Crabtree quickly makes Kaepernick’s life easier

By Gabe Schapiro

On Sunday wide receiver Michael Crabtree made his long-awaited 2013-14 debut. Back on May 21 he tore his Achilles, dealing a big blow to an already thin receiving corps. Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco pass offense felt the adverse effects, and have struggled for much of the season. This has raised questions about whether Kaepernick could live up to the hyped expectations built up through last seasons Super Bowl run. On the stat sheet Crabtree didn’t have a huge first game back, but his impact could go far beyond that.

In the 23-13 win over the St. Louis Rams, Crabtree finished the day with two receptions for 68 yards on four targets. However, he is such a threat that his presence alone can open up the field for his teammates. Anquan Boldin had nine catches for 98 yards, and Vernon Davis had four receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps most importantly, Kaepernick had one of his best games of the season, completing 19 of 28 passes for 275 yards, a touchdown, and no turnovers. The 275 yards through the air are the most he’s had since Week 1, and is just the fourth time he’s eclipsed the 200-yard mark.

To put things into perspective, only two players on the entire 49ers roster this season have caught a touchdown pass: Boldin and Davis. Crabtree’s 68 receiving yards already puts him third among San Francisco’s active wideouts. With 16 more yards he will move into second. For an offense who essentially has three options on each play; hand it to Frank Gore, pass it to Boldin, or pass it to Davis, the addition of Crabtree back into the mix could pay big dividends.

With all of that said the Rams aren’t exactly a stiff test. They generally play the 49ers well, but their defense has been very middle-of-the-road this season. As a whole they are ranked 14th in the league in points allowed, and 19th in pass defense.

Crabtree’s game-changing ability so soon after returning will be tested significantly more next week against the league’s best pass defense, the Seattle Seahawks. However, his first game back was a good start. It already lets Kaepernick breathe just a little easier, as the 49ers push for a playoff spot.

Crabtree’s return sparks the 49ers with the NFC West showdown up next

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By Morris Phillips

Six months and one week after surgery to repair his Achilles, Michael Crabtree made his season debut for the 49ers on Sunday.

Never has rusty looked so lovely… or been so needed.

Crabtree’s return and performance—he made two catches, one for 60 yards after eluding tacklers along the sideline for nearly 40 of those—inspired the 49ers to post a 23-13 win over the Rams in a physical, chippy contest at Candlestick Park.

The 49ers improved to 8-4 on the season, and strengthened their hold on a playoff spot—albeit the No. 6 seed—when the Arizona Cardinals lost in Philadelphia and fell behind San Francisco’s pace.   The 49ers now find out if the new look with Crabtree in concert with Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin and Frank Gore is a winning one with the NFC-leading Seahawks visiting this week.

“No question about it.  That was a tough opponent, and all the pressure of the high stakes of this time of the year,” Coach Jim Harbaugh said.  “I thought our guys answered the bell on that, and played really well.”

“We all know that December is about winning,” Davis added.

The Rams came in on a roll, sandwiching blowout wins over the Colts and Bears around a bye week, but seemed distracted from the start.  First there was the pre-game dust up at midfield that would have to be termed out of character for the business-like 49ers, but seemed to fit the jumpy visitors to a tee.  Then the Rams committed seven of their 11 penalties before they scored a point, falling behind 13-0 until their initial points on a field goal in the final minute of the half.

Meanwhile, the 49ers’ offense gained momentum courtesy of Boldin, who produced one of his best games, with nine catches for 98 yards.  All the pushing and shoving during and after plays seemed to go hand-in-hand with the 49ers moving the ball down the field.  Three lengthy drives, 13 first downs and a couple of Phil Dawson field goals prior to Frank Gore storming in with the game’s first touchdown put the Rams on their heels.    Boldin stood out through it all, with six catches in the half, and giving as good as he took in the various skirmishes.

“Yeah they were talking,” Boldin said.  “A lot of teams try to build themselves up, and they were one of them.  But, you do all your talking on the field.”

“We just needed to get off the field,” Rams defensive tackle Chris Long lamented.  “If you don’t (force a) punt in the first half, that’s not good.”

