MAKING THE GRADE
SANTA CLARA -- Here is how the 49ers (8-4) graded in their 23-13 win over the visiting St. Louis Rams (5-7):
Pass offense: Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis remained Colin Kaepernick's top targets and star producers despite Michael Crabtree's emotional spark from his season debut. Boldin played angry and wonderfully, most notably making five of his nine receptions on a first-half touchdown drive. Davis got his 10th touchdown and merits only his second Pro Bowl berth. Kaepernick had a second straight positive outing.
Run offense: The offensive line coped OK — not great — without left tackle Joe Staley (sprained right knee on the first series) and left guard Mike Iupati (out a second straight game). Frank Gore was understandably miffed after another sub-par game (15 carries, 42 yards), but he did score on a 3-yard run. Anthony Dixon didn't get much room to run, and Kendall Hunter's lack of contribution is surprising. Hello Joe Looney, finally.
Pass defense: Forget about Tramaine Brock giving up a touchdown on a last-minute fade pass. This unit continues to play stellar, starting up front with Justin Smith, whose pressure paid off with sacks by Ray McDonald and NaVorro Bowman. Carlos Rogers got a fourth-quarter interception. Stellar play also from safeties Donte Whitner and Eric Reid.
Run defense: OK, so they stopped Zac Stacy (72 yards) from becoming the first running back this season to eclipse the 100-yard mark on them. Can this unit do the same next Sunday against the Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch, who ran for 98 yards in a Week 2 rout? Glenn Dorsey (six tackles) especially won Jim Harbaugh's post-game admiration, as did Bowman (11 tackles) and Patrick Willis (sack).
Special teams: Great job by Anthony Dixon — and Michael Wilhoite — stifling a fake punt to start the fourth quarter and finish off the Rams. Bravo, Phil Dawson: 16 consecutive successful field-goal attempts. You know Andy Lee is having a great year when he gets a punt blocked and it still rolls 43 yards to the 8-yard line.
Coaching: Terrific preparation showed in all phases, especially defense and special teams. Three field goals indicate that the offense isn't totally fixed. Kudos are merited for keeping the team focused on the task at hand rather than next Sunday's circle-your-calendars visit by the Seahawks.
-- CAM INMAN