First Posted: 10/21/2013
(AP) As the San Francisco 49ers prepare to travel to London, at least they made sure they’re going in winning style.
Colin Kaepernick ran for a touchdown, Frank Gore added two TDs himself and the 49ers kicked off their longest road trip this season by routing the Tennessee Titans 31-17 on Sunday.
“The most important thing is we got the win and now we have the long trip to London and we have to get back to work and get ready for the Jaguars,” 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis said.
The 49ers (5-2) will play the winless Jaguars having won four straight and coming off a dominating performance where they held the ball more than 35 minutes. Justin Smith had two of three sacks, Tramaine Brock got another turnover for the defense with an interception and Kassim Osgood recovered a muffed point for a touchdown.
“We were treating it like it’s the biggest game of the season,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “This was game 7 for us, and we treated it like Game 7 of the World Series, Game 7 of the Stanley Cup.”
Tennessee (3-4) now has lost three straight, and not even Jake Locker returning after missing only two games with a sprained right knee and hip could help the Titans get the offense on track.
Here are five things we learned in San Francisco’s victory over Tennessee:
EFFICIENT KAEPERNICK: All the talk of Kaepernick starting slow can be put away for now. The quarterback was 7 of 9 for 101 yards and ran five times for 50 yards in helping the 49ers jump out to a 17-0 halftime lead. He finished with a 93.2 passer rating after throwing for 199 yards and finished with 68 yards rushing on 11 carries. Kaepernick improved to 12-5 since becoming a starter.
“He continues to get better every game since he’s been playing,” Harbaugh said. “He got a game ball last week and I thought he was very effective today both running and throwing. I can’t say enough good things about him.”
JAKE’S BACK: Locker wasn’t expected to return before a Nov. 3 game at St. Louis at the earliest after being taken from this stadium Sept. 29 to a hospital. But Locker started and threw for 326 yards with two TDs in the fourth quarter. He was intercepted for the first time this season, but he showed off his toughness scrambling three times for 29 yards, including a 16-yarder where he dove forward for extra yards.
Titans coach Mike Munchak said Locker was ready.
“There was no reason for him not to play,” Munchak said.
SAN FRANCISCO D: The 49ers came in ninth in the NFL allowing 19.7 points a game, and they kept the Titans off the scoreboard until Rob Bironas kicked a 31-yard field goal with 12:23 left. Their No. 9 ranking in total defense may take a bit of a hit because the Titans outgained San Francisco 368-349 in total offense with 162 coming in the fourth quarter. That included a 66-yard TD catch and run by Chris Johnson, who now has 11 TDs of 66 yards or longer in his career.
SPECIAL TEAM WOES: The Titans have cost themselves 16 points off special teams’ mistakes this season, and this time returner Darius Reynaud couldn’t get to the 15 twice on kickoffs. He also muffed a punt when teammate Tommie Campbell blocked Darryl Morris of the 49ers into him in the fourth quarter after the Titans pulled to 24-10, and Kassim Osgood recovered in the end zone for a TD. Reynaud scored two TDs on punt returns and a third on kickoffs last season, but he also cost the Titans a safety earlier this season.
“I can’t put my team in that situation by making bonehead mistakes like that,” Reynaud said. “I have to have better judgment with the ball.”
Asked whether Reynaud might have played his way off the roster, Munchak said only that kind of mistake can’t happen and the Titans will be looking at what changes are necessary.
PHYSICAL NINERS: Neither Harbaugh nor Kaepernick showed any signs of backing off when this game turned physical with plenty of pushing and shoving and penalties in the fourth quarter. Titans safety Bernard Pollard tried to scoop it up in case an incomplete pass was a fumble, and Kaepernick dove in there too after the ball. That led to a scrum in front of the 49ers’ sideline, and Harbaugh got his left arm caught as he tried to break it up. The coach said he didn’t get his arm stuck.
“They were pretty tight,” Harbaugh said. “I was just having trouble getting it in there.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org