Film Room: A Well-Rounded Effort

The 49ers were clicking in all three phases Sunday, highlighted by the return of the read-option and a punishing running game. Inside we break down the film from Sunday's 31-17 win.

The San Francisco 49ers' offense scored on four of its first five possessions, which ended up being enough to deflate the Titans on the road Sunday.

It was arguably the team's most balanced win of the season. The passing game was sound, the running game was physical, the defense was stout and the special teams units were dominant.

But not everything was perfect. There are still areas to improve going forward.

Here are some key points we found when breaking down the tape:

-Carlos Rogers struggled to keep up with Kendall Wright, Tennessee's most dynamic receiver who spent most of his day lined up against Rogers in the slot. The second-year player (whom the 49ers had interest in drafting in 2012, before settling on A.J. Jenkins 10 picks later) caught four of six balls for 48 yards with Rogers in coverage.

Wright dropped a ball on 2nd-and-10 on the Titans' third drive that would have given his team a first down over the middle. Had he made the catch, the Tennessee would have had a first down inside 49ers' territory with the game still at 3-0. Mistakes like those (including an array of penalties) killed the Titans in the first half.

-On the 49ers' first drive, Vernon Davis blew past reserve safety George Wilson on 3rd-and-2 for a 24-yard gain on a corner route to the left.

Even with a slightly torn hamstring, Davis still has the ability to run away from 245 pounds.

-San Francisco went 12 plays before Phil Dawson's 44-yard field goal, converting 2 of 3 third downs on their first possession. On the 3rd-and-4 before the kick, Kaepernick went left on the read-option for the second time in four plays. There wasn't much blocking on that side, forcing him out of bounds for a one-yard loss.

Kyle Williams was responsible for one missed block on that play and later missed a second on a run to the right side. On the television broadcast, Kaepernick was visibly frustrated with Williams' inability to keep a corner from setting the edge.

That sequence could speak to the team's unwillingness to use the read-option earlier in the year. Michael Crabtree was a good blocker on those plays in 2012. Read-options to the outside are easily thwarted when corners can force Kaepernick back inside toward the linebackers.

-On the ensuing kickoff, Darryl Morris made his first outstanding special teams play of the day, over running the return man and coming back to make the play at the 22-yard line when there was plenty of space ahead. Morris had a big game in kick coverage and is making a case to stick around if and when Eric Wright comes off the reserve/NFI list in the coming weeks.

-Delanie Walker beat a hobbled Patrick Willis pretty badly on a similar play to Davis' catch on a 3rd-and-5. Jake Locker hit him on a deep corner route to the left for 21 yards.

Willis struggled in coverage on the day, allowing receptions on all eight targets to his man. He finished with a team-high eight tackles.

-Tennessee committed three penalties on their second drive, including Nate Washington's false start on 3rd-and-10 before punting.

-San Francisco got the ball back on their own 4-yard line with the Titans knowing they were going to run the ball to clear some space from the goal line.

Tennessee stacked the defensive line with six players, covering each 49er blocker on two-straight ineffective running plays.

Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman elected not to throw the ball until third down, but they had an opportunity - albeit a risky one - to audible out of either running play as the Titans stacked the line. It would have been a good opportunity to get Davis matched up with a linebacker, but the team played it safe before punting it away. It was their only punt during their first five possessions.

-The Titans ran the ball well on their next drive. The offensive line created cutback lanes for Chris Johnson on runs of nine and seven yards.

But their drive was derailed by penalties again as Walker was flagged for holding, pushing a 2nd-and-3 back to 2nd-and-13. It set up Justin Smith's first sack on third-and-long.

-The 49ers' third drive went 80 yards and culminated in Kaepernick's 20-yard scamper down the left side.

But the drive easily could have ended in turnovers on two separate plays. On the first play from their own 20, Kaepernick looked for Davis again deep down the right side on a ball that should have been intercepted by Jason McCourty.

Bernard Pollard intercepted Kaepernick six plays later on another throw to Davis, but Tennessee's fifth penalty kept the scoring drive alive when Akeem Ayers tackled Kaepernick low after the pass.

