After a stunning defeat on the road last week, the San Francisco 49ers returned home hoping to get a convincing victory over the Miami Dolphins. The 49ers got their victory, but it was hardly convincing, at least on offense, with a 27-13 win at Candlestick Park.
Starting for the fourth straight game at quarterback, Colin Kaepernick had the 49ers rushing game lead the way to the win. He was part of the rushing attack with 53 yards on 6 carries and 1 touchdown. Throughout most of the game the 49ers offense hardly made any noise until fourth quarter when they scored two touchdowns to put the game away. The dagger for Miami was Kaepernick’s 50 yard touchdown run that sealed the game for the Niners 27-13 with just over two minutes to play.
Niner fans can look at Kaepernick’s play in the game two ways. Those who think Alex Smith should still be starting would look at the first three quarters and say Kaep played no better than Smith against a 20th-ranked defense. Yet, those who want Kaep starting at QB would point to his 50-yard, game-clinching TD run as something Smith could NEVER do in the offense.
A win is a win but for the 49ers, who many considered to be a Super Bowl team, they were less than stellar against the Dolphins. The 49ers offense could not gain ground or score against Miami’s defense to put them away earlier in the game than they should have. However, the 49ers defense did its job by limiting the Dolphins to just one touchdown.
Despite not having much flare on offense, it was a huge win for the 49ers that have two straight tough road games ahead in New England and Seattle. The way Niners played on Sunday against the Dolphins was enough for a win at home, but against the Patriots and Seahawks that will be a different story.
Let’s hand out some Game Gold Nuggets.
Game Gold Nugget Awards
= VERY GOOD
The Niners offense was dismal in the first half gaining just 158 yards on 26 plays for only 6 points, and failed to covert on all four of their 3rd down conversions. In the second half they played slightly better gaining 163 yards on 29 plays, but they managed to score three touchdowns. Miami played well on defense, but it is not as if they have a dominating defense. So Kaepernick should have been able to move the football down the field more than he did in the first half.
Through the first three quarters of the game the 49ers only had one touchdown and that was a gift handed to them by Miami’s special teams. After Miami fumbled at their own 9-yard line, Frank Gore ran in his only touchdown of the game. Gore went past the 1,000 yard rushing mark in the game for the sixth straight season. But for the sixth straight game he was held to under 100 rushing yards.
A big problem for the 49ers was the protection by the offensive line. The Niners O-line is one of the best in the NFL, but they allowed Kaep to get sacked four times in the game. Right tackle Anthony Davis had problems with Dolphins defensive lineman Cameron Wake. Wake, who entered the game with 11 sacks, was pressuring Kaep all game. The protection problems was a huge reason why the offense only had six points in the first half on four possessions and only converted 20 percent of third-downs in the game.
Once the offense got going in the second half, you could see the Niners made their adjustments at halftime. The offense scored on two of their last three series in the game, with TD drives of 83 and 65 yards. The last touchdown was Kaepernick’s 50-yard read-option play that reminded Niner fans why Jim Harbaugh made the switch at quarterback. Equally impressive was WR Michael Crabtree who had 9 catches for 93 yards. Crabtree was so brilliant on runs after the catch it looked as if that’s were all of this yards came from.
Making his NFL debut, LaMichael James showed he could be a reliable backup rushing eight times for 30 yards and catching one pass for 15 yards.
Despite the Niners defense allowing rookie QB Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins offense to score a fourth-quarter touchdown to pull them within seven points, the D held them to 227 total yards. The lone touchdown by the Dolphins offense was a beauty. Tannehill threw a perfect pass to tight end Anthony Fasano who made a leaping catch in the corner of the end zone, just holding on for the score. The Niners defense showed why they are one of the top defenses in the NFL by stopping Miami’s offense from scoring in San Francisco territory late in the fourth quarter with the team up 20-13.
Miami does not have a great passing offense, but the Niners secondary led by Chris Culliver limited their wide receivers to just seven receptions for 84 yards. Culliver was great in coverage all game against Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline, but his highlight was in the third quarter with a pass defensed in the corner of the end zone that saved a touchdown.
Once again, outside linebacker Aldon Smith stole the show on defense. He had another multiple sack game (2) to go along with his five tackles. Most impressive was Smith manhandling Dolphins rookie tackle Jonathan Martin who was pushed around like a tackling dummy. After Smith’s first sack of the game, he set a franchise record for sacks in a season and now has 19.5.
No missed field goals by David Akers! The kicker made field goals of 30 and 37 yards. Andy Lee averaged 48.3 yards on five punts and landed one inside the 20-yard line. The only blemish by the special teams was a 56-yard kickoff return by Miami’s Marcus Thigpen that set up their second field goal of the game. However, Thigpen did fumble a punt return in the third quarter that led to the 49ers first touchdown of game. C.J. Spillman recovered the fumble.
An encouraging sign for the return game was LaMichael James who was playing in his first game. James averaged 26.3 yards on three kickoff returns
Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman made great halftime adjustments and came out swinging in the second half scoring 21 points on three offensive touchdowns. Vic Fangio also made the right adjustments with his defense limiting Miami to just 98 total yards in the second half.
One concern was the clock management by Harbaugh. In the first 16 minutes of the game, the 49ers had used all of their timeouts. In the last 14 minutes of the game the Niners did not have any timeouts left. Harbaugh said it had to do with Kaepernick not calling the plays fast enough in the huddle. Gasp, is Harbaugh saying he needs a better game manager at quarterback?
Harbaugh on the timeouts,
It seemed like it took a long time to get the play called in the huddle and then get up to the line of scrimmage. We just didn’t have enough time to get it all inside the 40-second play clock. …That’s not good. Not the way you want to use your timeouts.