With the comfortable lead, the 49ers were able to pick their spots after halftime, and survive the occasional misstep—including Frank Gore’s fumble—in cruising to the finish.   Rams’ quarterback Kellen Clemens—plenty rehearsed and comfortable now that he’s started four times in the absence of injured starter Sam Bradford—never settled in trying to beat the 49ers’ secondary while avoiding the pass rush.  Clemens completed just three passes in the first half while getting sacked twice. With time and scoreboard situation taking away Clemens veil of a run game after halftime, he wasn’t much better, rushing a few throws and finishing 19 for 37 without a truly impactful, big play in the bunch.

Meanwhile, Colin Kaepernick figured to benefit from the presence of Crabtree, and while that was clearly the result, the second-year starter also threw the ball beautifully, and looked as settled as he has all season.  The Rams sold out to stop the run and Gore, and Kap responded with a 19 for 28 performance for 275 yards, numbers that dwarf his production in recent games.

“They did a good job containing the run.  And we made plays in the passing game,” Harbaugh explained.  “Colin moving… We had a lot of big plays off the scramble.  Either him running it or moving to create space, and I thought he did a great job throwing the ball in those scramble situations.  And a terrific play that he made to Vernon, on the naked bootleg.”

The lone negative of the afternoon was a first quarter injury suffered by All-Pro tackle Joe Staley.  Crabtree’s protector went down in a heap, but preliminary exams reveal no structural damage to his knee.  The team will know more Monday, but it’s unlikely that Staley would be ready to go on Sunday against the Seahawks, which undoubtedly will enliven an already lively Seattle pass rush.  Mike Iupati is slated to return after missing a couple of games, but the upheaval won’t help against the 49ers’ chief rival, made even more so by the last two beating the team suffered in Seattle.

After back-to-back losses in November all but ended the race in the NFC West for San Francisco, Sunday’s showdown lost some of its’ luster, but the 49ers’ improved play of late leaves the game on a lofty platform.  The 49ers appear to be built for a lengthy playoff run even without the benefit of a home game.  Sunday’s big test will be an further indicator of that.  But Davis says the team can’t get ahead of its self.

“As much as we want to beat Seattle, we have to keep our composure,” Davis warned.  “We can’t get overwhelmed.”

Crabtree is key to the Niners playoff push

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by Kahlil Najar

The 10-point victory against the Rams on Sunday wasn’t as much of a surprise as was the return of the Niners star wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Over six months ago, Crabtree was sidelined when he tore his Achilles and had the Niner nation in a scare. There were talks of how he wouldn’t be able to come back this year and that the Niners will need to find another standout receiver to give them a chance to get back to the Superbowl. With two loses on the year against teams with great secondaries (Saints, Seattle) and surprise loses to the Colts and the Panthers – Niner fans were wondering how it might be if they had a healthy Crabtree on the field.

In his season debut yesterday he had two catches for 68 yards including a character defining 60 yard dash that had him battling off Rams defenders and streaking down the sideline. The play sparked the offense and instantly opened up the offense. Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin ended up with a combined 180 yards receiving and one touchdown.

The Niners are currently ranked second to last in passing offense and average a little over 180 yards per game in the air. The only team below them is the lowly New York Jets who are having a whirlwind of a year trying to figure out if they have the right quarterback or not. Also no other receiver on the Niners has caught a touch down this year other than Boldin and Davis.

With Kaepernick  having his number one receiver back, a formidable receiver in Boldin and the always dependable Davis – there will now be three targets that are on the field that are legitimate big play makers. This will open the field much more for some screen plays, delays and even just the running game in general which Frank Gore has been championing with over 800 yards rushing and 8 TDS.

Crabtree has to stay healthy and active and the Niners offense can come alive and give them the push into the Superbowl again.

49ers looking to rebound against Redskins

By Gabe Schapiro

This Sunday at 5:40pm the San Francisco 49ers (6-4) face off against the Washington Redskins (3-7), at FedExField. The 49ers are tied with the Arizona Cardinals for second in the NFC West, three games back of the first place Seattle Seahawks. The Redskins are in last place in the NFC East, one game back of the third place New York Giants.

Last weekend San Francisco lost to the tough New Orleans Saints, 23-20. It was a close game throughout, and saw five lead changes. The 49ers were up 20-14 with eight minutes left to play. Saints kicker Garrett Hartley rattled off three consecutive field goals, the last coming with no time left on the clock, to complete the come-from-behind win for New Orleans.

