Programming note: Watch Monday’s 49ers press conference with head coach Jim Harbaugh live at 12 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and streaming live online here
What you need to know: The 49ers’ offense was not exactly prolific Sunday night against the Houston Texans. But by employing a bend-but-allow-Matt-Schaub-to-break defense, the 49ers’ best offense came from the guys whose job it is to tackle and create turnovers.
The best that could be said for quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his co-workers in their 34-3 victory over the Texans is that they gladly accepted every gift handed to them and did not provide any generosity in return.
The 49ers scored 31 points off four turnovers and a missed field goal. And other than three consecutive three-and-outs bridging the second and third quarters, the offense did everything asked of it.
“I thought it was a good game plan,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “It was good. The precision was very good offensively.”
Said Kaepernick, “I think this team is getting its confidence back. Our defense has played amazing, our offensive line played well. We ran the ball well and we got a win.”
Kaepernick’s performance – and his stat sheet – certainly lacked pizzazz. He completed a career-low six passes in 15 attempts for 113 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
Four of his completions came on the 49ers’ first drive of the game, during which he completed three third-down passes and the 49ers eventually punched it into the end zone on Frank Gore’s 1-yard run for a 14-0 lead.
And more than half of his yards passing came when he and tight end Vernon Davis exploited a matchup against former Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed for a 64-yard scoring pass in the fourth quarter.
Gore finished with 81 yards rushing on 17 carries, as the 49ers gained 177 yards on the ground with a 4.9 average that included three Colt McCoy kneeldowns near the end of the game.
“It was efficient,” 49ers guard Alex Boone said. “G-Ro (offensive coordinator Greg Roman) did a good job of dialing it up.”
The 49ers’ stodgy offense was in stark contrast to what occurred on the other side of the ball. Texans quarterback Matt Schaub became the first player in NFL history to throw an interception returned for a touchdown in four consecutive games.
Third cornerback Tramaine Brock had another exceptional game in place of injured Nnamdi Asomugha. He jumped in front of wide receiver Andre Johnson on the third snap of the game to intercept Schaub. Brock returned it 18 yards for a touchdown to give the 49ers a touchdown advantage just 90 seconds into the game.
“He’s such a great worker,” Harbaugh said of Brock. “He’s such a great team guy. Was in perfect position. Played the coverage perfect, and then finished the play. Got another one for us. We got points off of all the turnovers, or in Tramaine’s case he scored a touchdown. That was huge, a great way to start the game.”
Brock recorded two interceptions on the night, both on passes intended for Johnson, one of the NFL's top wide receivers. In four career games as the 49ers’ third cornerback, Brock has four interceptions.
Schaub was intercepted three times. After 49ers defensive lineman Tony Jerod-Eddie dropped into coverage to intercept Schaub near the end of the fourth quarter, Texans coach Gary Kubiak benched Schaub for T.J. Yates.
Rallying point: The 49ers defense showcased its depth playing without All-Pro linebackers Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith for the second consecutive game.
Willis worked out before the game but the 49ers decided to give his iffy groin another week of rest. Smith remains on an indefinite voluntary leave of absence as he undergoes in-patient treatment for substance abuse.
Willis informed Michael Wilhoite less than an hour before kickoff that he would be starting. And Wilhoite responded with another strong game. He recorded 11 tackles, including three behind the line of scrimmage.
Once again, Dan Skuta and Corey Lemonier filled in for Smith and were solid.
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Defensive end Ray McDonald exited the game late in the third quarter with a right biceps injury. And his replacement, Jerod-Eddie, recorded his first career interception. McDonald is scheduled for an MRI examination to reveal the extent of his injury.
Safeties Donte Whitner and rookie Eric Reid had another strong performance in tandem. Whitner lived up to his proposed soon-to-be-surname as “Hitner” with a couple clean shots on hard tackles. He even stripped Texans running back Ben Tate of the ball (Donte Stripner?), which Tarell Brown returned 16 yards to set up a fourth-quarter field goal. Reid collected eight tackles.
