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49ers Run Past Dolphins, 27-13

Posted Dec 9, 2012

Colin Kaepernick’s 50-yard touchdown run might have sealed the deal, but the collective running efforts of the San Francisco 49ers paid the biggest dividends Sunday at Candlestick Park.

With rookie second-round pick LaMichael James active for the first time of the season, the 49ers offense featured multiple looks that all contributed in a 27-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins.

Not only did the 49ers (9-3-1) ensure they would not suffer back-to-back losses for the first time under Jim Harbaugh, but the club kept its No. 2 playoff seed hopes intact with a solid win, San Francisco’s 10th straight December victory at home.

Kaepernick’s touchdown might have been the biggest splash play of the game, but James’ contributions to the Frank Gore-led rushing attack made for an impressive gameplan and performance over an upset-minded Dolphins club (5-8).

Fourteen weeks of patience paid off for the former Oregon star runner.

“It’s been a long time,” James said, “but great things come when you’re being patient. I’m just happy that I have the opportunity to go out there and compete and help the team win today.”

“I thought he was fantastic,” Harbaugh said of James’ NFL debut, one that included 30 rushing yards, 15 receiving yards and 79 yards on kickoff returns. “He did a great job of running the football. Great debut, I thought he acclimated himself well.”

The same could be said for Gore, who ran hard throughout the game, whether in traditional formations or Greg Roman’s zone-read plays, which even come out of the “Pistol” formation, a shotgun spread attack ran by the 49ers quarterback in college.

Gore was also on the field for Kaepernick’s game-deciding touchdown run. The versatile runner carried out the zone fake and saw most of the Dolphins defense go his way instead of sticking with the second-year quarterback.

“Everybody came to me and Mr. Everything (Kaepernick) did his thing,” said Gore, who rushed for 63 yards on 12 carries, including a 1-yard touchdown.

Gore meant a lot to the 49ers win, too.

The franchise’s all-time leader in rushing yards and carries tied Hall of Fame running back Joe Perry and Roger Craig for the franchise’s all-time rushing touchdown record with 50 scores.

Gore might’ve had a chance for sole possession of the record, but after carrying the ball down to the 1-yard line late in the game, Anthony Dixon came in on the next play to score behind left guard.

The 49ers running backs made plays throughout the game and so did the defense. The unit held Miami to a late touchdown pass to tight end Anthony Fasano, two Dan Carpenter field goals and 227 total yards.

San Francisco’s offense was productive when it had to be, but more importantly, it was efficient. Kaepernick completed 18 of 23 passes for 185 yards and a quarterback rating of 100.2. As a whole, the offense picked up 321 yards and 20 first downs.

On defense, Aldon Smith was his relentless self in his own right. The outside linebacker recorded two sacks on the day, which now puts him atop the league and 49ers single-season sack standings with 19.5 on the year.
The game’s biggest break wasn’t a result of hard interior running by the 49ers or disruptive defense, it actually game from the third phase of the game, special teams.

With San Francisco failing to convert its first five third downs, the offense was given new life thanks to a muffed punt.

In the third quarter, Dolphins running back Marcus Thigpen muffed a high Andy Lee punt which was quickly recovered at the 9-yard line by NFC Pro Bowl vote-leader C.J. Spillman.

“It’s something we practice every single day,” Spillman explained of the game’s first turnover. “It’s just me going out and executing what we do in practice.”

Two plays later Gore plunged in from 1-yard out.

“Frank had a phenomenal game,” Harbaugh went on to say in his postgame address. “Some great running throughout the game.”

Gore and the 49ers continued to pound Miami in the second half. With a 13-6 lead, San Francisco produced several big plays from Michael Crabtree, James and Gore, who all contributed to the lengthy march.

Crabtree finished the day with a game-high nine receptions for 93 yards. Meanwhile, Gore passed the 1,000-yard mark for the sixth time of his eight-year career on the possession.

Gore, 29, was well aware of the personal significance of the achievement.

“It’s a blessing,” he said. “Everyone says you slow down when you turn 29, 30. They say, ‘You can’t do it anymore.’ I always told myself I’d overcome it.”

Gore’s long runs set up Dixon’s 1-yard touchdown which gave San Francisco a two-touchdown advantage (20-6) to start the fourth quarter. The drive also took 7:26 off the clock.

Miami, however, didn’t back down from the scoring drive to start the fourth quarter. Instead, it went out and marched down the field, entering the red zone for the second time of the game and 25th time by a 49ers opponent this season.

Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill eventually got the Dolphins in the end zone on a 4th-and-goal touchdown pass to Fasano from 3 yards out.

Tannehill finished the day completing 17 of 33 passes for 150 yards with the score and a quarterback rating of 74.1. San Francisco limited Miami’s offense to 94 rushing yards on 22 carries.

“We gave up some yards, some drives,” Harbaugh said, “but this is a good Miami offense. We got the stops when we needed it.”

The 49ers also got big responses when they needed it.
Kaepernick had the ball with a 7-point lead in the fourth quarter and called his own number on the zone-read play on a 3rd-and-5 from 50 yards out.

San Francisco finished the game converting 2-of-10 of its third downs against a stout Dolphins defense.

“These games are really hard,” Harbaugh said. “Miami’s a heck of a team, we knew that coming in… I thought the offense played winning football.”

Kaepernick’s dash sealed the win and spoke volumes about the young quarterback bouncing back from last week’s overtime loss in St. Louis.

Following a Miami turnover on downs, Kaepernick calmly knelt three times for a 49ers win.

The running game’s success was hopefully the start of bigger and better performances in Gore’s mind. With December football turning to more rugged contests with inclement weather and playoff scenarios unfolding on a weekly basis, Gore’s role remains important. The same goes for James and other valued weapons.

“We want to stay hot in December and try to make this run,” Gore said.

Donte Whitner knows it’ll take the team’s best football in the remaining three games to be in contention for a No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.

“We’re getting everyone’s best effort on Sundays,” the 49ers safety said before discussing next week’s game in New England. “We’re going to see where we’re at as a defense.”

For now, the 49ers know they’re evolving into a playoff contender. How it all shakes out, is something to watch coming down the stretch.

“We’re going to get to the playoffs,” linebacker Patrick Willis said. “Once we get there, anything goes. That’s our mindset. We just want to get in, that’s our focus.”

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