Despite leading for stretches of the game, San Francisco was largely outplayed. Colin Kaepernick struggled again, completing just over 50% of his passes, 17-of-31 attempts. He threw for 127 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis had touchdown catches. Due in part to focusing more on the pass, Frank Gore never really got much going. He rushed for 48 yards, half of which came on a single run, on 13 carries. As a team they totaled just 196 yards. It was their defense that kept them in the game, forcing three turnovers (two forced fumbles, one interception).

After winning five straight, they have now lost two in a row. The task gets a little easier this week against Washington, however, as they look to get back to their winning ways. The Redskins came into the year full of optimism and promise, but haven’t lived up to that billing. Their offense has some electric weapons but they have been prone to turnovers. Their defense has been one of the worst in the league.

They are led by sophomore star Robert Griffin III. After undergoing major knee surgery in the offseason and not playing in the preseason, it looks as if he is still getting back into the swing of things. Despite struggling at times, he still has a strong arm and the ability to be a playmaker with his legs as well. His favorite weapons are wideout Pierre Garcon and tight end Jordan Reed. They also feature another star sophomore, running back Alfred Morris, who is having another fine season. They have the best rushing attack in football, averaging over 155 yards on the ground per game. As a whole, they rank 13th in points scored.

Their defense is far and away their biggest Achilles heel. They are ranked 30th in the league, giving up over 30 points per game. They are slightly better against the run, but couldn’t be considered good either.

After falling to two tough opponents, San Francisco could be set up nicely for a bounce back this week. Washington’s offense is worth being a little concerned about, but the 49ers defense should be able to get good pressure on RGIII, and force some mistakes. They kept Drew Brees from dominating last week, they should certainly be able to do the same against a lesser opponent.

On the offensive side, San Francisco should have a much easier time moving the ball downfield, both on the ground and through the air. Look for them to get back to their roots and lean much more heavily on Frank Gore. Kaepernick throwing the ball 31 times isn’t a winning formula. With that said, he should also have an easier time this week. As long as he stays away from turnovers, they should be fine.

Mario Manningham, now entering his third week back in action, has had a limited impact so far. He has recorded just four receptions for 38 yards. Michael Crabtree should have a much larger impact once he returns, and that appears to be imminent. There has been no official word yet, but he has been participating and practices, and should make his 2013 debut either this week or next.

49ers in for another tough matchup in New Orleans

By Gabe Schapiro

This Sunday at 1:25pm the San Francisco 49ers (6-3) will be taking on the New Orleans Saints (7-2) at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The 49ers sit in second place in the NFC West, two games behind the Seattle Seahawks. The Saints are in first place in the NFC South, one game up on the Carolina Panthers.

Last weekend San Francisco lost in a tough low-scoring affair against the Panthers, to a final score of 10-9, snapping their five-game winning streak. In many regards it lived up to the billing heading into the game, as it was truly a battle of the defenses. Three first half field goals was enough to give the 49ers the lead for much of the game, but it wasn’t enough to hold up. Carolina got a late field goal of their own with three minutes remaining in the game to give them the one point lead. San Francisco had another possession to try and retake the lead, but their offense simply couldn’t get anything going against the stingy Panthers defense.

The 49ers finished last weekends game with just 151 total net yards, a respectable 105 on the ground, but just a measly 46 through the air. As expected they tried to lean more heavily on Frank Gore and their rushing attack, but when forced to pass Colin Kaepernick couldn’t gain any traction. He completed 11-of-22 passes for 91 yards and an interception. He was also sacked six times. Gore finished with 82 yards rushing on 16 carries.

San Francisco will look to bounce back this week, but they will once again have their hands full with possibly an even tougher matchup against New Orleans. The Saints are tied for the fourth best record in the NFL, and feature a high-flying offense led by one of the best quarterbacks in the game, Drew Brees. Brees currently ranks second in the league in passing yards, touchdowns, and passer rating. He spreads the ball around a lot, but his primary target is Jimmy Graham, possibly the league’s best tight end in his own right, and the all-purpose weapon of Darren Sproles. As a unit they are the second highest scoring offense in football, behind only the record-breaking Denver Broncos.

It’s no surprise that the Saints once again have a high-powered offense, but what has been a bit of a new and unexpected development this season is how well their defense has performed. In both points and yards allowed they rank just one slot behind the 49ers, at fifth in the league in both categories. They don’t contain the stout personnel that Carolina does, but they are no longer a defense that can be scoffed at by any means.

