Return of 49ers' read option gives offense balance

Kaepernick: 'We feel pretty good about what we're doing right now'

Return of 49ers' read option gives offense balance
October 20, 2013, 6:45 pm
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Colin Kaepernick said the Titans provided the 49ers with opportunities to break out effective read option plays. (USATSI)

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It was not a particular impressive offensive show, but the 49ers featured a lot of balance in piling up 30 more or points in a fourth consecutive game for the first time since late in the 1998 season.

The read option returned to the 49ers’ offense, and quarterback Colin Kaepernick flashed his dual-threat side with a 20-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter of the 49ers’ 31-17 victory.

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“Sometimes you bring it out,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said of the read option. “Then, we put it away. We will bring it back out. It’s such a great tool to have. It’s such a club in our bag.”

The 49ers teed off on the Titans, as they rolled up a 24-0 lead in the third quarter. Kaepernick rushed for 68 yards and his first touchdown of the season on 11 rushing attempts.

“It is just another part of our offense,” Kaepernick said. “Week-to-week, it is going to depend what we do with it. It is going to depend on what the defense is doing.”

Said tight end Vernon Davis, “Week-to-week it’s usually all on the look that we get from watching film and in practice. We had the look in practice. We saw it on film, and we went with it.”

Kaepernick said the Titans’ defense gave the 49ers the “looks” they needed in order for the read option to be successful. He declined to elaborate.

But Kaepernick was quite expansive when it came to providing the 49ers with a well-rounded game. He completed 13 of 21 passes for 199 yards, as the 49ers converted on eight of their first 10 third-down attempts.

More important, the 49ers did not commit any turnovers.

Running back Frank Gore found the going tough against a stout Tennessee defense. He gained just 70 yards on 24 attempts, but had a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs. He also caught a pass for 29 yards – his longest reception since the 2010 season.

But his best play of the day came on a play in which he did not even touch the ball.

Gore did not get the handoff on a read-option play with the 49ers leading 3-0 in the second quarter. But he refocused to become a downfield blocker for Kaepernick. Gore leveled Tennessee safety Michael Griffin with a cut block that enabled Kaepernick to sneak into the left corner of the end zone to score the first touchdown of the game.

“It happened in practice,” Gore said, “and coach (Tom) Rathman said, ‘If you don’t get it, if you get the chance, go outside and get the safety.’ And that’s what happened. He saw the look in practice and it happened in practice the same way, and Kap got the touchdown.”

The 49ers’ fourth consecutive win comes after the club lost two games in a row for the first time under Harbaugh. Now, the 49ers (5-2) remain just one game behind the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West standings.

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“We are taking small steps,” Gore said. “But we are taking them in the right direction. We are taking baby steps, and we just have to keep doing it and keep finding ways to win.”

Gore said he was pleased with the way offensive coordinator Greg Roman called the game and set the offense up for the coming weeks.

“He was mixing it up and showing different things, and it was perfect,” Gore said. “I am happy that our quarterback got in the end zone like he did last year. It should help us in the future.”