On Sunday, the 49ers received their fourth straight win against the Titans. The 49ers marched into Nashville and put it to the Titans very early in the game. The run game led by Frank Gore had the Titans’ defense gasping for breath and kept Jack Locker and the offense on the sideline. The 49ers hope to continue their winning streak next Sunday, as the team travels to London to play the Jacksonville Jaguars. But first, the 49ers need to analyze both the good and the bad that came from their against the Titans.
The Game Plan
Well, the coaches have finally figured it out. Frank Gore is the staple of the offense. After receiving to straight losses in games in which they only had 20 and 23 rushing attempts, the coaches finally realized that if you give Frank Gore the ball, good things happen. In the last four games alone, the 49ers have 40, 36, 38, 41 rushing attempts. Is it a coincidence that those four games have all resulted in wins? Not just any kind of wins, comfortable wins. The 49ers have won all four of those games by more than ten points, and have also scored over 30 points in all four of them. A feat that the franchise has not done since 1998. The coaches also seemed to have remembered that Colin Kaepernick can run. After it seemed like the coaches were refusing to call any designed run play for Kaepernick, the coaches called multiple against the Titans, and they all produced a positive impact including a touchdown.
Even though they’re playing with a makeshift defensive line, the 49ers have still managed to play great defense. In the last four games, the 49ers are only allowing 12.75 points per game. The secondary has answered the call and stepped up considerably. With the emergence of Tramaine Brock and the stellar play from rookie safety Eric Reid, the secondary looks like a completely different unit. Although, the defensive line deserves some credit. Even after losing their star pass rusher, the rotation on the line has been solid. Rookie Corey Lemonier and Dan Skuta are handling the duty of filling in for Aldon Smith adequately. Veterans Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, and Ahmad Brooks are also stepping up and helping carry the load. Justin Smith finished with two sacks yesterday, and the rest of the line was making Jake Locker run for his life. The defensive line just needs to hold down the fort with the possibility of Aldon Smith coming back in a few weeks.
The 49ers’ special teams unit seems to have returned to its 2011 form. Led by ace C.J. Spillman, the special teams contributed to the victory on Sunday by containing almost every return and pushing the team over 30 points by recovering a muffed punt. From the coverage to the kicker, the entire unit has improved drastically compared to last year.
This is the part where fans say: But we won! How can anything be bad?! There is very rarely a perfect game. While the 49ers did have a very good game all across the board, there is still one area that they can improve on.
Closing out the Game
Anyone who has watched the 49ers for the past couple of years knows what I’m talking about. The 49ers have had a tendency to take their foot off the gas pedal and ease up a little. We saw it last year in games like against the Patriots, and we almost saw it again yesterday. This was one of the most stressful “blowouts” I’ve ever watched. If not for a critical mistake made by the Titans’ punt returner, everyone might be singing a little different tune today. It may have been a long shot for the Titans to come back, the 49ers should not have given them the chance in the first place. And it seems Patrick Willis agrees. After giving up a long touchdown on a screen pass to Chris Johnson, the 49ers went three and out while only being up 24-10 with still half of the fourth quarter left. Only after Kasim Osgood recovered a muffed punt in the end zone, was the game truly over. In football, anything can happen so it was not out of the realm of possibility for the Titans to come back, especially with the momentum mounting on their side. If the 49ers want to go far into the playoffs, they cannot start easing up and give the other team a chance to even think about coming back.