The bright side for the 49ers is that the Saints primary weakness on the defensive side of the ball is stopping the run, where they tank 23rd. With Kaepernick still struggling, once again you can expect a heavy dose of Gore, Kendall Hunter, and the run game as they try to exploit New Orleans’ biggest weakness. Regardless, to keep pace with the Saints they will need a better more complete game from Kaepernick.

On the other side of the ball San Francisco will have their hands full containing the Saints offense. The 49ers have the defensive talent to do it, but they’ll need to be on top of their game. With Brees it is often just about containing him, rather hoping you will be able to stop him.  

This week San Francisco got great news when it was reported that Vernon Davis and Eric Reid both avoided a major injury, and are expected to suit up and be fine for this Sunday. Each player had to be removed from last weeks game with concussion-like symptoms. Reid will be a big plus in trying to slow down Brees, and Davis has been Kaepernick’s favorite red-zone target so far this season.  

49ers to be tested against the tough Carolina Panthers

By Gabe Schapiro

This Sunday at 1:05pm the San Francisco 49ers (6-2) will be taking on the Carolina Panthers (5-3) at the friendly confines of Candlestick Park. This matchup features two teams who have been on a roll over the past few weeks. The 49ers have won five straight, and are in second place in the NFC West, just one game back of the Seattle Seahawks. The Panthers had a shaky start, but have hit their stride, rattling off four wins in a row, putting themselves in second place in the NFC South, one game behind the New Orleans Saints.

San Francisco is coming off of their bye week, but two weeks ago they easily dismantled the Jacksonville Jaguars, coasting to a 42-10 victory. The 49ers quickly put the game out of reach, mounting a 28-3 lead by half time. San Francisco stuck with what has got them here, and did most of their damage on the ground, rushing for 221 yards as a team. Frank Gore ran for 71 yards and two scores on 19 carries. Colin Kaepernick had two rushing touchdowns of his own to along with 54 yards on seven carries. For good measure, Kendall Hunter also got in on the action, compiling a team-high 84 yards on the ground on just nine attempts. On the defensive side the 49ers suffocated the Jaguars offense, not letting them ever get much of anything going. The highlight was a Patrick Willis forced fumble that Dan Skuta returned for a touchdown.

The Panthers should present a much more formidable opponent. On offense they have their own electric duel threat at quarterback in Cam Newton. His primary weapons are running back DeAngelo Williams, who is having a solid but not great season, tight end Greg Olson, who is leading the team in receiving yards, and old reliable Steve Smith, who isn’t the dominant player he once was, but still poses a threat. Their defense is easily their biggest strength, however. Young linebacker Luke Kuechly has been fantastic, lead the team in tackles and tied for the team lead in interceptions. Pass rushers Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy have consistently been giving opposing quarterbacks a hard time. As a unit they have allowed the second fewest yards and second fewest points per game in the NFL.

Sunday’s contest is a classic case of strength meeting strength. The 49ers have the fourth best rushing offense in the league, and they will be going up against the league’s best rush defense. Expect San Francisco to stick to their game plan, however, and go with a ground and pound approach. Depending on their success, however, they may need Kaepernick to air it out more than he has in recent weeks. Carolina’s defense hasn’t been as strong against the pass.

Mario Manningham and Aldon Smith are both expected to be active. It remains to be seen how limited they will be initially, but they could provide a big boost in what could be a tough week.

Kaepernick better than ever since week two and three

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By David Zizmor

SANTA CLARA–Nobody expected the 49ers to lose last Sunday’s game in London the betting line was 16 points for the 49ers and the Niners covered the spread by double the amount of given points against Jacksonville with something like which was far too low the Niners won this one by 32.

Jacksonville is just an awful team and let’s give credit to the 49ers a game like this is one you could sleepwalk through and make it a lot closer than it should be. Let’s face it look at what the Jaguars did against the Denver Broncos just a few weeks ago they made just a little bit of noise in that one against a very good Denver team.

The 49ers did not let Jacksonville get into this game at all they didn’t let them sniff any smell of success. The 49ers were very focused their systems were shocked after those two loses in week two and three they haven’t really looked back as they’re now on a five game win streak. They’ve been a very different team since those games.

