Winning their fourth straight has put the San Francisco 49ers in a tie for the third-best record in the league, only after the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs, as well as the 6-1 Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.
Following a 1-2 start and Jim Harbaugh’s first time below .500 in his professional coaching tenure, the team has been resurgent. The 49ers currently boast the second-longest win streak in the NFL and are now only a game out of first in their division, anticipating major additions to the roster in the near future.
In a triumphant return to 49er football, they once again appear to have the right mindset on the field, which prioritizes blocking, tackling and playing mistake-free. Penalties are few and far between, the hard hits have been readily apparent and the big plays are at a premium right now.
Each week, the team has progressed, really appearing to hit its stride heading into the second half of the season.
After beating down a spirited Tennessee Titans team, the 49ers have to be pretty juiced with where they are. A record of 5-2 with the Jacksonville Jaguars, a bye and the Carolina Panthers in the next three weeks leading up to the return of Mario Manningham, Michael Crabtree and Tank Carradine? Please.
This team is going to be trouble heading into the second half of the schedule.
Looking at the damage they invoked this past week—or these past four weeks, for that matter—it is clear that the 49ers have the foundation to make a dominant run once fully healthy. That being said, let’s take a look at the individual performances from Week 7 as to gauge this team going forward.
- Expectations: Some players can look really good out there, but how much did they leave on the field?
- Statistics: If you were blanked, booming or something in between, this plays a significant role as to how a player is graded.
- Impact: Stats are great and all, but did those yards come in garbage time or on a 3rd-and-long? The clutch value factors in here.
- Consistency: One big play can change a game, but consistency down to down can make sure you win it. Who was bringing it on every play?
Colin Kaepernick: B+
The 49ers' starting quarterback tapped into his esteemed dual-threat ability, gouging the Titans defense for 267 all-purpose yards and a touchdown.
He went 13-of-21 for 199 yards with no passing touchdowns or interceptions, which was not overly impressive, in the way of Drew Brees or Tom Brady, but was incredibly efficient nonetheless.
As per the game plan, it was simply about moving the ball through the air and grinding it out in the red zone. Bottom line: Kaepernick’s effectiveness on the length of the field made those two one-yard touchdowns by Frank Gore possible. He even let loose and ran 11 times for 68 yards and a score of his own.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, Kaepernick’s 99.0 Total QBR was the best by any quarterback this season. As Bleacher Report’s NFC West lead columnist Tyson Langland points out, “That’s pretty amazing, considering Peyton Manning has been shredding a different defense every week.”
San Francisco’s kangaroo-like passer completed over 60 percent of his throws and kept this offensive unit in forward motion from the first quarter to the last. And it was vintage Kap, both throwing and running the football. If he continues this progress we’ve seen week to week, this team could be primed for another run.
Colin Kaepernick is just 1 of 3 quarterbacks since 1950 to accumulate at least 3500 pass yds & 500 rush yds in first 16 career starts.— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLONFOX) October 20, 2013
Frank Gore continues a stellar campaign at age 30.
Frank Gore: A
The Inconvenient Truth logged 24 attempts for 70 yards and a pair of red-zone scores on Sunday afternoon. His longest run was seven yards, so it was not pretty, but Gore got the yards the team had to have, which has been his modus operandi for the majority of his career.
Kendall Hunter: C-
Hunter only had four carries but still only squeezed out a 1.5 yards-per-carry average, which is not like him. He had a long of five yards, while the rest of his attempts were stuffed. Not a great game for Hunter, but he is bound to bounce back next week with more carries.
Anthony Dixon: B
The 49ers' third-string running back only had one carry on the day but he made it count, rushing for eight yards. If you’re looking at value per attempt, Dixon has to get a respectable grade here—especially when you consider that his season average heading into this game was 1.9 YPC.
Bruce Miller: B+
His value lies in his ability as a battering ram, filling in rush lanes and knocking guys off at the other end so the runner can bust one. Recently, Miller has gotten some carries and catches as well, but considering his size and position, they’ve hardly been flashy plays anyone will store in their memory bank.
He only had 10 all-purpose yards versus the Titans but was most valuable in helping the 49ers grind this one out.
Vernon Davis: A-
Davis did not break the century mark or find the end zone this week, but when you saw his contributions to the team, and how timely and consistent they were throughout, it was clear to see why the 49ers' star tight end earns a top grade here.
Not only has he made the passing offense go, but he has also been a pivotal cog in the rushing attack, functioning as a blocker.
