Sunday may have been Michael Crabtree’s long-awaited season debut, but it was once again Anquan Boldin who carried the offense as the 49ers beat the St. Louis Rams 23-13 on Sunday.
Boldin hauled in nine passes for 98 yards, hogging nearly half Colin Kaepernick’s completions and more than a third of the passing yards.
The highlight-reel plays of the day belonged to tight end Vernon Davis, however, who twice hurdled defenders to keep plays alive, including one at the goal line for a touchdown.
While Kaepernick and Crabtree both praised Davis for being “very athletic,” Boldin’s advice to the tight end — with a smile on his face — was to “stay on the ground.”
Frank Gore added the other 49ers touchdown, a 3-yard run in the second quarter that put San Francisco up 13-0 after the extra point.
The defense held the Rams to just 73 yards of offense in the first half. St. Louis’s lone touchdown — a 3-yard pass from Kellen Clemens to Brian Quick — came near the end of the fourth quarter with the starting defenders for San Francisco out of the game.
Finally getting everyone on the field was the biggest story of the day for the 49ers, however.
“I don’t think we’ve played our best football yet,” Boldin said. “I still think we have some things we have to click on. I do think we are getting better each week. Our communication is getting a lot better. Our confidence in each other is getting a lot better, but we’re not where we expect to be.”
Crabtree finished the day with two catches for 68 yards, including a 60-yard catch and run down the sideline in the third quarter.
Coach Jim Harbaugh’s prevailing message has been about the toughness of playing in December with playoff positioning at stake, a situation the 49ers have not been in under Harbaugh in the past, when playoff spots were locked up earlier in the season.
“By whatever means necessary,” he said, “We’re going to go to the next game, prepare, and we know what the stakes are, what the pressure is, what the task is. That’s life-giving energy to a football player, to a team. We’re in the position we’re in, we control our destiny, and here we go.”
The 49ers now face their most important test of the season’s final month as the division leading Seattle Seahawks come to Candlestick next week. The Seahawks, who play the New Orleans Saints tonight, have a 2½-game lead in the NFC West.
“I think we’re built for this,” 49ers safety Donte Whitner said. “Last couple of years it’s been pretty easy ... going into the postseason having a bye week. This year we’ve had some adversity. We know back history says the teams that face adversity, that get hot at the right time have a good chance of winning the Super Bowl.”
NOTES: Davis’s touchdown was the 50th of his career, putting him in sole possession of fourth place on the team’s all-time list. ... Crabtree’s 60-yard catch tied a career long.