By Jerrell Richardson
While the scoreboard might not have shown it, the 49ers dominated the visiting Eagles, earning the first 49er victory at Levi’s Stadium, 26-21. San Francisco desperately needed a win and although they started slow, with all things considered, played an impressive game. The 49ers still had their share of self-inflicted wounds, and it was these mistakes that kept this game close, but a win is a win. There are far more pros than cons after San Francisco’s most recent performance, and instead of a devastating loss, the 49ers appear to be headed in the right direction.
The offense starts with Colin Kaepernick who had another solid game. He did throw an early interception that was returned for a touchdown, but he bounced back to make play after play, despite being constantly under pressure. He finished his day 17 for 30 and had 2 touchdown throws in route to his 218 yards passing day. He had a few errant passes, but more than made up for them on his 3rd down touchdown throw to Stevie Johnson, as well several other precision throws that should help silence his haters for at least one week.
Both Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree caught 5 passes, but it was Frank Gore’s 55-yard touchdown catch in the first half that sparked the passing game. 7 different 49ers caught a pass Sunday showing that Kaepernick is getting more comfortable with the pieces around him, and that he is taking what he is given. While they may have only had a modest day throwing the ball, that was because the 49ers finally decided to run the ball.
Frank Gore has been missing from the 49ers offense the past two weeks, and was finally part of the game plan against the Eagles. Not only did he have the longest reception of the day, he racked up 114 yards on 22 carries. Carlos Hyde was held to just 26 yards on 10 touches, but just the volume of rushes was the balance the offense needed to sustain its rhythm for an entire game. Colin Kaepernick chipped in 59 rushing yards as well rounding out both is day and the 219 yards complied by the 49er team.
Don’t let the scoreboard fool you. The 49ers defense played outstanding. They didn’t allow a single point, held the Eagles to just 218 total yards and forced 4 turnovers. The Eagles had just one shot at a touchdown late in the game, and that was set up by a highlight reel catch by Jeremy Maclin.
Philly quarterback Nick Foles had a game he would like to soon forget. His 42.3 rating was saved by a 4th quarter driver that accounted for most of his day, and for the most part was held in check by a 49er defense lead by Antoine Bethea and Perrish Cox. It’s not often two members of a secondary lead this defense, but that’s exactly what happened in week 4.
Bethea lead the team with 7 tackles, while Cox continues to impress with 3 tackles a team high 4 passes defended. Patrick Willis, who used to need 20 tackles, needed just 3 as it seems as though just about every 49er defender had at least one tackle. As a unit they wanted to first stop LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles, and the defense did this and then some. The Philadelphia backs were held to 21 combined yards which in itself is remarkable.
You can look at all the numbers and stats, but the bottom line is that the Eagles offense was unable to score a single point. This is by far the best performance by the defense this season, and just when they needed it.
Special Teams: B-
Although Andy Lee and Phil Dawson had good days on the stat sheet, they are part of the special teams unit that as a whole, played a bad game, and had a big hand in this game being close throughout.
Andy Lee had 5 punts, for an average of 47-yards, but he had a punt blocked in the first quarter that was recovered for a touchdown, and watched Darren Sproles take back a 2nd quarter punt for a touchdown. Obviously it’s not on Lee to tackle Sproles, and the blocked punt was not all on him, but he is the Kaepernick of the punt team so he gets his name next to the blame, and there is no way around the fact that these 14 points had something to do this the final outcome of this game.
Phil Dawson seems to be fitting in with his new surroundings going 4-4 on field goals, hitting from 46 and 51 yards, showing that he has plenty of leg left. If not for the early blunders by the punt team the Specials Teams would have a much better grade.
Their Best So Far
The 49ers played their best game of the season which is only a good sign for a team looking to build momentum. There are still some things to be ironed out on offense, and the defense can’t be satisfied with this performance, but the way in which the 49ers dealt with an undefeated Eagles team was impressive. After two frustrating weeks, there can only be good feelings from 49er nation after the first win at Levi’s was a dominant one, although it might not have felt like it.
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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.