Niners roll Rams for Singletary's first win

No need to worry about the 49ers finishing this time. They got it right from the very start against the St. Louis Rams. After the most explosive quarter of offense seen from San Francisco in almost two decades, the Niners cruised to the finish Sunday afternoon to record a 35-16 rout that snapped a six-game losing streak and gave Mike Singletary a satisfying first victory as the team's head coach.

After blowing what could have been Singletary's first victory six days earlier with their final-minute follies during a Monday night loss at Arizona, the Niners came out roaring on offense and scored touchdowns on five consecutive drives in the first half, including each time they touched the ball in the second quarter.

The 49ers haven't had a 28-point quarter – which ties the team record – since Steve Young was running the show back in 1991. It was Shaun Hill running the show Sunday, and he looked pretty good in his own right while throwing two touchdown passes and running for another to lead the onslaught.

After aborted attempts against Seattle and Arizona in his first two games as San Francisco's interim coach, Singletary finally stepped to the postgame podium as a winner. With moist eyes and a controlled monotone, Singletary did not deny he was pleased with the outcome, but expressed that the 49ers have to be better all the way to the finish than they were Sunday, when they were outscored 13-0 in the second half after dominating the first two quarters.

"When we came out and we started fast, we were executing, we were doing the little things that we needed to do, we were getting turnovers, we were making sure we protected the ball – all the things that we want to do going forward," Singletary said. "But we need to end the game stronger than we started. That's finishing."

Singletary is big on finishing – it's the final item on his "49ers Formula For Success" that now can be seen all over the team facility – and that's something the 49ers failed to do in the frantic final seconds of their 29-24 loss to Arizona to begin this week. They weren't so great at finishing Sunday, either, punting on six of their final seven drives and fumbling away the other.

The upside of that was the outcome had already been decided. And, hey, after what the 49ers have been through the past two months during the transition from Mike Nolan to Singletary, a win's a win, particularly when it comes in this kind of fashion. It was San Francisco's most lopsided victory since 2003.

"I'm very humbled by it," Singletary said. "I'm very thankful and very proud of that, more so for the guys than for myself because they deserve it. They've been working their tails off and doing a lot of things right."

The 49ers were doing practically everything right during a spectacular first half that saw the Mike Martz offense in full flight, a defense more oriented to the 3-4 scheme getting after it and producing three turnovers, special teams doing their part and the coaches on the sidelines pulling all the right levers.

In other words, a total team effort.

"When something good happened on one side of the ball, it was a direct reflection of something else," linebacker Takeo Spikes said. "Everybody played well of each other. But we didn't finish the way that we wanted to. I think that was obvious. We'll take it for what it's worth."

But, oh, the way the 49ers started. That was worth a whole lot Sunday.

Sure, they were playing a struggling St. Louis team, but the 49ers haven't looked this ready or prepared from the start in several years. And there was no let up as San Francisco kept the peddle to the metal for its highest-scoring first half in 16 years.

"It's been a long time since we've had this feeling," said Hill, who in his second start of the season finished with a 142.3 quarterback rating while completing 15 of 20 passes for 213 yards.

"But you can't be surprised about that," Hill continued. "It was the power of the offense and the defense did a heck of a job out there and gave us a lot of opportunities. They gave us great field position and we were able to capitalize with offensive touchdowns. We were on a roll, moving the ball and getting big chunks."

The 49ers might have scored touchdowns on each of their six first-half possessions if not for a fumble by running back Frank Gore, who had the ball punched out of his arms after breaking a 37-yard run on San Francisco's second offensive play. The Rams recovered at their own 13-yard line.

But the San Francisco defense got the ball right back by forcing a three-and-out, Gore burst into the end zone on a 5-yard run four plays later, and the rout was on.

Gore had another big day, rushing for 106 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns, and Hill spread the ball to seven different receivers during a magnificent first half during which he was 12 of 14 for 192 yards passing, including pinpoint 2-yard scoring strikes to both Vernon Davis and Bryant Johnson.

"We had drives like it was in practice, really," Gore said. "We scored so quickly. Coach Martz called a great game. As long as we don't make mistakes and turnovers, we should move the ball like that all the time."

The Rams could do nothing to stop it. San Francisco had 259 of its 334 offensive yards in the first half.

"That was terrible," Rams coach Jim Haslett said. "We turned the ball over three times in the first half and they get the ball at the 10, the 30 and 40, and then we do nothing on defense to stop them from scoring every time they touch the ball. I'm kind of perplexed by it. I'm not really sure what to say because we come out in the second half and end up playing a lot better."

The 49ers only mounted one drive of more than 13 yards in the second half, while the Rams assembled three scoring drives, including a late touchdown march in the final minutes that made the final score closer than the game really was.

The Rams finished with 406 yards of offense, but most of it was catch-up yardage through the air by quarterback Marc Bulger, who threw 53 passes and was sacked three times and hit on five other occasions thanks to steady pressure provided by San Francisco's pass rush.

Still, though there was little to complain about, the 49ers were left with a sense of wanting more after putting it on cruise control during the final two quarters.

"We came in at halftime and we talked about going out and finishing what we started in the first half," Singletary said. "So, there's some things we need to work on going forward if we're going to be a great team. I pointed those things out that we need to correct. But there were a lot of good things that happened in this game. I'm very proud of the fact that we played hard and we won the game."

The 49ers showed their pride in the coach who has rejuvenated them over the past month by handing Singletary the game ball in the locker room afterward.

"We believe in him," linebacker Patrick Willis said.

The 49ers had a lot of reasons to believe Sunday.


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