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Jake Locker never did have much success against Jim Harbaugh.
The former Washington Huskies' quarterback was 1-3 in college against Harbaugh's Stanford Cardinal and only had one touchdown pass to five interceptions. While his final line looked good in Week 7 (326 yards passing and two touchdowns), most of those numbers came with the game well out of reach. The 49ers defense shut out the Titans through three quarters and the offense once again imposed their will as the 49ers mostly cruised to a 31-17 win. It's the fourth win in a row for a streaking 49ers team that, despite injuries, is clicking on all cylinders right now. Here is what 49ers' fans are talking about after Week 7:
The 49ers have kept Colin Kaepernick in the pocket for most of the season. Other than an 87 yard effort in Week 2 at Seattle (that was mostly due to him having to run for his life), Kaepernick had not eclipsed 22 yards rushing in any game this season. He was unleashed in a big way in Week 7 as the 49ers mixed in more of the read-option that was so successful in 2012. Kaepernick ran 11 times for 68 yards and scored his first rushing touchdown of the season on a 20 yard read-option run that was made possible with key blocks by Bruce Miller and Frank Gore.
The last thing anyone expected when the news broke that Aldon Smith would be away from the team indefinitely was that the defense would actually come together as a unit in his absence. San Francisco has only given up 51 points during it's four game winning streak (all without Smith) and have forced 11 turnovers in the span. The 49ers have made the most of those takeaways, scoring seven touchdowns and four field goals.
Even with the success, the 49ers are a better team with Smith on the field. Jim Harbaugh said that there is a possibility the outside linebacker could be back in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully he has put his demons behind him and can help the 49ers down the stretch run.
In the four games since taking over for Nnamdi Asomugha as the team's nickel corner, Tramaine Brock has three interceptions and six passes defensed. His pick of Jake Locker in the second quarter helped set up the team's second touchdown and gave the 49ers a commanding 17-0 lead. While Asomugha looked like a player past his prime, Brock appears to be coming into his own. With cornerback a big question mark after 2013, Brock could be a player worth extending and keeping in the fold.
Willis rounding into form
It's been a frustrating year so far for Patrick Willis. The All Pro linebacker, who broke his hand during training camp and sat out the preseason, missed Weeks 4 and 5 with a hamstring injury. With being on and off the field so much, it may have been difficult for him to get into a rhythm. Willis finally looked like he was rounding into Pro Bowl form in Week 7, making nine tackles including one for a loss. The performance drew praise from Jim Harbaugh who said Willis was back to playing "like himself today."
The walking wounded
It didn't take long for the Titans to capitalize on both starting safeties being off the field for the 49ers as Chris Johnson raced 66 yards for a touchdown that made the game look closer than it was. The touchdown occurred the play after safety Eric Reid was injured. Reid and Donte Whitner were both banged up and had to leave the game, which only added to the 49ers' list of walking wounded. Glenn Dorsey (hamstring) and Ray McDonald (biceps) played admirably as they battled through their injuries but are far from 100 percent. While Reid and Whitner should be okay, the bye week can't come soon enough as the 49ers need the rest to get some of their beat up players healthy again. It's amazing what the team has accomplished playing as hurt as they have been. This will be a scary squad if and when they are whole again
Gore's the glue
It's no secret that Frank Gore sets the tone for everything the Niners do on offense. Even though it may not have shown in the stats (24 carries for 70 yards), Gore's presence and the fact that the offense was committed to handing him the football opened up plays for other people. Specifically, it helped Kaepernick find room on some of his running plays and allowed some big gains in the passing game down field. Overall, the 49ers ran 41 times for 153 yards and had three rushing touchdowns (two of them from Gore). It's just another example of San Francisco's renewed commitment to the running game and the importance of the guy who makes it all work, Frank Gore.
What next? The next nine
The 49ers will travel to London in Week 8 to face the 0-7 Jacksonville Jaguars before their much needed bye. Beyond that, the schedule sets up favorably for San Francisco to continue their winning ways. They will only face two teams with a winning record (the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints) over the final nine games of the season. If healthy, a 12 or 13 win season is not out of the question with the biggest game coming in Week 14 when they host the Seahawks. That game could have a lot to say in terms of who wins the division and gets a first round bye.