Part dominant defensive performance, part overpowering run game, and part dreadful night from Matt Schaub equaled a thorough beatdown by the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night, as they easily cruised past the Houston Texans, 34-3, at Candlestick Park.
The Niners (3-2) ran for 177 yards as a team and turned four takeaways into 24 points, embarrassing the Texans (2-3) in Week 5's Sunday Night Football showcase.
The first of those takeaways came just over a minute into the game, as Schaub inadvertently found Niners cornerback Tramaine Brock, who returned it 18 yards for the score:
It was the fourth straight game in which Schaub has thrown a pick-six, who finished 19-of-35 for 173 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions. A 31-3 deficit led to Schaub's substitution for T.J. Yates for the entirety of the fourth quarter.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller noted that the change should perhaps be looked at on a longer-term basis:
#Texans about to lose their third straight game. Time to shake-up the depth chart. Yates would be my starter next week.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) October 7, 2013
On the other side of the ball, San Francisco's wide receivers struggled to get open for Colin Kaepernick, who threw for just 113 yards (the majority coming on a long, 64-yard touchdown throw to Vernon Davis), but it didn't matter.
The 49ers created cavernous running lanes up the middle, as Frank Gore led a clobbering run attack en route to 81 yards and a score.
Houston actually out-gained San Francisco in the end (313 to 284), as Arian Foster gained 98 yards on 21 carries. But the 49ers led 21-0 at halftime and 34-3 early in the fourth, leading to many of the starters being taken out early.
After the opening 100 seconds, this one was never in doubt.
Matt Schaub, Texans: F
Matt Schaub threw three interceptions—including the early pick-six—and could have easily had another one or two more. He completed just 54.3 percent of his throws (19-of-35) for a meager 4.9 yards per attempt and a QB rating of 32.2.
And the numbers might not even fully describe how bad he was.
OK, well, actually they do a pretty acceptable job. Schaub looked uncomfortable in the pocket for most of the night. He was hesitant to take shots at his receivers, and either inaccurate or not on time when he did.
But, hey, he set an NFL record. So there's that.
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers: B-
If it weren't for his defense, running game and Matt Schaub, Kaepernick would be getting heavy criticism right about now.
He tended to lock onto his receivers, forced some throws into coverage, and he let some throws get away from him. In the end, he completed just six of 15 passes for 7.5 yards per attempt, and those numbers would be a lot worse if not for his long fourth-quarter connection with Davis.
Still, his receivers couldn't get open, so all the blame shouldn't be bestowed upon the third-year QB. Moreover, with the run game and defense dominating, he simply had to manage the game and avoid turnovers.
He did just that.
Kaepernick's fantasy owners aren't going to be real happy after this one, but a win's a win for the Niners.
J.J. Watt, Texans: A-
It was a pretty incomplete performance by the Texans in most facets of the game, but J.J. Watt deserves credit.
The dominant defensive end was a nightmare for San Francisco in both the running and passing game. He recorded three tackles—all for a loss—and although he didn't tally a sack, he was able to get three quarterback hits on Kaepernick. He accounted for 50 percent of the Texans' tackles for loss and 60 percent of their QB hits.
Tramaine Brock, 49ers: A
Not only did he have two interceptions and a score, but both of those interceptions came when he had star wide receiver Andre Johnson on absolute lockdown.
Johnson finished with just three catches and 39 yards, while Brock also tallied two pass deflections.
Nnamdi Asomugha, who was inactive for the second week in a row, may have just lost his spot on the depth chart.
The 49ers will stay at Candlestick to host NFC west foes, the Arizona Cardinals, while the Texans will attempt to right the ship at home against the St. Louis Rams.