SANTA CLARA, Calif. - When the 49ers signed Brandon Lloyd, a 33-year-old receiver that had been out of football for a year, it seemed like the team was grasping for straws after being unable to establish a deep threat outside the numbers.
But after making pivotal plays in each of the last two weeks, it appears Lloyd's new-old team was on to something.
"We always felt like he had a dimension to his game that was special," offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. "You just don’t know for sure so you got to get out on the practice field and see how it goes. It was very similar with Randy Moss. You weren’t quite sure. You just got to see it."
Lloyd's 80-yard touchdown at the end of the first half in Monday's 31-17 win over the Rams was one of the biggest plays in the game. And the week prior, his leaping 29-yard grab on third down helped San Francisco kick the go-ahead field goal against Kansas City in the fourth quarter.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh said bringing Lloyd back to the 49ers after he was traded to Washington in 2006 was initially Roman's idea. Lloyd went on to play with the Bears, Broncos, Rams and Patriots before getting the call from San Francisco to return in April. He was happy to come back to the team that drafted him in the fourth round in 2003 after a rocky first go around.
Roman presented Harbaugh with a highlight reel of some of Lloyd's best plays throughout his career, 80 or 90 in total. They were examples of what the 49ers were missing from their passing game.
"What showed up continuously was how good he was outside the numbers, contorting his body, making plays wherever he had played," Harbaugh said. "He’s special with the way he can keep his feet in bounds or...contort his body. I’ve seen some really good ones."
The 49ers went on to add Stevie Johnson in a draft day trade with Buffalo, who has also made his mark with his new team in the early going. Johnson has been targeted 25 times while Lloyd has gotten 15 in a platoon role behind Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree.
Colin Kaepernick, who threw for a season-high 343 yards Monday night, has a 132.7 passer rating when targeting Johnson. And he's averaging 27-yards per completion with Lloyd, thanks in large part to that 80-yarder.
And that doesn't bother Boldin, the team's leading receiver, given the inherent difficulty in keeping four former 1,000-yard wideouts happy.
"All of us are in it for the same reason, that’s to win," Boldin said. "That’s the way we think about it. We feel like we have four No. 1s when we’re out there, but at the same time we’re all willing to sacrifice to get a win."
Last season, Kaepernick threw touchdowns to just three different players, with Boldin and Davis accounting for 20 of his 21 TD passes. Crabtee had one late in the year against Tampa Bay.
Through six games this year, Kaepernick has already found six different targets for scores after Boldin and Lloyd each caught their first in St. Louis. Kaepernick is on pace to throw a career-high 27 touchdowns passes.
*Statistics from Pro Football Focus were used in this report*
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