By Jerrell Richardson
The return of Alex Smith lived up to all the hype. The former 49ers quarterback played a solid game, and his Kansas City Chief teammates did the same, but in the end it was the 49ers who were just a little better this week. The game went back and forth for most of the afternoon, but the difference was the playmaking ability of the 49ers and ball control. With the game close in the 4th, the 49ers defense and running game took over, giving the 49ers 22-17 victory, a winning streak, and a winning record in 2014.READ MORE: Fliers With Anti-Semitic Message Found Taped To Carmichael Synagogue’s Menorah
While they didn’t score a ton of points, the 49ers offense was effective. The most impressive stat of the day was the ball control. San Francisco held the ball for over 36 minutes and ran 70 plays Sunday, giving their opponent very little room for error. Ball control doesn’t equate to points, so while 22 points doesn’t wow you, the way San Francisco’s game plan wore down the Chiefs defense and kept Alex Smith on the sideline should.
Colin Kaepernick was good enough. He completed 14 of 26 attempts for 201 yards and a touchdown. Although they played better, the 49ers offensive line must step up its play as Kaepernick was under duress for most of the afternoon and was lucky to only be sacked three times. Despite the constant pressure, the 49ers quarterback did an excellent job protecting the ball and after getting away with an early throw, finished the game without a single turnover.
Kaepernick’s 201 yards was spread amongst 8 receivers giving the Kansas City defense the inability to figure out where the ball was going. Brandon Lloyd was the standout with an acrobatic catch to add to his 76-yard performance, but he was not the only receiver with a good day. Anquan Boldin had 72 yards on 4 receptions and Stevie Johnson had a touchdown reception for the second straight week.
The passing game was set up by the running game though. The 49ers went to the run early and often never let up. Frank Gore had 107 yards on 18 touches and Carlos Hyde had his first productive game, with 43 yards on 10 carries. Kaepernick only chipped in 18 yards, but his legs were not needed in this one. As a team the 49ers rushed 40 times which is the type of smash mouth football that fans have been waiting to see.
It can’t be a surprise that the 49ers defense played another solid game. It started shaky with an opening touchdown drive by the Chiefs, but after that the defense settled in allowing just one more touchdown the rest of the way. Alex Smith was his usual, game-managing self. He threw for 175 yards, completing 17 of 31 attempts and 2 touchdowns. Smith’s biggest mistake was a late interception that sealed the game and was on a drive in which he had a chance to pull out a win for his team.READ MORE: Fourth Stimulus Check: Will You See Another Relief Payment?
Jamal Charles’ speed was on display Sunday, and the Chiefs star running back was able to rush for 80 yards, but for the most part was held in check by the 49ers run defense. Patrick Willis led the 49ers with eight total tackles, and as has been the case all year. Michael Wilhoite was also solid with five. While the team failed to register a single sack, they were able to pressure Smith at times, but this is still an area the team must address.
With no pass rush it just puts more pressure on the San Francisco secondary, which continues to hold up. Kansas City is not the type of team to air it out, so the secondary could sit on the shorter routes and thus Perrish Cox and crew were not under pressure often this week. The Chiefs biggest threat on the outside is Dwayne Bowe who was held to just 3 catches for 43 yards. Cox continues to make a push to be a starter with two passes defended and the game ending interception.
Special Teams: A+
The only blemish on the special teams was a 28-yard return by DeAnthony Thomas. He was eventually corralled though, and otherwise the play of the 49ers specials teams was outstanding. Phil Dawson seems to be getting accustomed to Levi’s Stadium just fine. He was arguably the MVP, connecting on all five of his attempts, hitting twice from over 50-yards and accounting for all the teams’ second half points.
Bruce Ellington also had a good game with 108 kick return yards on four tries. Andy Lee was asked to punt just twice and averaged an impressive 53.5 yards. The team also converted a fake punt that helped swing the momentum back to their side. With all these things considered, there is no question that the special team played a heavy hand in this close and much needed win.
A Win Is A Win
There are plenty of areas the 49ers can improve in, but the bottom line is that they just beat a solid NFL team who didn’t play badly. To know that they can beat a quality team and not be clicking on all cylinders is certinaly not a bad thing for the 49ers. The even better news is that the areas they want to fix should be addressed once they get some offensive and defensive weapons back shortly. Both sides of the ball continue to improve and all signs point to a team gearing up for a playoff push. The 49ers have a division road test next, but if they can continue this type of play will extend their winning streak and help silence the critics who say that the team is not happy with their coach.
For more 49ers news and updates, visit 49ers Central.MORE NEWS: Caldor Fire Now 100% Contained; Large Trees May Smolder Well Into Winter
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. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.