49ers use proven formula for victory over Dolphins

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49ers use proven formula for victory over Dolphins

SAN FRANCISCO -- Big-armed Colin Kaepernick fashioned an Alex Smith-like performance for the 49ers on Sunday.

Kaepernick took what the Miami Dolphins' defense gave him.

He completed a high percentage of his short passes.

He did not commit any turnovers.

And 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh even complimented Kaepernick's decision-making and his performance as a game manager.

In the end, Kaepernick put a stamp on the 49ers' 27-13 victory that was uniquely his own with a long scoring dash late in the game to clinch the victory at Candlestick Park.

Kaepernick last week broke Steve Young's 24-year-old franchise record with a 50-yard run against the St. Louis Rams. Young previously had the longest run from a quarterback in 49ers history with a memorable 49-yard gallop against the Minnesota Vikings.

On Sunday, Kaepernick peeled off another 50-yard run. This time, it went for a touchdown with 2:10 remaining when the 49ers were merely looking to pick up a first down and run out the clock.

The 49ers are 3-1 with Kaepernick after he took over for Smith when he suffered a concussion on Nov. 11 and remained in the lineup after Harbaugh anointed him as the so-called "hot hand."

San Francisco (9-3-1) maintained its 1 1/2-game lead over the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West with three games remaining.

Kaepernick finished with a passing line that is not too different from what would ordinarily be expected from Smith. Kaepernick completed 18 of 23 passes for 185 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating was 100.2.

"(I) thought he did a good job," Harbaugh said. "His ball security was better in the pocket, even though he did fumble one time. But I thought it was an improvement. (I) thought he managed the game well. Thought he did a good job in general."

Kaepernick said he was generally satisfied with the way he played.

"Yeah, I wish I had a few throws back and a few different decisions, but overall, yeah," Kaepernick said.

Kaepernick also finished with six rushing attempts for 53 yards and his fifth rushing touchdown of the season.

The 49ers have a new quarterback, but the overall identity of the team has not changed. The 49ers are still a squad that's defense-driven.

Six times the 49ers have lost regular-season games in Harbaugh's two seasons as head coach. Each time, the 49ers have responded with a huge defensive effort.

When Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill hit tight end Anthony Fasano on a 3-yard touchdown at the midpoint of the fourth quarter, it represented the first touchdown the 49ers have surrendered in six previous games in which the 49ers were bounding back after a loss.

"This is a good Miami offense," Harbaugh said, "and we got the stop when we needed it."

After the Dolphins cut the 49ers' lead to seven points in the fourth quarter, Miami got the ball back. The Dolphins moved the ball to the 49ers' 35-yard line but Tannehill threw four straight incomplete passes.

"They were getting a couple of yards, spreading us out, dink and dunk and running a lot of screens," 49ers cornerback Tarell Brown said. "They did a good job of moving the ball, but we kept them out of the end zone and that's the most important thing."

Outside linebacker Aldon Smith had another big game with two quarterback sacks. The NFL sacks leader with 19.5, Smith is now just three sacks from Michael Strahan's league record with three games remaining.

"That would be a dream come true," Smith said. "You work hard and everyone wants that title. It would be a dream come true."

The defense prevented the Dolphins from tying the game, and then Kaepernick finished it off with his long touchdown run.

But for most of the game, the 49ers had a difficult time stringing anything together. The 49ers' offense went 96 minutes, 15 seconds without scoring a touchdown -- the equivalent of more than six quarters -- beginning in the first quarter of the 49ers' overtime loss last week to the Rams.

And, even then, the 49ers got a huge assist from special teams. C.J. Spillman recovered a Marcus Thigpen muffed punt early in the third quarter to give the 49ers the ball at the Miami 9-yard line.

Two plays later, Frank Gore scored on a 1-yard touchdown. It was Gore's 50th career rushing touchdown to match the 49ers' record set in NFL games that Joe "The Jet" Perry and Roger Craig previously shared.

The 49ers' best drive was a 13-play, 83-yard march that chewed up 7 minutes, 26 seconds. After Gore gained 19 yards to the 1-yard line, Anthony Dixon took it in from 1 yard for a touchdown that gave the 49ers a 20-6 lead.

Gore had 63 yards on 12 carries to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for the sixth time in his eight-year career. Gore has 1,035 yards rushing through 13 games.

And the 49ers might have found a combination that will enable them to compensate for the season-ending injury to backup running back Kendall Hunter. Rookie LaMichael James made his NFL debut and gained 30 yards on eight rushing attempts.

"It's been a long time, but great things come when you're being patient," James said. "I'm just happy that I have the opportunity to go out there and compete and help the team win.

