How the San Francisco 49ers got their swagger back

After uncharacteristically being pushed around two weeks in a row, the San Francisco 49ers rediscovered their inner bully to recover from their 1-2 start.

The team that is built to be a bully recently encountered the same problem all typical playground malcontents eventually face. They look ordinary when they meet a bigger bully.

That's how the 49ers looked when they were swept aside by NFC West rivals the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2. The Seahawks beat the 49ers the way San Francisco usually beats up on everyone else.

They used powerful offensive and defensive lines to win the battles up front and a brutal, power-based running game. The Indianapolis Colts then did exactly the same thing to the 49ers a week later.

But on Thursday night, the 49ers fought back and stepped on the St. Louis Rams. They battered the Rams on the road and left the Gateway to the West with an emphatic 35-11 win.

While their imposing defense did its part, the real key to the game was the return of San Francisco's own brute force running game. Tough and resourceful veteran Frank Gore, who had looked a shell of himself for three weeks, rushed for 153 yards on 20 punishing carries.

As they often do, the 49ers sprung Gore free by creating overloaded offensive lines, featuring as many as six linemen and up to three backfield blockers.

These overloaded and unbalanced lines outnumbered the Rams up front and let San Francisco's power-based ground game dominate.

Gore and fellow running backs Anthony Dixon and Kendall Hunter all helped themselves to touchdowns.

The performance was reminiscent of the 49ers prior to the emergence of dual-threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Since Kaepernick was installed as the starter, the 49ers have relied more on read-option concepts and moved away from the basic staples of their offense.

But defenses are doing more to pressure read-option signal-callers this season. So the 49ers reverted to their groundhog best to even their record and recapture their swagger.

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