Lowell Cohn: Left for dead, depleted 49ers show signs of life

  • San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin dives into the end zone to score on 20-yard touchdown reception as St. Louis Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan defends during the second quarter of an NFL football game Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Chris Lee) EDWARDSVILLE OUT ALTON OUT

Notable was a play by safety Donte Whitner that displayed 49ers' pride, honor, dignity. With the Rams driving late in the second quarter, the 49ers leading by a delicate four points, Whitner intercepted a pass from Sam Bradford at the goal line and fell into the end zone and killed the drive, killed the Rams' chance and gave the ball to the 49ers.

And the Niners took the ball Whitner gave them and drove for a touchdown. It was a statement interception and a statement score.

Here is Whitner on the interception: "I was in the middle of the field and saw the front shoulder dip from Bradford. It meant he was going for a deep ball. I was thinking, 'This is going to be a tipped ball right to me (from Tramaine Brock).' It actually happened. I wanted to get my arms around it and squeeze it as tight as I can and come down in bounds. It was a huge momentum swing for our football team."

And the 49ers also played offense.

It was efficient, maybe even dominating, also something we didn't see the previous two games.

And something else we didn't see was Colin Kaepernick making plays, taking charge, being the best quarterback on the field, although late in the third quarter he didn't see Vernon Davis and ran the ball four yards, and general manager Trent Baalke leaped from his chair in the press box and shrieked, "Throw the ball!"

In spite of that, Kaepernick had returned after a short unhappy sabbatical of two weeks and was dynamic. After the game, Frank Gore buttonholed Kaepernick and told him, "You're young. You've still got a lot of growing up to do. You'll be one of the top quarterbacks in the league."

Throw praise at Frank Gore. I had written him off, written his epitaph — prematurely.

He had a career game in the sense of showing grit and carrying the team on his strong back. He ran for 153 yards — a big number.

One play at the very end of the first half told it all, Gore taking the handoff on fourth and 1, Gore bursting through the line of scrimmage, shifting immediately into overdrive, running away from the coverage, his knees high and proud, the Rams' defenders mere spectators.

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