ST. LOUIS -- The 49ers found what they'd lost, or forgotten, or ignored, or just discarded for a mysterious little while.
Hey, didn't you used to be Frank Gore?
And don't the 49ers always play better when they remember what No. 21 really means to them?
"We've got Frank Gore!" coach Jim Harbaugh said, with the man himself standing nearby. "And nobody does it better than Frank Gore."
On Thursday, the 49ers remembered that, just in time, and blasted to a 35-11 victory over the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome along the way.
At this suddenly urgent point in the season, the 49ers kept giving the ball to Gore and Gore kept stomping through Rams defenders, rushing 20 times and collecting 153 rushing yards, his most since the 2009 season.
Which abruptly ended the 49ers' losing streak and calmed things down after the franchise's most turbulent weeks since Harbaugh's arrival.
"It was a get-back-on-track game," a smiling Gore said after kibitzing and joking with Harbaugh on the podium.
"We lost two in a row and we know we can't lose again. We knew had to get back on track and just be us.
"That's playing smash-mouth football, playing great defense, playing great special teams, and that's what we do."
Yes, the 49ers played great, physical defense even without the injured Patrick Willis and the absent Aldon Smith, led by an unbelievable performance by NaVorro Bowman.
And yes, the 49ers offense kept things simple, letting Colin Kaepernick take efficient advantage of a scrambled defense.
So yes, the 49ers started to look and feel like the 49ers again. The power 49ers. The intimidating 49ers.
The Frank Gore 49ers.
And not the complicated, high-concept and erratic squad they were when they lost in Seattle two weeks ago.
Or the franchise that was distracted by controversy and drummed by Indianapolis last weekend.
The 49ers can be great with the Kaepernick pyrotechnics and possibly they need all of them to win a Super Bowl.
But to get themselves righted right now, they needed to return to their roots, to their soul ... and to Gore carrying the ball relentlessly and reliably after three very slow and frustrating weeks.
"As long as we're being the 49ers, we'll be all right," Gore said.
Amid the frivolity, Gore and Harbaugh both laughed off a report that they'd had a heated sideline exchange at the end of last week's game--which Harbaugh termed "erroneous, erroneous."
Wasn't Frank just a little bit frustrated that he only carried it 11 times against Indianapolis after a fast start and that the 49ers' running game had been nonfunctional in the first three games?
Didn't Gore maybe just say he wanted the ball?
"There's times Frank says, 'Give me the ball,'" Harbaugh said with a grin. "Said that tonight a couple times."
On the 49ers' second play, Gore ran for 18 yards. Later in the quarter, he picked up 27 yards. And the yards just kept coming as the 49ers exerted their will on the wilting Rams.
Whether Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman wanted to say it or not, it was clear: They were going to the physical game in this one, on the short week, and that meant giving it to Gore.
And Gore, who has heard all year that, as a 30-year-old tailback it's about time for him to slow down, was more than ready.
"Coach G-Ro went back to the basic stuff and we got going," Gore said.
Gore particularly showed it when the 49ers faced fourth-and-1 at the 34-yard line late in the first half.
What to do? Keep it simple: Kaepernick gave it to Gore, he got a few great blocks, broke a tackle, and in a blink he was in the end zone, giving the 49ers a 14-3 lead.
I asked Gore in the locker room later: Does he feel that the coaches sometimes almost forget about him at times?
"The coaches see me in practice, they know how much I love it," Gore said.
"I'm just here to play ball. I can't call the plays. I'm with whatever they call, do whatever. I'm at the state of my career, I play hard to help the team and win, man.
"I feel like I've got nothing to prove to anybody but my coaches and my teammates."
The 49ers activated LaMichael James for the first time this season; they have Kendall Hunter--and both seem like better fits for a high-speed Kaepernick-centric offense.
Also, the 49ers drafted Marcus Lattimore last spring with an eye toward next season.
And Gore famously didn't get the ball in four plays at the goal line at the end of the Super Bowl. That did not work.
So Gore sometimes can seem like a man on the wrong side of a 49ers' transition.
But a game like this, well, that is as good a reminder as anybody could need. The 49ers are at their best when Gore is ramming through and around defenders, and when things are simple.
Now the 49ers get a long week to prepare for Houston at Candlestick next Sunday and some lesser opponents after that.
So the 49ers are set up for a surge, and very possibly a six-game winning streak.
But the biggest thing is that the 49ers remembered what they have with Frank Gore, and where they can go when he's leading them.