Niners 35, Rams 11. Looks like I don’t have to go into hibernation for the winter quite yet. And I actually get to give out some awards!
The Joe Montana Award (Coolest Player on the Field): Frank Gore
As the Niners offense went into the tank the last few weeks, there has been a great deal of discussion about their struggles running the ball. They didn’t run all that well against the Packers, they were stonewalled by the Seahawks, and then against the Colts they started off with a great pounding drive … and then abandoned the run for the rest of the game. Had the Niners forgotten their identity? Had they been too seduced by Colin Kaepernick’s talents and gotten too far from what they did so well during the first couple of years of the Harbaugh era? Was Frank Gore … gulp … over the hill?
Uh, no. Against the Rams the Niners went back to their bread and butter, pounding Gore behind their offensive line. Frank the Tank gashed the Rams for 153 yards on 20 carries, more yards than he’d gained in the first three games of the season, and Kendall Hunter added a nice 29-yard TD in garbage time.
The Jerry Rice Award (Most Dominant Player on the Field): NaVorro Bowman
NaVorro Bowman has looked fantastic for his whole Niners career, but the big question has always been, how much of his success comes from playing next to the best linebacker in football, Patrick Willis? One game doesn’t totally answer that question, but HOLY SHIT did NaVorro Bowman look fucking awesome last night. In the second half, the Niners kept blitzing Bowman right up the middle, and he kept just running over the Rams’ pass protecting running backs on his way to destroying Sam Bradford. He had two sacks, three tackles for loss, and a forced fumble, and if you told me all those numbers were doubled, it wouldn’t surprise me. No Willis and no Aldon Smith, and it didn’t matter even a little bit. I’m pretty sure by the fourth quarter, Bradford was pissing down his leg every time he looked across the line of scrimmage at Bowman.
The Emmitt Smith Award (Most Hated Opponent): Chris Long
In fact, the whole Long family can go to hell.
The Adam Walker Award (Player Whose Actions Most Led to Defeat): Sam Bradford
Normally, this award is reserved for a Niner who played like shit. But man, if there’s ever a player who deserves to be held up for his complete, unreserved shittiness, it’s Sam Bradford. He was the inverse of Bowman–he threw for 202 yards, and I can’t believe he got even half that many. His throws weren’t even close to on the mark, he was running for his life half the time, and he had a deer-in-the-headlights look that you rarely see on the football field. There were three players on the field Thursday night who were most responsible for the Niners victory: Gore, Bowman, and Bradford.
The Where Have You Gone Joe Nedney? Award (For Why Can’t We Have a Good Kicker?) Phil Dawson
Seriously, Phil Dawson? You’ve already missed more field goal attempts than you did all of last year (he went 29-for-31 with Cleveland in 2012). Get your shit together!
Overall Rating For This Game (On a scale of Zero to Twelve Anchors, in honor of San Francisco’s favorite beverage): 6 Anchors
It’s entirely possible that the Niners are still screwed, and only looked that good because the Rams reeeeeeaally fucking suck. But given that the Niners got crushed two weeks in a row, they were on the road on a short week, and they went winless against the Rams last year, I was terrified of this game, and I’m relieved it went the way it did. So that game gets a solid six-pack.
If the Niners lose that game, that’s it: Their season is over. Now? Hope is still alive.