Run first: Gore hobbled off the field near the end of the first half with a left ankle sprain. He returned in the second half to finish the job. Gore rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown on 17 rushing attempts.
“As a team, we want to do whatever it takes to win,” Gore said. “If it’s that type of game, smash-mouth football, we’re willing to do it. My O-line, they’re willing to do whatever. If we’re throwing the ball, running with Kap, we know we’ll get the W.
“I have to give it to the Texans. Their D-line is good. That was probably the best front we’ve went through all year so far. My O-line stood up and they got the job done.”
Texans lineman J.J. Watt, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, showed how disruptive he can be with three tackles for loss and three hits on Kaepernick. The Texans own the No. 1-ranked defense in the NFL.
“In the run game we were on it, we felt good there,” Boone said. “The pass protection has some things we have to clean up, simple mistakes. But they’re a great defense. They’re very gap-sound, they do what they’re supposed to do, so they did a good job.”
Lasting impact: The 49ers (3-2) gained a game on the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West standings for the first time since Week 12 of last season. The 49ers are now one game behind division-leading Seattle (4-1) after the Seahawks’ 34-28 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
“We can’t think about Seattle right now,” Gore said. “We have to think about ourselves and take it one day at a time, one week at a time, go out there and play hard, try to get a win. We can’t worry about Seattle.”
The last time during the regular season that saw a 49ers win coupled with a Seattle loss was Nov. 25, 2012 when the 49ers defeated the New Orleans Saints 31-21, and the Seahawks were 24-21 losers to the Miami Dolphins. The 49ers were leading Seattle by 2 1Ž2 games in the standings at that point and held them off by a half-game to win their second consecutive NFC West title.
[RELATED: Box Score: 49ers 34, Texans 3]
Play time: Wide receiver Jon Baldwin made his first start since coming over from the Kansas City Chiefs in the A.J. Jenkins trade. Baldwin saw two passes thrown his way but did not catch a pass. In fact, only three 49ers offensive players caught passes. Vernon Davis had three receptions for 88 yards, while Anquan Boldin had two catches for 21 yards, and fullback Bruce Miller had one reception for 4 yards.
Boldin played 29 snaps or 55 percent of the team’s offensive plays. Baldwin played 23 snaps. Kyle Williams played 24 snaps, and Marlon Moore was on the field for 10 plays.
Offensive linemen Joe Staley, Alex Boone, Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati played all 53 snaps. Kaepernick and center Jonathan Goodwin played 44 snaps apiece. The rest of the play time for the 49ers’ offense: Vernon Davis 43, Gore 34, Miller 32, Vance McDonald 26, Daniel Kilgore 15, Garrett Celek 12, Kendall Hunter 10, Colt McCoy nine, Adam Snyder seven, Anthony Dixon five, and LaMichael James four.
Here is the snap count for the defense: Eric Reid, Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers, Donte Whitner, NaVorro Bowman, 74 apiece; Ahmad Brooks 72, Wilhoite 66, Justin Smith 60, Ray McDonald 44, Skuta 42, Glenn Dorsey 40, Lemonier 35, Brock 35, Jerod-Eddie 29, Demarcus Dobbs 17, Perrish Cox 11, and C.J. Spillman, Nate Stupar, Craig Dahl and Darryl Moore one apiece.
Quote of the day: ”Well, I didn’t really know who it was. That fire was in me and I said, ‘I will not let this guy catch me. If I pull my hamstring again, fine. I’m going to do whatever it takes to get in this end zone to help this team win.' And that’s what I did."
--Vernon Davis on outrunning veteran Ed Reed to the end zone on a 64-yard pass in the fourth quarter
Looking Ahead: The 49ers, tied for second in the NFC West, will have an opportunity to break that tie in Week 6 against the Arizona Cardinals (3-2) on Sunday at Candlestick. Then the 49ers hit the road for a game at Tennessee (3-2) on Oct. 20. Following that game, the 49ers will fly to London, where they will practice for the entire week leading up to their Oct. 27 meeting against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium.