San Francisco • A passing game scrutinized for weeks suddenly is on a nice roll for San Francisco. At the perfect time, too, with a playoff berth at stake.
For Colin Kaepernick, it sure helps to have his entire receiving corps healthy at last.
First Mario Manningham returned, and now Michael Crabtree made his season debut for the 49ers (8-4) in Sunday's 23-13 victory against the St. Louis Rams. Add Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis to that group and Kaepernick has plenty of choices when it comes to throwing the ball down field.
Boldin caught nine passes for his second-best performance of the year behind a 13-reception season opener against Green Bay, while Davis made a hurdling 17-yard touchdown grab among his four catches. Crabtree delivered an impressive 60-yard catch and run in his season debut six months after surgery on a torn right Achilles tendon.
That after a 27-6 win at Washington last Monday night.
"It feels great," Kaepernick said. "It's always good to have (Boldin and Crabtree) at your disposal on the field to make plays. ... We've just had more opportunities the last couple of games. It was something we thought we could take advantage of."
Here are five things to take from the 49ers' win Sunday as St. Louis (5-7) made its final visit to Candlestick Park in the stadium's farewell season:
HURDLING VERNON DAVIS: It's just like Davis to show off some high style.
San Francisco's tight end has a new signature move to go with his jump shot over the crossbar: A high hurdle over defenders. While he has been doing the leap since his college days at Maryland, it's more recent in the NFL.
"It's just instincts," Davis said. "I said, 'Look, I won't be denied.'"
He did it not once but twice Sunday, including on a 17-yard touchdown catch from Kaepernick in the fourth quarter.
"Very athletic," Kaepernick said of the move.
Boldin just rolled his eyes and offered, "Stay on the ground."
Davis' 50th career touchdown catch, No. 10 this season, moved him into fourth place in franchise history behind Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (176), Terrell Owens (81) and Gene Washington (59).
CRABTREE'S DEBUT: Crabtree just danced, he couldn't help himself.
After that 60-yard catch along the sideline in the third quarter, he shimmied before throwing both arms into the air in celebration. This was a long time coming for San Francisco's top 2012 wideout after months of tireless rehab.
While he enjoyed the celebration, he wanted more out of that play. Kaepernick teased him, and so did Boldin.
"I wish I would have scored," Crabtree said. "I was supposed to take that to the house."
Crabtree committed two early penalties an illegal block and an offensive pass interference during San Francisco's opening drive that he chalked up to having to "get those jitters out," then settled in nicely.
"Having him back is amazing, man, just his presence," Davis said.
RAMS PENALTIES: Many times the Rams drove deep into San Francisco territory only to thwart their chances with costly penalties.
From offensive pass interference to delay of game, St. Louis struggled to sustain drives or find any kind of offensive rhythm while being penalized 11 times for 105 lost yards.
"I look at it like we could have helped ourselves out a lot," Rams wide receiver Chris Givens said. "If we played cleaner football or better football, we would have been in a better position to win the game."
The 49ers had their own miscues, winding up with nine penalties for 85 yards.
ST. LOUIS MISMATCH: When 49ers left tackle Joe Staley went down with a right knee injury in the first quarter, Robert Quinn had a nice opening to try for increased pressure on Kaepernick.
Yet the 49ers offensive line held its ground, even with little-used Joe Looney thrown into the mix after making his NFL debut last Monday night in a win at Washington.
While the Rams sacked Kaepernick four times, they failed to get the game-breaking plays they have had of late. The defensive line had scored a touchdown in the previous two games.
"We had a real rough day today," linebacker Alec Ogletree said. "We didn't make enough plays to get the win."
DEFENSIVE BREAK: San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio got an extended look at the second-team defense down the stretch once the game was decided.
Not only did the first unit earn a much-deserved breather, the backups made some nice plays, too. The group did surrender a late St. Louis touchdown, Brian Quick's 3-yard touchdown catch with 18 seconds remaining.
"We didn't want to give up a touchdown," safety Donte Whitner said, also appreciative the first team got a rest late in the game. "We understand we can't lose a guy in garbage time."
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