Upon Further Review: The “Little Things” Add Up To A Win

Oct 9, 2014 at 2:00 AM

The "showdown" between Colin Kaepernick and his predecessor, former 49er lightning rod Alex Smith, turned out to be more of a grind than a shootout. And that's exactly how the 49ers wanted it. The result may not have been as lopsided as many in 49erland would have hoped...but the little things came together in a way that they normally haven't this season. Colin Kaepernick effectively managed his way to a win. The defense succeeded in taming another daunting duo of running backs. And special teams became a part of the solution instead of remaining a part of the problem.

This week, we'll look back at those little things, last week's best players and take a look ahead to next week's Monday Night showdown with the Rams.

The "Little Things"
Winning football games is not just about offense, defense and special teams. There are a host of little things that go into making a team successful, and for the first time in the 2014 season, the overwhelming majority of those little things went right for the 49ers. Some of these things probably went undetected by the casual fan, but rest assured, they showed up on film.

First things first, Colin Kaepernick effectively managed the game...and that is a good thing. Instead of trying to throw through coverage, Kap took what was there, choosing to secure the ball, extend possessions and use the tools at his disposal instead of trying to win the game by himself. While his day through the air was far from prolific (14-26, 201 yards, 1TD), he avoided negative plays, took deep shots when he could (as opposed to when he had no choice), and kept the Chiefs defense honest. He wasn't perfect...but because he effectively managed the game, he didn't need to be. It may not be highlight reel material, but play like that wins football games.

Next, the 49er defense effectively contained Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis. These guys gashed the Patriots for 227 total yards and 14 points combined. Looking at this matchup prior to Sunday, logic seemed to dictate that the combination of Davis and Charles might be able to exploit 49er linebackers...especially in the passing game. Instead, the 49ers SOLD OUT to take the running backs out of the passing game, and despite some early hiccups, the strategy worked. By taking away the flat, the 49er defense shut down screens and swing passes...and given the Chiefs' lack of a credible deep threat, Alex Smith was forced out of his comfort zone...and away from his most effective weapons. Charles was far from the game breaker that he usually is, and Davis was a complete non-factor.

Finally, special teams was truly special. Phil Dawson was 5 for 5 with two of his kicks coming from beyond 50 yards. Kick and punt coverage did not surrender any back breaking scores. There were no blocked kicks. But most importantly, when called upon to make what many would call the play of the game, the punt team converted a 4th and 1 deep in its own territory...leading to the drive that would kill the clock, force the Chiefs to use all of their timeouts and eventually ice the game.

Was it perfect? No. Not even close. But did all of the little things that went right add up to more than the sum of their respective parts? Absolutely.

And The Game Ball Goes To...
There are a host of players that deserve recognition for their performance last week...but in my estimation, one rose head and shoulders above the rest. Frank Gore? Aaron Lynch? Perrish Cox? All played well...but not as well as Daniel Kilgore.

On paper, Dontari Poe should have gotten the better of Kilgore. Easily. On the field, not so much. For his efforts last week, Pro Football Focus rated him at +1.4. Frank Gore's two longest runs of the day (13 and 14 yards) were run off Center, and for the game, Gore averaged 6 yards per carry up the gut. All of that starts with Kilgore.

His matchup with Poe was one that most experts (myself included) expected him to lose. Poe is bigger (by about 35 pounds), stronger and faster. And yet for the entirety of the second half, Kilgore consistently blew him off the ball. By the time the 4th quarter rolled around, it looked like Poe would rather be somewhere (anywhere) else than lined up over the 49ers new starting Center. That might not make him the 49ers MVP, but it played a huge part in the 49ers success last week...and that gets him the game ball.

Two Minute Drill
* Chris Cook and Perrish Cox has been a pleasant surprise in the defensive backfield for the 49ers. When Tremaine Brock returns from his injury, he may have a difficult time regaining his starting spot.

* The 49er defense has weathered the absence of Aldon Smith and Navorro Bowman with ease. That is due in large part to the OUTSTANDING play of Aaron Lynch (+5.8 for the season). He has played far better than anyone could have expected to this point...and he's getting better with every game he plays.

