By Jerrell Richardson
With the rest of the NFC breathing down their necks, and two tough road games up next, it was important for the 49ers to hold serve against the Miami Dolphins. The underdog Dolphins put up a fight and were within striking distance for most of the game, but were unable to do anything offensively and in reality never threatened San Francisco, who won 27-13. It was the same story for the 49ers, who wore down their opponent on both sides of the ball and turned to Frank Gore in the second half to put this one out of reach.
Colin Kaepernick appears to be only gaining momentum as he gets more experience. His passing stats do not jump out at you, but he played a very efficient game. He was also the victim of a Randy Moss drop on deep pass that should have been a touchdown, making it the second straight week a receiver has dropped a touchdown pass from him. He was sacked four times, but it was more due to coverage down the field and not him being indecisive as to where he wants to go with the ball. With this team, it’s better to take the loss as opposed to forcing the ball into coverage. His finished the day with a quarterback rating just above 100 by completing 18 of his 23 passes with no interceptions. He saved the best for last, scampering for a 50-yard touchdown in the 4th quarter to put the nail in the Dolphin coffin.
Frank Gore added to his fantastic season with another solid performance. He had several spectacular runs, made a great run after the catch on a screen pass and was the again the catalyst to the offense. His touchdown run in the 3rd quarter, his 50th rushing touchdown as a 49er, tied him with 49er legends Joe Perry and Roger Craig, and Gore cracked the 1,000 yard mark on the season after a modest 63-yard performance. With the game plan calling for more passing plays in the first half, Gore only touched the ball a total of 12 times, but with the game close in the second half, that was when the majority of his carries came, and it was the running game that sealed the win. Grade: B
Although they allowed 13 points, the defense was again the major reason the 49ers won. Miami running back Reggie Bush was able to outrush Gore, but without having any impact on the game. With no consistent rushing threat, Ryan Tannehill played as well as can be expected. He kept his team in reach and avoided the big turnover, which he seemed destined to throw. However, his 150 passing yards is far from impressive and his lone touchdown throw was on a 4th-down prayer that required a sensational catch by Anthony Fasano.
The defense settled down on Miami’s first scoring drive, forcing a short field goal, and the only other points allowed outside of the 4th-down prayer was a 53-yard field goal, showing that the Dolphins were never really in scoring range after their initial scoring drive. Aldon Smith continued his record breaking season with two more sacks, bringing his season total to 19.5. He is going to make a serious run at Michael Strahan’s single season record of 22.5. Grade: A
After a very disappointing performance in last week’s defeat, the specials teams bounced back in a big way. It was a turnover in the punt game that turned the entire momentum of the game and allowed San Francisco to play with a lead, which is where they are the most comfortable and almost unbeatable. Kicker David Akers was perfect on the day, which helped settle the rising concern for the former Pro Bowler, and for the first time this season it was punter Andy Lee that failed his team in the clutch. With Miami trailing by 7 late in the 4th, Lee failed to deliver one of his booming punts and gave the Dolphins great field position and a chance to tie the game. Thankfully, the defense was able to hold and avoid any late game drama. Grade: A-
After being out-coached last week, Jim Harbaugh won the sideline battle this week. He did not coach a perfect game, but was a one step ahead of Miami all day. He set them up for the game-icing touchdown run by Kaepernick, giving the Dolphins multiple looks at the same formation with the same result, and when the team needed a big play it caught Miami napping with the fake. Harbaugh injected LaMichael James into the lineup, who looked good in limited action and seemed to energize the ground game. Harbaugh even called a flea flicker, showing that last week,s errant toss would not scare him off calling gadget plays in a tight contest. The only real questionable decision was Harbaugh’s insistence on passing so much in the first half, keeping the score closer then it needed to be. Grade: B+
A Win Is A Win
It was not pretty, nor dominant, but it was a win, and the game was not as close as the scoreboard indicated. The game gives Kaepernick more confidence and the team is back in the win column. There was room for improvement on both sides of the ball, but in the end it was another team effort that allowed the 49ers to beat a very talented Dolphins team. San Francisco got a quick look at rookie LaMichael James who looks like he can help the running game’s recent loss of Kendall Hunter, and Kaepernick continues to makes Harbaugh’s decision to go with the inexperienced quarterback look like the right call.
Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.