"At this level, those guys have been pounding for two or three months and today was my first day ever getting tackled. So I've got a little bit of an advantage, and I'll take it."

The 49ers deactivated disgruntled veteran Brandon Jacobs, and went with Dixon as the short-yardage back. Dixon had an 8-yard carry to set up Gore's touchdown, and Dixon produced a 1-yard touchdown on his other attempt.

Kaepernick was sacked four times -- once on a blown blocking assignment, once when he misread the defense and held onto the ball, and twice when Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake defeated right tackle Anthony Davis in one-on-one battles.

Kaepernick fumbled once, but Davis recovered. The 49ers did not commit any turnovers, and they settled for David Akers field goals of 30 and 37 yards for their first two scores of the game.

The second-year player is now so firmly entrenched as the starter that there was no need for Harbaugh to be asked which quarterback would start next week at New England.

Harbaugh takes blame for 'premature celebration' during 2011 incident

Harbaugh takes blame for 'premature celebration' during 2011 incident

It was Jim Harbaugh's first season as head coach of the 49ers.

The 4-1 49ers were in Detroit and scored 10 points in the final 5:29 to beat the Lions 25-19.

An excited Harbaugh got a little too agressive during his postgame handshake with Lions coach Jim Schwartz. The two had words for each other and had to be separated.

Six years later, Harbaugh took the blame for what happened and said that he and Schwartz have patched things up.

"I went in too hard on that, too aggressive on the handshake. I've since changed that. Not doing that anymore. Can't blame him. I went in too hard. And you respect him for taking exception. We've talked, and we're good. We're back to friends. There is a protocol in a postgame handshake. I've been there as the winner. I've been there as loser. You just, 'Hey, nice game,' then go celebrate. Premature celebration there, in the wrong," Harbaugh said Tuesday on Barstool Sports' Pardon My Take podcast.

Harbaugh sounds like he's learned his lesson from that incident with Schwartz.

"The postgame handshake isn't the place for anything. If you're bitter, than change the I to an E. Don't get bitter, get better. Nothing's really changing at the postgame handshake. Just professionally shake hands and go on your way," Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh moved on from the 49ers to coach the Michigan Wolverines. Schwartz coached the Lions through the 2013 season and currently serves as the defensive coordinator for the Eagles.

 

49ers head coach Shanahan: Lynch going in the right direction

49ers head coach Shanahan: Lynch going in the right direction

SANTA CLARA -- General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan sat down with 49ers pass-rusher Aaron Lynch shortly after assuming their new roles to give him an outline of what was expected.

Aaron Lynch entered the NFL in 2014 as a fifth-round draft pick despite having the talent worthy of a much-earlier selection. There were concerns about his commitment and character.

Lynch showed plenty of promise in his first two seasons. He tied for the club lead both seasons with six and 6.5 sacks, respectively. Last year, Lynch reported to the offseason program 30 pounds overweight. He was suspended four games for violating the league’s policy of substances of abuse. Then, he missed considerable time with an ankle injury. In seven games, Lynch recorded just 1.5 sacks.

John Lynch and Shanahan told Aaron Lynch his past transgressions would not be held against him, but he had to work hard and prove himself. As Lynch enters the final year of his original four-year contract, his spot on the 49ers' 53-man roster is anything but a certainty.

“Basically, everybody on this team, no matter what has happened before you came into the league or when you’ve been in the league, they’re not holding that against you and it’s a new clean slate,” Lynch said. “So I need to do everything I can to make sure I have a clean slate with them.”

Lynch is currently working with the second unit at the “Leo” position on the 49ers’ defensive line, behind Arik Armstead.

“’Leo’ is a lot of damn fun, so, yeah, I like it a lot,” Lynch said. “You get to set the edge and go get the quarterback.”

Lynch said he is in better physical condition than he was a year ago at this time. He said his target playing weight is in the 260-270 range. He said he is currently in the 280s.

“I came in heavy, but I’ve been working my (butt) off to get down to where my coach wants me to get down to, and where I feel I would be best to give everything I can for my team and do what I can for my team,” Lynch said.

While the 49ers did not witness any improvement in Lynch's commitment at the beginning of the offseason, things seem to be turning around. Shanahan said Lynch has missed only one day of the team's voluntary offseason program -- an excused absence to deal with a situation concerning his wife.

“There’s no doubt Aaron’s going in the right direction for us," Shanahan said. "He came in in the offseason, we challenged him hard with just the way we worked and stuff. He hasn’t shied away from any of it. He’s jumped in on all of our stuff.

"So he’s gotten better each day. He’s gotten more in shape each day and I’m seeing it on the field each day.”