Week 6 Picks
Indianapolis (-2.5) at Houston

I can't see any way for Houston to stand toe to toe with a more talented team for four quarters, JJ Watt or no JJ Watt. INDIANAPOLIS

Denver (-8) at NY Jets

Is there a mercy rule in the NFL? After watching this game, you'll wish there was. DENVER

Pittsburgh at Cleveland (-2)

Cleveland is actually favored to win a football game. In other news, hell has frozen over. PITTSBURGH

Jacksonville at Tennessee (-6)

Jacksonville is bad. Epically bad. So bad that I think the Titans might win this one by double digits.TENNESSEE

Chicago at Atlanta (-3)

Atlanta is banged up...but even a banged up Atlanta offense should be able to shred one of the worst defenses the Bears have ever fielded. ATLANTA

Green Bay (-3.5) at Miami

Aaron Rodgers is capable of winning this game in spite of his team's sieve-like defense. GREEN BAY

Detroit (-1.5) at Minnesota

If Bridgewater is playing at full strength and Megatron is still limited, this one could be closer than most expect. MINNESOTA

Carolina at Cincinnati (-7)

Returning home should help the Bengals remember how to play football. Especially against a depleted Panthers squad. CINCINNATI

New England (-3) at Buffalo

Falling off or not, the Patriots are better than the Bills. It may not be pretty, but Tommy Terrific and friends should pull this one out. NEW ENGLAND

Baltimore (-3) at Tampa Bay

The Ravens are horribly uneven...but the Bucs are just horrible. I don't expect this one to be as close as the oddsmakers do. BALTIMORE

San Diego (-7) at Oakland

The Chargers could spot the Raiders two scores and still cover. The Sparano era is going to get off to a rocky start. SAN DIEGO

Dallas at Seattle (-8)

Romo + road game in Seattle = loss. SEATTLE

Washington at Arizona (-3.5)

If the Cardinals keep losing QBs, they may have to talk Kurt Warner into a comeback. WASHINGTON

NY Giants at Philadelphia (-2.5)

Though the Giants have strung together a pair of solid games, the Chuck n' Duck project is more talented...and playing at home. PHILADELPHIA

San Francisco (-3.5) at St Louis

Given the early returns, this game should not be close. The Rams defense has underperformed this season, and their offense is comprised of Brian Quick...and that's about it. I don't expect a blowout, but if the 49ers stick to what works and force the Rams to defend the run and play on their heels, they should be able to dominate time of possession...and that should equal a workman-like, grind it out kind of win. SAN FRANCISCO
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Mike S
    Nice call on Kilgore. Let's hope this isn't a one time deal. This would add to Baalke's resume bigtime. Dawson is also absolutely in the conversation. In fact both should get game balls. So awesome to see 21 have a big game. Yep lotta little things coming together. Iupati back in form in the run game, Kap better clock & game management, Aaron LYNCH, Ian Williams, Cox, Bethea, of course PW52 & the Cowboy...the list goes on & on. Great TEAM W! GO NINERS!!
    Oct 9, 2014 at 9:41 AM
    Response: Here's hoping we have another team win on Monday night.
  • Shane
    AJ, hopefully all is well my friend. Like you said far from perfect but wins are wins right now and we are going to need everyone we can get. Cant let this MNF game get away from us with Den in two weeks...Here are the 2 biggest personnel decisions that I find baffling. I feel like Carrier is out playing McDonald and that even Kap has more trust in Carrier than McD. However, Vance gets the snaps because he is a 2nd round pick and Carrier is an UDFA. Then on the other side of the ball, Tank looked good all the preseason while getting a ton of time, and our pass rush sucks yet he is inactive while UDFAs like TJE and Dobbs get the snaps! its incredible. Interesting right? (I fear the answers are going to be: blocking and ST but come on, really?)
    Oct 9, 2014 at 8:58 AM
    Response: Blocking and special teams. You nailed it, amigo. I think Carrier has a VERY bright future, and that Carradine does, too. Just remember that this coaching staff has no problem letting draftees sit and develop (see my game ball recipient for the week, Daniel Kilgore).
  • Razoreater
    Looks as though the same game plan used against the Chiefs offensively, should again be utilized against the Rams....
    Oct 9, 2014 at 4:43 AM

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