee injury, the Niners offense was efficient and its defense often overwhelming in a 23-13 San Francisco victory that improves the 49ers to 8-4 and in a strong position to drive for a wild-card playoff spot out of the NFC West.
The victory gave the 49ers a sweep of the Rams this season after going 0-1-1 vs. St. Louis in 2012.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick played well, completing 19-of-28 throws for 275 yards and a touchdown without throwing an interception, while running three times for 22 yards. And, on this day, his receiving corps was excellent, given a boost by the return of Michael Crabtree, who was playing in his first game since the Super Bowl in early February.
Crabtree had two catches, including one for 60 yards, and fellow wideout Anquan Boldin caught nine balls for 98 yards. But the most memorable receptions were by tight end Vernon Davis, who had four catches for 82 yards, and two memorable hurdles that left defenders grasping for air, including one for 17 yards and a TD in the fourth quarter. All told, the 49ers had 338 yards in total offense.
The Niners’ defense, meanwhile, sacked quaterback Kellen Clemens three times and hit him seven more times, and held the Rams to 312 total yards – but with a chunk of those yards coming late. The Rams didn’t score a touchdown until the game was well out of reach, with 23 seconds remaining in the game.
The 49ers now have a week to get ready for their rematch with NFC West leader Seattle, which comes to Candlestick next Sunday. The Seahawks beat San Francisco in Week 2 this season in Seattle, 29-3.