San Francisco received two pretty significant breaks with the score just 3-0. Had the Titans taken advantage of those poor throws, it could have drastically changed the face of the game in the first half that the 49ers dominated.

-Boldin's two highlight-reel catches on the drive don't need much explanation. His addition keeps yielding dividends. It's hard to see where the team would be offensively without him.

-Locker and the Titans' offense followed that sequence with a three-play drive that ended in Tramaine Brock's interception.

The third-year quarterback had no business throwing to Nate Washington on a stutter-and-go route which Brock read the entire way. It was his easiest interception of the three he's had this year (a new career high).

-San Francisco would start its drive from the 45 and had two 20-yard plays that led to Frank Gore's first rushing touchdown of the game.

Anquan Boldin blew up Alterraun Verner with a block on Kaepernick's 20-yard scramble. Vance McDonald showed outstanding concentration on his 20-yard reception down near the goal line after the pass was deflected. Tennessee challenged the call, but McDonald's big hands controlled the ball even when it hit the ground.

After Gore's one-yard score the next play and the Titans knowing San Francisco would get the ball back to open the second half, the home team's body language signified a potentially ugly outcome.

-On the 49ers' 12-play, 79-yard touchdown drive to open the second half, they ran the ball eight punishing times.

Kaepernick was a perfect 4-for-4 on the drive completing a pair of passes to both Davis and Boldin, all of which were great reads and throws.

Gore ran the ball three-straight times with goal to go, scoring on third down from the 1-yard line to make it 24-0 after taking 7:40 off the clock.

For the second week in a row, the 49ers conducted a devastating second-half scoring drive, which has become a staple since Harbaugh took over three seasons ago.

-From there, the game took an ugly turn for both teams. The 49ers punted on their next five drives, none of which lasted longer than five plays.

The Titans would muster a field goal and two fluky touchdowns in the fourth quarter while the 49ers' defense took its foot off the gas and started rotating in reserves.

-The first was Chris Johnson's 66-yard catch and run that came immediately after Eric Reid left the game with an ankle injury. Both Craig Dahl and C.J. Spillman (Donte Whitner excited the game earlier with a knee injury) had opportunities to make the play.

That play was an indication of how well the team's starting safety tandem has played all season. Both Whitner and Reid were seen moving normally following the game, indicating their injuries aren't believed to be serious. Reid would re-enter the game later in the fourth.

-The play that put the game away for good was Darius Reynaud's muffed punt recovered by Kassim Osgood in the end zone. Morris made another great play on special teams (we've lost count, but guessing it was his fourth) hitting Reynaud immediately while the ball caromed beyond the goal line allowing the veteran wideout to score.


-Quinton Dial played just seven snaps, but was able to get push on the Titans offensive line. He played both nose tackle and left end, which comes at somewhat of a surprise. Consider the depleted state of the defensive line, versatility could help Dial get on the field much more going forward.

-Despite not getting a sack, Corey Lemonier continues to rush the passer well. He registered a team-high six QB hurries according to Pro Football Focus. No other player had more than one, although Justin Smith had a pair of sacks.

-Tramaine Brock has a strangle hold on the third corner job for now, but that could change if he gives up big plays going forward. The 49ers are going to want to give Wright a chance at snaps and it would likely come at Brock's expense. Wright's pending addition doesn't bode well for Nnamdi Asomugha, who was a healthy inactive for the second-straight week.

-Although Rogers played very well against Arizona, it was the second-consecutive week he lost a match up with a younger, quicker receiver. Cardinals wideout Brittan Golden beat Rogers for a 53-yard gain last week and Kendall Wright gave the veteran all he could handle Sunday.

Tarell Brown spent some time working in the slot towards the end of training camp but hasn't played there much in games. That could change going forward to give the secondary more favorable matchups against quicker receivers.

-Ahmad Brooks, perhaps the least-discussed player on defense, had another solid performance with a sack, a QB hit and batted pass after missing most of the week while dealing with a personal issue in Virginia.

*Statistics from Pro Football Focus were used in this report*


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