This was the kind of game we expected to see more of this year: the defense was outstanding until garbage time, great special teams coverage, some exciting offensive plays here and there. But mostly, the 49ers’ 31-17 win at Tennessee will be remembered as the first time this season that Colin Kaepernick really RAN.
We saw our first “Kaepernicking” celebration, and the fact that it took seven games for it to occur is pretty surprising. But the NFL is all about adjusting and then adjusting some more, and after three weeks where Frank Gore rushed for 385 yards and became the 49ers’ leading offensive player once again, the Titans weren’t going to let him take over. So the read option came back into play.
Gore scored two touchdowns, but he only averaged 2.9 yards per carry (70 yards on 24 rushing attempts). Kaepernick scored his first rushing touchdown and went for 68 yards on 11 carries, four for first downs (including the TD). If the NFL kept stats they way they should, Kaepernick would’ve had 70 yards on eight rushing attempts, since the last three plays of the game were Kaepernick kneel-downs that totaled -2 yards.
For the first time in a long time, Kaepernick looked like he was having fun. Gone was the guy with the permanent frowny-face we saw going into the game in St. Louis, after the 49ers lost two straight and the questions about his development started coming. Kaepernick threw a couple fantastic passes to Vernon Davis today and ended up with some efficient passing numbers (no touchdowns, but no INTs either and 9.3 yards per attempt). However, the lack of hesitancy in the run game and the way he changed speeds with his legs — kind of like the scrambling equivalent of a pitcher — was a great sign for the 49ers.
A stationary Kaepernick is still a pretty decent quarterback, but his rushing touchdowns should come in every other game at the very least. We’ll see if that becomes the norm as the season progresses.
It’s a trap!
Since the 49ers weren’t exactly familiar with the non-Delanie aspects of the Tennessee Titans, and were looking forward to a trip across the Atlantic after their stay in Nashville, this had all the makings of a “trap game.” Or a letdown game, since the 49ers came into this game after winning three straight games for the first time since they defeated Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game.
Instead, the 49ers played their most complete half of football this season over the first two quarters and cruised to a road victory in the eastern half of the country, something they’ve done quite a bit since Jim Harbaugh took over (more on that at the end of this post).
Harbaugh on TV: Gold
When an official decided against calling pass interference on Tennessee after an incomplete pass to Vernon Davis, Harbaugh yelled, “Do your job! You blew the call!” … among other things.
There was so much more: slapping Kaepernick’s shoulder pads, chest and helmet before the game; the ever-present grimace; his celebration after seeing Frank Gore’s sideline catch on the jumbotron (the catch was soon overturned); a spitting mishap; the second half eyeglasses; getting into the mix (getting stuck, actually) when Joe Staley and Bernard Pollard got into that squabble.
Sort of like how the RedZone channel shows all the touchdowns scored during Sunday’s games, Fox really should’ve shown every second of televised Harbaugh at the end of this game.
— Anquan Boldin made three incredible catches, including a one-handed sideline grab. You’d never know that Boldin made any of those highlight grabs afterward, because the man is physically incapable of celebrating or promoting himself.
— On the other hand, the 49ers probably weren’t considering a trade for Kenny Britt anyway … but after his antics today the 49ers wouldn’t even trade LaMichael James straight up for the Titans wideout.
— James was a healthy inactive once again, something anyone probably could’ve predicted this morning after seeing this:
@SirMrAnt <<< wishful thinking lol
— LaMichael James (@LaMichaelJames) October 20, 2013
— The coverage units were outstanding once again, headlined by C.J. Spillman (who I profiled earlier this week) and Darryl Morris. Morris battled with Marcus Cooper during training camp. Two rookie corners with a lot of promise, and Cooper ended up becoming a key player for the Kansas City Chiefs this season. Morris took a longer route to the field, starting on the practice squad and getting called up when Nnandi Asomugha injured his knee. Now Morris is thriving on special teams, and looks like someone who could spend several years with the 49ers.
— Bruce Miller’s block on Kaepernick’s touchdown run got some love from Tim Ryan, but Vance McDonald’s was just as good if not a little better.
— Justin Smith had two sacks in a game for the first time since 9/11/11 against the Seahawks.
— A week after Eric Reid retook the team lead in interceptions with three, Tramaine Brock picked off Jake Locker to force another tie.
— The 49ers were out-gained by the Titans (368 yards to 349), but had advantages in third down conversions (49ers were 8-of-16; Titans were 5-of-14), time of possession (35:46 to 24:14) and penalties (49ers were flagged five times for 42 yards; Titans were penalized 10 times for 100 yards). The personal foul on Akeem Ayers for hitting Kaepernick’s knees that negated Pollard’s interception may have been the biggest play of the game, since that drive ended with Kaepernick’s 20-yard touchdown run.
— Eric Reid and Donte Whitner got dinged up a little near the end, but otherwise this game couldn’t have gone much better. The 49ers were dominant, Delanie Walker — a very popular guy during his 49ers tenure — caught a touchdown pass, and Chris Johnson saved a couple of my fantasy teams with that 66-yard touchdown reception. I know, I know, #nct (nobody cares, tho).
— Including the playoffs, the 49ers have the following records in these time zones since Harbaugh arrived:
- Eastern: 7-1
- Central: 5-3
- Greenwich Mean: ???