Three and Out: Roman's redemption; bad day for Kyle Williams
The 49ers won the game of imagination and creativity, but they also set the tone for their victory with brute force. (AP)
Programming note: Watch Tuesday’s 49ers press conference with head coach Jim Harbaugh on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and streaming live online here at 12 p.m.
What you need to know: There was Big Sleeper, a play that employed deception and trickery that resulted in a 43-yard gain on the 49ers’ second play of the game.
There was another “Greg Roman creation,” in the words of coach Jim Harbaugh, in which the offensive coordinator’s imagination to split three players out wide confused the Jacksonville Jaguars to the point they had to burn a timeout.
The 49ers won the game of imagination and creativity. But they also set the tone for their eventual 42-10 victory Sunday at London’s Wembley Stadium with brute force.
On the first drive of the game, the 49ers faced a fourth-and-1 situation from the Jacksonville 21. Rather than send out Phil Dawson for a 39-yard field goal, Harbaugh decided to go for it.
“Just keep aggressive,” 49ers running back Frank Gore said. “We know that our O-line has been doing a great job, and we can get 1 yard any time. Our coaches believe in us.”
So Gore got the call over right guard and plowed his way for a 2-yard gain.
“I love that call,” quarterback Colin Kaepernick said.
Two plays later, Gore blasted into the end zone on a 19-yard scoring run. And it was evident just minutes into the game the winless Jaguars would remain that way.
The 49ers never allowed Jacksonville to believe it had any chance against the 49ers, winners of five consecutive games after a 1-2 start on the season. The 49ers did a little sightseeing en route to their downtown hotel on Friday.
But it was the week out in the English countryside that set the 49ers’ apart. The 49ers prepared for the Jaguars as if they were the most-formidable opponent on the schedule. As a result the 49ers head into the bye week as one of the hottest teams in the NFL.
“The focus was outstanding,” Harbaugh said. “The players were dialed in. They did a great job in practice and off the practice field. Curfews were 100 percent each night.”
The 49ers’ turnaround after back-to-back decisive losses to Seattle and Indianapolis coincided with their return to a power-running game. It was an aspect they showed in large doses Sunday, too.
Gore gained 71 yards on 19 rushing attempts. And Kaepernick picked up 54 yards on seven rushing attempts – all in the first half as the 49ers scored touchdowns on their first four possessions to jet to a 28-0 lead after 22 minutes.
Gore and Kaepernick scored a pair of touchdowns apiece, and they even appeared as a pair to answer questions from reporters afterward.
Kaepernick played a large role in the 49ers’ 6-of-9 conversion rate on third downs. He also completed 10 of 16 pass attempts for 164 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Vernon Davis. His passer rating was 117.7.
Roman pushed all the right buttons with his play-calling, including a bit of trickery to open the game. The 49ers substituted multiple players on the second play, and fullback Bruce Miller appeared as if he were exiting the field.
Instead, Miller stopped just shy of the 49ers’ sideline. Neither the Jaguars defenders nor their coaches noticed Miller remained on the field. Kaepernick took the snap and lofted a pass to Miller, who caught the ball and gained 43 yards before getting pushed out of bounds.
A short time later, the 49ers converted on fourth down, and the rout was on.
Williams struggles: Since his two turnovers proved to be critical miscues in the 49ers’ overtime loss to the New York Giants in the NFC championship game following the 2011 season, Kyle Williams had at least taken care of the football.
And although the 49ers had not gotten many return yards from Williams, who leads the NFL in fair catches, that was OK. All they wanted was a sure-handed, reliable player to field punts.
[RELATED: Is Kyle Williams' job in jeopardy?]
But Williams had his second-worst game in the NFL on Sunday. It started with a fumble on the opening kickoff. He also muffed a punt out of bounds. Picked up just 4 yards on two punt returns, managed to average just 13.0 yards on two kickoff returns and had two Kaepernick passes deflect off his hands.
Anthony Dixon, a 233-pound running back, took over to handle the last kickoff return of the game and he responded with a 47-yard return. Although Harbaugh mocked the suggestion of a “returner controversy,” Williams miserable day certainly now places his status with the team in question.
Dixon’s future is also a little murky. The 49ers have reportedly been shopping him on the trade market. The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday, 1 p.m. (Pacific).
Olympic atmosphere: The 49ers thoroughly enjoyed their time in London. And Harbaugh said he soaked in the Olympics-like atmosphere prior to the game with the renditions of the Star-Spangled Banner and God Save the Queen.
Although it was considered a Jaguars home game – the organization has signed on for one game in London for four consecutive seasons – the 49ers had a lot of support among the announced crowd of 83,559.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Harbaugh said. “It felt like a huge stage. Wembley has great tradition and status as a venue and it was an amazing experience for our players and for me personally.
“The beginning of the game when they were playing the two national anthems, I felt like I was at the Olympics. As a youngster, I always wanted to be in the Olympics.”
In Aldon’s absence: Outside linebacker Dan Skuta has helped the 49ers pick up the slack in the absence of All-Pro Aldon Smith, who is expected to meet with team officials in the near future. Smith entered into in-patient treatment for substance abuse on Sept. 23. If he shows progress, he will return to the team, general manager Trent Baalke said.
Dan Skuta and Corey Lemonier have combined to fill in for Smith. Skuta plays base downs, while Lemonier enters in nickel situations.
On Sunday, Skuta had his time to shine when he picked up a fumble that was forced by Patrick Willis and they relived his old days as a high school running back on a 47-yard touchdown return.
Quote of the day: ”He’s the most paranoid coach in the NFL. I promise you that. Doesn’t matter who we are playing, doesn’t matter if it’s the last play of a practice, he makes sure we are watching our P’s and Q’s and that’s why they’re such a good coaching staff.”
--Safety Donte Whitner on Harbaugh
Quote of the day II: ”I agree with that assessment.”
--Left tackle Joe Staley, who endorsed what Whitner had to say
Quick hitters: Third cornerback Tramaine Brock, who has seemingly made veteran Nnamdi Asomugha expendable, nearly intercepted his fourth pass of the season. He could not hang onto Jaguars’ quarterback Chad Henne’s pass after making a nice play to jump a route. Shortly thereafter, Brock bit on a double-move and was burned for a 29-yard touchdown. “If you get beat you have to hit the guy and take the penalty so you can live to play another play,” Whitner said. “We expect him to continue to play that way.” . . .
Whitner’s legal name change to Hitner is still pending. The head linesman in the game was Mark Hittner. Whitner said he was unaware of the coincidence. By chance, Hittner and this reporter bumped into each other early Monday morning in a London train station. Hittner said he meant to say something to Whitner, but he did not have the opportunity. When told that Whitner is “a good guy,” HIttner said he would expect nothing less from a quasi-namesake.
Looking ahead: The 49ers appeared to exit the game without any significant injuries. The team should be near full strength when it returns to action Nov. 10 against the Carolina Panthers. Rookie wide receiver Quinton Patton remains out with a fractured right foot, which he sustained Sept. 26 against the St. Louis Rams. But the 49ers will regain the services of wide receiver Mario Manningham, along with cornerback Eric Wright and rookie defensive lineman Tank Carradine. The 49ers will have “opportunity” practices Tuesday and Wednesday for the players who do not see much playing time, Harbaugh said. Thursday through Sunday constitutes mandatory days off during the bye week.