SAN FRANCISCO - After Shaun Hill flung himself across the goal line to score the third touchdown in the 49ers’ 28-point second quarter, he flipped the ball to center Eric Heitmann for the celebratory spike.
Humbled and educated by several seasons as a backup, Hill just doesn’t see himself as an extraordinary Joe—even though Joe Montana is the only other San Francisco quarterback who ever did what Hill accomplished during a skid-stopping win over the miserable St. Louis Rams.
Hill threw two touchdown passes and Frank Gore rushed for another score during the Niners’ runaway quarter in a 35-16 victory Sunday, snapping their six-game losing streak and getting interim coach Mike Singletary’s first victory.
Seven weeks of frustration and turmoil for the 49ers (3-7) were briefly forgotten during this impressive 15 minutes. San Francisco forced three turnovers by Marc Bulger to score four offensive touchdowns in one quarter for just the second time in the history of a franchise that’s had some remarkable offenses.
Montana threw four TD passes in the fourth quarter at Philadelphia in December 1989. Hill was making just his fourth career start, but had a perfect passer rating at halftime before coolly improving 3-0 as a starter at Candlestick Park.
“Don’t be surprised when things like that happen,” said Hill, who went 15-of-20 for 213 yards. “We do have the ability to play like that. You can’t be surprised or caught off-guard by it. … We have to enjoy this win. It’s been a long time since we’ve had this feeling, but we can’t approach tomorrow any differently than if we had lost.”
Vernon Davis and Bryant Johnson caught TD passes in San Francisco’s first win since Sept. 21 against Detroit, back when the 49ers were above .500 with a different coach and starting quarterback. Singletary had lost twice, including last Monday’s tough defeat in Arizona, since taking over for Mike Nolan and replacing J.T. O’Sullivan with Hill.
“I’m very humbled by it,” said Singletary, who briefly choked up when he mentioned his late parents. “I just thought about them, and if they could see that. I’m very thankful and very proud, more so for the guys than for myself, because they deserve it.”
Gore rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns, making several gritty runs in the first half as the Niners took advantage of Bulger’s blunders to match the highest-scoring period in franchise history. The 49ers didn’t score after leaping to a 35-3 halftime lead, but Bulger’s fumble and two ghastly interceptions in the second quarter doomed the Rams (2-8), who have dropped four straight.
“We were well-prepared schematically. We just didn’t execute,” said Bulger, who went 34-of-53 for 295 yards. “We turned the ball over. We couldn’t stop them. Just all-around, we didn’t play well as a team. It has nothing to do with coaches. It’s up to us to make plays, and we’re not doing it.”
Donnie Avery had a career-best nine catches for 93 yards for the Rams, who trailed by 32 at halftime just one week after falling behind 40-0 midway through a 44-point loss to the New York Jets.
Which loss was more humiliating? The Rams were in no mood to decide.
“I’m kind of perplexed by it,” interim coach Jim Haslett said of the first-half woes. “I’m not really sure what to say, because we come out in the second half and end up playing a lot better. … With eight turnovers in a game-and-a-half, you’re not going to win.”
A swath of injuries compounded the insult, with left tackle Orlando Pace, right guard Richie Incognito and cornerback Ron Bartell all getting sidelined in the first half with potential long-term injuries. St. Louis also played without injured running back Steven Jackson for the third time in four games.
After Davis caught a short TD pass early in the second, San Francisco’s next three touchdowns all were set up by Bulger. Gore carried on four straight plays for a score after Bulger’s fumble on a snap, and Hill threw himself over the goal line for a 1-yard TD run about 4 1/2 minutes later.
Johnson capped the rally with a 2-yard TD catch 34 seconds before halftime on a well-placed fade from Hill, who had a 158.3 passer rating at halftime, going 12-of-14 for 192 yards. San Francisco had 201 yards and 11 first downs in the second quarter alone.
“I was having so much fun,” left tackle Joe Staley said. “It seemed like everything we were doing in the first half, it was just money.”
Dane Looker caught a TD pass for St. Louis with 1:56 to play.
Isaac Bruce holds most of the Rams’ career receiving records after 14 seasons with the club beginning in Los Angeles, but he had just one catch for 20 yards in his first game against St. Louis with the 49ers. … Gore got his first TD on a 5-yard run set up by Allen Rossum’s long punt return midway through the first quarter. … The 49ers committed three consecutive false starts and another penalty in the first 6 seconds of the fourth quarter.