Vance McDonald: B-
Colin Kaepernick’s eyes were on Vance McDonald a little more this game, which is definitely a sign of progress. However, the tight end only finished with one grab (even though it went for 20 yards). Again, the rookie is an impressive specimen and has potential be a star pass-catcher in this offense.
On Sunday, though, his contributions were fairly limited to being a decoy and blocking in the trenches.
TE Vance McDonald split out as a WR on that 24-yard pass to Vernon Davis; Bruce Miller split wide the next play. 49ers making due w/o WOs.— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) October 20, 2013
Despite all the games, the 49ers have not been able to get Kyle Williams going.
Anquan Boldin: B+
Even though he only accounted for 74 yards, this will go down as one of Boldin’s brilliant games for the 49ers. There is no other way to portray his performance outside of saying the veteran was “in the zone.” It is almost a shame that he didn’t finish with more targets.
Boldin had a 14.8 average off five circus catches.
No other active receiver caught a single ball, so if you’re looking for a collective grade for the group, it’s an F.
Kyle Williams and Jon Baldwin were disappointments for the San Francisco offense again, failing to assertively make a play.
Unfortunately, offensive coordinator Greg Roman did not call for Williams’ number on a screen or Baldwin’s in one of the 49ers' tight red-zone situations, which would’ve played to the receivers’ individual strengths. It has been tough sledding all around for this surrounding cast, which continues to come up short.
Thankfully, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis are providing enough aerial support.
49ers have found No. 2 threat at wide receiver. Of course, No. 1 is Anquan Boldin. Their second-best option at WR is Boldin using one hand.— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoCSN) October 20, 2013
The 49ers O-line was intact today, keeping this offense going.
Joe Staley: A
This is the point man for the 49ers offensive line. Staley did another outstanding job protecting his quarterback and helping to open up the run game. The athleticism and veteran savvy he brings to the line have been invaluable—this makes him so very dependable on a week-to-week basis.
Kap was sacked twice, but it was not because Staley missed.
Mike Iupati: A
The 49ers' starting left guard plays like a rhinoceros (yet he is not the offensive lineman with one named after him at the San Francisco Zoo, via Scott Kegley at 49ers.com). On Sunday, Iupati put his head down and helped this team win another hard-fought battle in the trenches.
The Niners did not exactly run roughshod on Tennessee, but Kap was able to operate in full dual-threat mode. Frank Gore’s red-zone touchdowns inside the 5-yard line can also be attributed to Iupati, as he was the lead blocker in the middle.
Jonathan Goodwin: B+
Coming back from a flu that kept him out of practices this week, Goodwin still managed to step into the lineup and impose his will in the middle. The Niners wanted to pound it up the middle and Goodwin allowed them to do that. He is smart and in-sync with this line and has been getting to the second level.
Not to mention, his prestige as a pass-protector from New Orleans has not diminished.
Alex Boone: A
Remember that rhino? Well, that’s Boone. Just as NaVorro Bowman is a carbon copy of Patrick Willis, Boone is to Iupati. With him settled at the right guard spot, the team has continued to hammer defensive fronts, helping the 49ers to become the best ground-and-pound team in football.
This past week versus the Titans was one of those games.
Anthony Davis: B-
Kap took a sack from the left side of the Titans' defensive front, which means someone got around Davis who wasn’t supposed to. Still, not a bad outing by Davis, who continues to build on quite a start to his NFL career. He has all the benefits of a towering right tackle and a mauling guard.
His technique is sound and he plays with a chip on his shoulder.
This defensive line did a good job keeping the run game locked up for the most part.
Justin Smith: A+
The Titans received a good dose of that country strength that 49ers right defensive tackle Justin Smith is so well known for. In the absence of Aldon Smith, the longtime bad boy of the NFL brought it to Jake Locker and Co., sacking the quarterback twice on his only three tackles of the day.
He also set the tone up front for this team once again.
Glenn Dorsey: B
Dorsey’s job is not about tackles, per se; it is about keeping the play in front of him at all costs and allowing the linebackers to flood the gaps that he creates for them. Even though he is not 100 percent, still hurting from a hamstring injury, he was in good form versus the Titans.
The starting nose tackle allowed Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman to engage the run, making it fairly easy for them to operate in the box.
