The San Francisco 49ers got off to a fast start against the Houston Texans on Sunday Night Football. Tramaine Brock got things started when he made an interception and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown. The 49ers offense then relied upon the running game as they got back to the physical style of football that they are known for. The result was a convincing 34-3 win in front of a national audience.
The interception and return for a touchdown marked the fourth game in a row that Texans quarterback Matt Schaub has thrown an interception that was returned for a touchdown. That blunder was a history making play. Brock was able to step right in front of Andre Johnson and make the play. Schaub talked about what he saw on the play, “We had a play where I liked Andre’s little route inside and Brock fell off of Keyshawn Martin and jumped the route. He made a good play. I had a good look to go to Andre there.” He had no idea that Brock would come off of the route on the outside. It seemed as if he made his mind up that he was going to his number one receiver in that third down situation.
Brock has stepped up after receiving an opportunity to regain a spot that he lost due to injury back in 2011. “I just tried to step up in place of the nickel, Nnamdi Asomugha,” he said. “We really didn’t know that was going to come right there… We called a trap, so I just did my job, did my technique, and the ball came to me and I made a play.”
This game was going to come down to whoever was able to win the turnover battle. The 49ers did not have any turnovers while the Texans had four, including three interceptions thrown by Schaub. Each of the the turnovers resulted in points for the 49ers.
Another factor in the game was field positioning. The Texans kickoff return unit struggled, and as a result, they had a few drives start within their own ten yard line. C.J. Spillman did a great job of getting down field and making the tackle deep in Texans territory.
The running game was clearly kicked into high gear in this game. Frank Gore continued to run with authority as he broke off a couple of runs for over 20 yards. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry. Anthony Dixon chipped in with his second rushing touchdown of the year as well. All together, the 49ers rushed for 177 yards and averaged 4.9 yards per carry.
True to form, the running game helped create big plays in the passing game. Greg Roman is really good at calling play action passes at just the right time. His timely play call set Vernon Davis up perfectly when he ran a corner route. The play action fooled Daniel Manning and allowed Davis to get a free release. Ed Reed was unable to get there in time to stop him as Davis ran to the end zone.
Vernon Davis saw that opportunity and made sure he capitalized. “I didn’t know who it was. I saw the DB there, caught the ball, the fire was in me and I said I will not let this guy catch me. If I pulled my hamstring again fine but I will do everything that I can to help this team win.”
Winning the turnover battle and field position were large parts of the formula for the 49ers success in the 2011 season with Alex Smith. Colin Kaepernick is clearly a superior quarterback but there will be times when the 49ers will have to win a game in this fashion.
Kaepernick is a selfless player and deflected credit to his team when I asked him about whether or not he is getting his confidence back after the win. “It was another win, we are back on track. I think this TEAM is getting it’s confidence back. The offensive line played well, the running game did well and we got a win.”
Jim Harbaugh has this team really buying into the team mentality. Navorro Bowman talked about how they can win even when Kaepernick is not putting up huge numbers. “It shows if everyone gives 100% effort that it takes every Sunday, there is no telling who is going to get the game ball.”
Eric Reid has continued to progress and is steadily becoming a fan favorite. He got the most cheers out of all of the defensive players in pregame introductions. Reid had eight tackles and was a force by coming up to the line of scrimmage and making tackles in the open field. He did whiff on one tackle and dropped an easy interception but overall, his play was solid.
Tramaine Brock had two interceptions which was the first time a 49ers defensive back has done so since Tarrell Brown did so against the Arizona Cardinals last year.
Michael Wilhoite continued to step up in the absence of Patrick Willis. Navorro Bowman mentioned how he did some things that he and Willis had done on the fly. Bowman praised Wilhoite for stepping in. Wilhoite mentioned what has made him so able to fill in, “Watching Pat and listening to Bow. He is always on me, telling me different things. When I come to the sideline, Pat’s always telling me what he seeing what he feels that I can do better. I’m getting coached by so many people, by my coaches, guys on my team and it’s making it easy to step in and do my job.” Wilhoite and Bowman led the way with 11 tackles each for the 49ers today.
The 49ers had 17 first downs, 11 came via the running game. Their third down conversion percentage was 36% while they where 0/1 on fourth down conversions.
The 49ers also converted two of their five visits into the red zone into scores. That accounts for a 40% conversion rate.
Ray MacDonald suffered a biceps injury and is scheduled to get an MRI on Monday. He missed the rest of the game after the injury.
At one point, Colin Kaepernick was 4/13 for 45 yards. He did make a perfect pass to Vernon Davis. It hit him in stride and he outran Ed Reed for a 64 yard touchdown. Kaepernick made some nice throws that where not completions but they showed signs that he is still the confident player that we saw last season.
This was a convincing win for the 49ers. It was a signature win in front of a national audience. The running game got back on track. The defense was smothering and caused turnovers. The 49ers took a big step in the right direction and will look to continue their winning ways against the Arizona Cardinals next week at Candlestick Park.