This game displayed some beautiful 49ers’ football featuring strong passing, even stronger rushing, a strong defense, and even stronger special teams. Today, the whole team really clicked, putting together some great offensive drives, making great plays on defense, and using some trick plays to beat the Chiefs on special teams.
The game opened up with a pretty easy Chiefs drive for a touchdown, led by ex-49er Alex Smith. The 49ers immediately responded; however, with a field goal to show at least some offensive prowess. After another field goal by the Chiefs to open up the second quarter, the 49ers really locked on, and started to play a really good game.
From here, they scored ten straight points on a couple of great drives getting a 55-yard field goal by kicker Phil Dawson, and a beautiful nine yard touchdown pass from quarterback Colin Kaepernick to ex-Bills receiver Stevie Johnson. These scoring drives showed off some classic 49ers’ power-running football, led by the veteran Frank Gore, and the longest pass of the season at 38 yards to the ex-Patriot Brandon Lloyd. Although this pass seems rather short, for a usually small-yardage team like the 49ers, a 38 yard pass that went 36 yards in the air was pretty marvelous.
On the touchdown catch, Stevie Johnson broke off the line on the right side, shoved the corner off him about two yards towards the middle of the field, then broke to the front corner of the end zone where he faded in with a basket catch for the touchdown. Here, he exhibited both his strength and quickness, traits that will be vital for the 49ers down the stretch.
Not to be outplayed, Brandon Lloyd made a couple spectacular catches of his own, including the 38-yarder that was a diving catch where he barely managed to angle his body to let his right knee touch down inbounds before his whole body slid out. He made an even greater catch in the fourth quarter, jumping up over three feet on the left side of the field, turning his body, and snagging a pass right in front of the hands of the leaping cornerback, maintaining his balance even while in the air. Both of these quick receivers have their strengths, Johnson’s being his size and strength and Lloyd’s being his agility and athleticism in the air. Both of these guys proved themselves to be great targets for Kaepernick and great complements to Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree.
Going into the second half, the 49ers carried a 13-10 lead which they unfortunately relinquished in the third quarter. They allowed a couple long runs and passes in the early part of the quarter leading to a Chiefs touchdown, but they were able to shut them out after that score. The Chiefs did not score in the final 27 minutes of the game, with the defense locking down to hold onto the win.
After this score, Frank Gore seemed really fired up, as he literally ran the entire offense down the field for a 52 yard field goal by Phil Dawson. On the day, Phil Dawson finished with five field goals and an extra point including two field goals over 50 yards. In the fourth quarter, he hit two of his field goals after some long drives, the first giving the 49ers the lead, then sealing the game with the second by putting it out of reach. He played extremely well today, and he has been perfect so far this season.
Also, early in the fourth quarter, the 49ers ran their trickiest play of the season. they lined up to punt on the fourth and one situation, but then snapped the ball short to Craig Dahl who ran it three yards for the first down, extending their drive, and allowing them to score the field goal that gave them a 19-17 lead.
On a more negative note, five games into the season, the 49ers have still not scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter. They have still managed to win three games, but it would be nice to see a stronger red zone offense to close out games.
Overall, the stars of the game were Phil Dawson and Frank Gore. Dawson carried the team with 16 points on his five field goals, and Frank Gore literally put the team on his back and drove forward through defenders to extend drives. There were multiple plays where the 49ers ran to outside, then just pile-drove Gore forward for first downs. The 49ers offensive line completely dominated the Chiefs, allowing Gore to rush for 107 yards on only 18 carries.
Here’s one of Frank Gore’s powerful runs:
The backup runningback Carlos Hyde also managed to be productive with 43 yards of his own on 10 carries. To round out the offense, Kaepernick threw for 201 yards and a touchdown while completing 14 of 26 passes and not throwing a single interception.
Seeing as the Chiefs’ defense had three takeaways last week, it was nice to see the 49ers hold onto the ball and have zero turnovers. On defense, however, cornerback Perrish Cox intercepted a pass late in the fourth quarter, then took a knee to seal the victory. Brandon Lloyd led the team in receiving yards, with 76 yards on three catches, all of which were spectacular in nature. Anquan Boldin also had a great day with four receptions for 72 yards. Also, it must be noted that the 49ers had all this offensive production without their Pro-Bowl tight end Vernon Davis of their starting tackle Anthony Davis. Even without these two key players, the offensive line still managed to provide great rushing lanes and protect Kaepernick extremely well, giving him time to make good reads and solid passes.
Overall this game was really solid, with overall good play from everyone. There have been many rumors about some unhappiness in the locker room especially with coach Jim Harbaugh, but today’s game seems to disprove those rumors, as the 49ers managed to play a really good game as a cohesive unit. Many believe Harbaugh will not come back next year, but if the 49ers continue to play with the intensity of today, and they continue to win games, he should definitely be back next year to lead a perennial playoff contender through the season.
With this 22-17 win, the 49ers move to 3-2, but seeing as the rest of the division had byes this week, the standings have yet to reflect a change. Next week, they go on the road to St. Louis, against a division rival team, the Rams. They’ll play some Monday Night Football at 5:30 PM PDT, against the weak link of the division, a team that is currently 1-3. Hopefully, they can add another win next week to bring the streak to three games in a row and maybe even put them on top of the division. If the rushing game can stay strong, and Kaepernick can continue to make good throws to active receivers, the 49ers will have a very good chance of beating the Rams and even winning the division, as their defense is always good. Hopefully the early season issues are over, and the 49ers can get back to playing football their way, and win some more games.
Vine by Vincent Frank
Cover GIF: From Niners Nation (Jim Harbaugh celebrating a Chief’s penalty on fourth down that gave the 49ers a first down)
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Stats courtesy of ESPN