Ray McDonald: B+
McDonald is another one of the unheralded players who does not get enough credit because he does not light up the box score. Despite recording a lowly tackle, he helped set that edge as well as knock the pocket back. He is also hurting from an injury (partially torn biceps) but managed to play through it.
Surprisingly strong showing by McDonald given the circumstances.
Harbaugh thanked D-linemen Ray McDonald and Glenn Dorsey for "soldiering up."— Kevin Lynch (@klynch49) October 20, 2013
Corey Lemonier gets around the edge, yet again.
Corey Lemonier: B
It did not take long, but Corey Lemonier is becoming a much more visible player on game day. He has procured the reps from vet Dan Skuta, who was originally cast as a starter, and has played lights-out since. Mind you, he is a rookie third-rounder filling in for an All-Pro at the moment.
Lemonier did not build on his sack from last week, but he still picked up a pair of tackles.
Patrick Willis: A
Very rarely is Patrick Willis the tackle leader when he and Bowman are both on the field at the same time, but the five-time first-team All-Pro went full beast mode on Sunday, busting up plays that he wasn’t even credited for because the receiver dropped the ball or heard footsteps.
He had eight tackles and an assist.
NaVorro Bowman: A
Bowman also had himself a day versus the Titans, flying around and racking up five tackles and an assist. He was in the middle of the action in all phases, whether he was playing the run or dropping into coverage. Together, he and Willis made sure the nucleus of this defense remained strong, helping to pull out another win.
Ahmad Brooks: B+
Left outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks is another one of the players in this four-man corps who really has a complete game. He did not rack up the tackles—because Bowman and Willis did—but he had a tipped pass, set the edge all game and had a sack on Jake Locker.
Tramaine Brock is capturing the spotlight in San Francisco.
Tarell Brown: B-
As one of San Francisco’s two starting corners, Brown put forth a solid effort but was flagged again, which is becoming a habit. He also got into a tussle with Titans wideout Kenny Britt. Still, the Titans wide receivers did not have much production to speak of as a unit.
Carlos Rogers: C
Rogers was the corner who had a bit of a rough outing versus these young Titans wide receivers, which is no surprise. Kendall Wright is just the type of player to give Rogers fits, and he did, finishing with nine grabs for 98 yards. Not a great outing by the veteran defensive back.
Tramaine Brock: A
Why is San Francisco’s third cornerback always the best-looking one on the field?
Well, they do rotate, but it seems the young talented players on this team are really starting to blossom—the next of which is Tramaine Brock. On Sunday, the corner notched his third interception on the season, which is tied for a team high and second in the league for cornerbacks.
Perrish Cox: B
We did not hear a peep from Perrish Cox on Sunday, which is usually a good thing when you’re talking about cornerbacks. With Chris Culliver out and Nnamdi Asomugha remaining inactive, Cox and Brock have really stepped up to the plate. Cox continues to help complete this top-rated pass defense.
Tramaine Brock comes down with his third interception of the season; not giving that No. 3 CB job back to Nnamdi Asomugha anytime soon.— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) October 20, 2013
Eric Reid: B+
It seems Eric Reid is always in the middle of the action, but his performance on Sunday was not as flashy as ones in weeks past. He collected two tackles and two assists, but no interceptions, forced fumbles or recoveries to add to his total so far. Nevertheless, he tackles well and was solid in coverage.
Reid is having a tremendous debut campaign.
Donte Whitner: B
It was a good showing from Whitner until he had to leave the game late with a knee injury. He had three solo tackles and was not abused by the opposing quarterback, which has been a weakness of his in the past. This is perhaps his best season in a 49er uniform, even after earning Pro Bowl honors last year.
Once again, the 49ers are steady on special teams with a pair of All-Pro legs.
Andy Lee: A
49ers All-Pro Andy Lee is the immaculate punter. On Sunday, he had to boot it on six occasions and maintained a 43.5 average, even putting it inside the 20-yard line a whopping three times. He also had a long punt of 58 yards.
Phil Dawson: A
All-Pro placekicker Phil Dawson did his job, too, adding seven points to the team’s 31-point total this past week. He went 1-of-1 on field goals, crushing a 44-yarder, and hit 100 percent of his four extra point attempts. The Niners could not ask for more out of Dawson.
C.J. Spillman, Darryl Morris and Kassim Osgood have been secret superstars for the 49ers this season, but in Week 7, they really had a chance to make their presences known. Their combined efforts resulted in excellent field position for the team this past week, and even a touchdown off a muffed punt.
They were on their game versus the Titans.