Upon Further Review: 49ers Week 13

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – A review of four hot issues from the San Francisco 49ers' 23-13 win over the St. Louis Rams:

Crabtree effect: The 49ers were waiting all season for standout receiver Michael Crabtree to return from a torn Achilles he suffered in May. When he came back Sunday, the 49ers were not disappointed. He caught two passes, including one that went for 60 yards, and his presence opened up routes for Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis and made quarterback Colin Kaepernick a more productive player. This bodes well for the stretch run.

Defense dominates: The San Francisco defense has been playing at a championship level essentially all season. In recent weeks, though, it has upped its game. Spanning the final half of last week’s win at Washington and the first half against the Rams, the 49ers’ defense allowed 103 yards and three points.

Austin not a factor: St. Louis rookie star Tavon Austin averaged fewer than 17 yards per kick return and had one punt return for 10 yards. He added 35 yards combined on four catches and one carry. Austin has been explosive in recent weeks. Keeping him from making big plays was a focal point for the 49ers, and they did their job.

Run game stumbles: San Francisco's run game has faltered in recent weeks. Frank Gore had 42 yards on 15 carries Sunday and lost his third fumble of the season. In the past three games, Gore has 121 yards on 41 carries. I wouldn’t say it’s a problem, but it could become one if Gore doesn't regain his normal pace of production. For the season he has 821 rushing yards and is averaging four yards a carry.