Thursday Night Football 2013: Big Win Highlights Importance of 49ers Ground Game

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer ISeptember 27, 2013

ST LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 26:   Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers runs for 17 yards against the St. Louis Rams in the second quarter at Edward Jones Dome on September 26, 2013 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers got back to what they do best in the 35-11 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Thursday night: They ran the football.

There were plenty of perplexing curiosities to dissect after the 49ers' loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 3: the poor defensive play, the inefficiency of Colin Kaepernick, etc., etc.

But what was truly puzzling was the fact that they appeared to abandon the run.

Frank Gore was given only 11 carries in the beatdown, despite totaling 82 yards on those carries. Of those 82 yards, 60 came before Gore was even touched, per Ben Stockwell of Pro Football Focus.

Well, the 49ers responded by giving Gore 20 carries on Thursday at Edward Jones Dome. He responded by scampering for 153 yards, which included a 34-yard touchdown to put the 49ers up at the half, 14-3.

Fourth-year running back Anthony Dixon added another rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter, and backup Kendall Hunter finished with 49 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. The 49ers finished with 219 yards and three touchdowns on 40 carries.

Sep 26, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore (21) rushes for a 34 yard touchdown run against the St. Louis Rams during the first half at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers got back to running the pigskin on Thursday night, and that is what matters. So much attention was placed on the erratic play of Kaepernick that many glossed over the most concerning part of the 49ers' 1-2 start: They abandoned what made them so dangerous in 2012-13.

In 2012, San Francisco ranked third in the NFL in yards per carry and fourth in rushing yards per game. Gore, Kaepernick, Hunter and LaMichael James proved to be a dangerous foursome that could beat you with power, speed and agility. 

There was a whole lot of doubt surrounding Jim Harbaugh's squad headed into Thursday's game. The 49ers were coming off consecutive embarrassing losses and, to make matters worse, Aldon Smith had left the team to check into a rehab facility after his second arrest for DUI in as many years.

But the approach was simple for San Francisco on Thursday: Give the Rams a heavy dose of Gore, while sprinkling in some passes along the way. 

It worked beautifully. All of a sudden, the 49ers look like they're back on track. Funny how one week can change things.


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