In their two loses to the Seahawks and Colts the 49ers were passing a bit more than they probably wanted to ever since then they focused more on their ground game which was their bread and butter. The last two seasons and when they got away from it they weren’t quite as successful and let’s face it part of the problem is that their wide receiving core has been decimated by injuries.

When all your options are gone and your left with a couple of guys it makes that much easier for defenses to take away those options and take the passing game out entirely. You saw against Indianapolis and Seattle the Niners were just stuck they couldn’t move the ball through the air and once the defenses realized they couldn’t move the ball in the air they were able to shut them down.

The 49ers have done a great job in the last five wins of establishing the running game early and working off of it and in the last two or three weeks we’ve really seen the passing game start to blossom again. Not a lot was made of it but Kaepernick did hurt his foot several weeks ago early in the season and while he was out of the game that foot injury kept him out and it might have kept him from being as mobile as he had been.

It might have kept him from making a number of passes that he was capable of. The last two or three weeks we’ve seen him really step up his game. Kaepernick is running a lot more, his passes are right on target, he’s doing a much better job finding his guys open and just making plays and we didn’t see that earlier on and I suspect this because that foot was bothering him a bit.

David Zizmor covers the NFL for Sportstalk Radio

49ers travel to London to take on the hapless Jaguars

By Gabe Schapiro

This Sunday at 10:00 AM the San Francisco 49ers (5-2) will be coming to you from across the pond in London, England where they will be facing off with the Jacksonville Jaguars (0-7) at Wembley Stadium. The 49ers are on a roll having won four straight contests. They sit in second place in the NFC West behind the Seattle Seahawks. The Jaguars are a team still trying to find their way, and have yet to win a game this season. They are in last place in the AFC South.

Last week the San Diego Chargers beat Jacksonville with relative ease, 24-6. The Chargers grabbed a lead in the first quarter and never looked back. All the Jaguars offense could muster was two field goals. That has been Jacksonville’s season in a nutshell, as they have struggled in every facet of the game in what is clearly a rebuilding year.

San Francisco had slightly better luck with the Tennessee Titans, running away with a 31-17 victory in a game that wasn’t as close as the score makes it appear. The 49ers were pitching a 24-0 shutout heading into the fourth quarter before the Titans found the scoreboard for 17 points during garbage time. Frank Gore continued his strong production, running for 70 yards and two scores on 24 carries. In addition, Colin Kaepernick had possibly his best game since week 1, finding some success through the air and with his feet. He completed 13-of-21 passes for 199 yards, and ran for another 68 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Most importantly he didn’t turn the ball over once. On the defensive side Justin Smith recorded two sacks and Tramaine Brock grabbed his third interception of the season.

Despite the Jaguars problems, they do have some talented players that San Francisco will have to account for. They have a good receiving corps headlined by the young duo of Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon. Unfortunately for them, and fortunately for the 49ers, they haven’t had a quarterback who can reliably get the ball to them. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew isn’t the player he once was, and doesn’t have much of an offensive line to run behind, but still presents a threat. On the defensive side of the ball things don’t look much better for them, but Paul Posluszny is a very good linebacker to try and build around.

As a whole Jacksonville is the worst team that the NFL has to offer. They have scored the least amount of points in the league, and they’ve given up the most. While playing in London is a bit of an X-factor, this still isn’t a game that the 49ers should have any trouble with. Expect them to lean on the running game as they have been over their last four victories, but look for Kaepernick to find more openings to air it out as well.

On the injury front there is no bad news to report this week. Wideout Mario Manningham, who resumed practicing with the team last week, is nearing his return. Coach Jim Harbaugh has yet to rule him out for Sunday’s contest. It may take him some time to be a real contributor again, however. Michael Crabtree’s rehab is going according to plan, and is expected back in about a month.

On a similar note, Aldon Smith, who had to leave the team in Week 3 because of the much-reported on personal issues, could re-join the team within the next couple of weeks.

After Seahawks and Colts loses 49ers are now on four game win streak

by David Zizmor

SANTA CLARA–It’s funny the 49ers looked really good against the Green Bay Packers on opening day they won that first game and they looked really good. 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw for over 400 yards and then they played Seattle and Indianapolis back to back and lost both games in what you might call embarrassing fashion.

The Niners really just got outclassed in both of those games maybe after those two games something woke up with them, maybe the embarrassment was enough for them to get back on track and maybe it was that they were playing two good teams. We all knew that Seattle was going to be tough and that the 49ers had their struggles up in Seattle.

