By Jerrell Richardson
49er and Texans fans were both cursing Matt Schaub after his late interception cost Houston a win last week over San Francisco’s dreaded rival Seattle Seahawks. Good news for 49er fans is that Schaub brought his one man turnover show to Candlestick and did not disappoint. He set a NFL record, by throwing a pick six in his fourth straight game, and while his teammates did nothing to help him, he did nothing to regain any fans he lost a week ago after another dreadful performance.
With the San Francisco defense playing perhaps its best game of the season, along with another solid performance from the running game, the 49ers not only won their second straight game, they won their second straight game in convincing fashion, routing the Houston Texans 34-3.
Offense Grade: A
The offense did not pile up record-breaking numbers, but what they did was effectively execute their game plan. The defense set the tone early, and with the lead, it never fell on the offense to do anything other than run the ball, bleed the clock, and wear down their opponent; which is exactly what they did. Frank Gore was the main workhouse, but it was a running game by committee approach, (that until last week was not available), that Houston could not contain. Gore had 17 touches for 81 yards and a touchdown, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James touched the ball 10 times between them, both averaging over five yards per carry. Anthony Dixon came in on the goal line, scored a touchdown, and as a team, San Francisco racked up 177 rushing yards.
With the running game as effective as it was, Colin Kaepernick only was asked to hand the ball of to his backs, and make one big throw. He finished his night six for 15 with 113 yards and a touchdown, not the greatest completion percentage, but still put the final nail in the Texans coffin, with a 64-yard pass to Vernon Davis in the fourth quarter.
The offense had a lead before they even took the field, and did what was asked of them. They stuck with the run, and were able to wear down the Texans, all while avoiding any costly mistakes to help their opponent. The defense gets credit for seven of the points, but the offense not only scored 27 points, but they did it against the top ranked defense in the league.
Defense Grade: A+
The defense played so well, that they didn’t even need the offense. They outscored the Texans team 7-3, and literally could have won this game without their offense. San Francisco was without several defensive players, and with all things considered played its most impressive game of the season. Arian Foster came two yards shy of 100, and as a team, the Texans rushed for 131 yards, but they could not consistently move the chains with their ground attack. With the fate of the Texans on the arm of Matt Schaub, the outcome was not a surprise.
Before being pulled in the fourth quarter, Schaub dropped back 35 times, and completed 19 passes for 173 yards. However, it was his three interceptions that cost his team points, field position and ultimately the win. Despite Schaub’s history of interceptions, Tramaine Brock made a smart read on the first interception, and Schaub’s last one was due to a well concealed drop in coverage by the nose tackle. San Francisco also caused and recovered a late fumble, and can easily say that they forced three of the four turnovers coughed up by the Texans, and were not just the recipient of sloppy play by their opponent. Tramaine Brock’s second interception was all Matt Schaub though.
The defense employed the bend but don’t break mentality. As they have been all year, they played better against the pass than the run, but with Patrick Willis out, and Ray McDonald going out, the defense has to be commended for their effort against the run, and holding an explosive offense to three points.
Special Teams Grade: A
The 49ers coverage units are as good as any in the NFL. Combined with the foot of Andy Lee, the 49ers were again able to win the field position battle due to their special teams. Lee averaged 48.8 yards per punt, and there were no returns over 10 yards. Andy Dawson was perfect, hitting all his extra points and nailing his two field goal attempts. The special teams continues to play special.
Things Looking Up After Slow Start
San Francisco has had a tough schedule to start this season, and can almost take a big breath. They are now 3-2 and find themselves one game out of first place. San Francisco seems to have rediscovered not only their running game, but their identity as a smash mouth football team. The Houston Texans are a legitimate AFC team, and San Francisco’s confidence will take a huge boost after beating them in every aspect of the game. They have a tough division game as they will face the Cardinals next week, but things are finally starting to look up, as they have to like how the rest of their schedule is shaping up, and find themselves only one game out of first, with a lot of football left.
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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.