So losing in Seattle wasn’t quite a big surprise losing to he Colts was a surprise at the time but in retrospect losing to the Colts wasn’t such a big surprise. It turned out that the Colts are a really good team, they weren’t only able to beat the 49ers but they beat the Seahawks just a couple of weeks ago. Then they went out on Monday night and beat the Denver Broncos.

The Colts are a good team and their a playoff force to be reckoned with the 49ers may have lost that game but you can’t be embarrassed about losing to the Colts because their apparently quite good. Someone said their one of the top five teams in the league if not top three. So no shame to losing a team that good the 49ers have used it to their advantage.

They have taken and fixed some of the problems in their offensive scheme and moved forward and their playing a lot better football even though they’ve had several injuries they had to fight through and they lost a couple of players here and there for a couple of games Patrick Willis lost a game or two, Ray McDonald was banged up, Aldon Smith is out on indefinite leave as he deals with his problems, and the 49ers are having continuing issues at wide receiver.

The 49ers they got back to do what they did best, their running the ball and passing when the opportunity presents itself and in the last several weeks running back Frank Gore has been just fantastic this is a guy who a lot of people wanted to write him off at age 30 who they said is washed up I don’t know why they would do that in the fact a lot of running backs tend to slow down when they hit that age.

You have to look at each player individually and at age 30 Gore looks just as good as ever maybe he’s not as quick as he once was but nobody is as patient as he is and nobody blocks better than Gore. While maybe he’s not going to break off a 70 yard run he breaks off more double digit runs than anybody in the league. Gore is as dependable as they come in this league he had a great game against the Titans scoring a couple of touchdowns from inside the ten yard line this is a guy whose a leader and when he does well you know the 49ers are going to do well.

David Zizmor covers the NFL for Sportstalk Radio

49ers try to make it four straight in Tennessee

By Gabe Schapiro

This Sunday at 1:05 PM the San Francisco 49ers (4-2) will be taking on the Tennessee Titans (3-3) at LP Field. This game features two squads going in opposite directions. The Titans have lost two in a row, and sit in second place in the AFC South behind the Indianapolis Colts. The 49ers, on the other hand, have won three straight, and are holding on to second place in the NFC West behind the Seattle Seahawks.

Last week Tennessee grabbed a lead early, but fell to the late-charging Seahawks 20-13. They have recently been hampered by the loss of starting quarterback Jake Locker, limiting the passing game. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the backup, and has been unimpressive since taking over the starting gig, completing barely over 50% of his passes, with two touchdowns and four interceptions in just over two games. Chris Johnson, their big-name offensive threat, hasn’t been the same player since rushing for over 2,000 yards four years ago. Their defense has been what keeps them in games, featuring players like Benard Pollard, Alterraun Verner, Ropati Pitoitua, and Zach Brown. They aren’t big names, but they have been extremely productive.

San Francisco is coming off of a 32-20 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Despite the 12-point victory in the box score, the game was close until late. Going into the fourth quarter it was just a two-point game, before the 49ers slammed the door and put the game away. Up against the potent Cardinals run-defense Frank Gore and company still managed to find some lanes, rushing for 149 yards as a team, with 101 of those coming from Gore. Colin Kaepernick wasn’t great, completing just over half of his attempts, throwing an interception and losing a fumble, but he found more openings through the than in recent weeks, throwing for 252 yards. The vast majority of that production was thanks to Vernon Davis, who hauled in eight receptions for an incredible 180 yards and two scores. As usual their defense took a stand as well, forcing four turnovers.

Especially with the loss of Locker, the Titans have less weapons on offense than the Cardinals presented. They are ranked 25th in the NFL in total yards, and 21st in points per game. As they have been doing, San Francisco should be able to give them fits, and hopefully force a few turnovers. On the bright side their defense is good, but it’s an easier task than a week ago. They are ranked 10th against the pass, which could give Kaepernick and his lack of weapons some problems, but just 19th against the run, playing right into the 49ers biggest strength. Expect to continue seeing Gore featured on offense.

Thankfully there are no new major injury problems this week. Mario Manningham, who continues to rehab from his knee injury at the end of last season, resumed practicing with the team this week. He will eventually be a welcomed addition to a struggling passing game, but is expected to be brought along slowly, and is highly unlikely to make it back onto the field until Week 10, following their bye week.