NASHVILLE – When the 49ers offense stays on the field after third down -- and the team's defense leaves it in the same situation -- things go pretty well.
An efficient offense and a stifling defense pushed the the 49ers past the Tennessee Titans, 31-17, on Sunday, in the opponents' first meeting since 2009. The packed, red-and-blue-speckled crowd at LP Field was quieted early as San Francisco jumped out to a 24-0 lead.
The 49ers (5-2) has now won four straight games since Jan. 2012, when it won a 2011 NFC Divisional playoff game over the Saints. The Titans (3-4) have dropped three straight.
Not even the return of their quarterback Jake Locker, healthy enough to play for the first time in three games, helped build any sort of momentum against the 49ers defense. The Titans didn’t reach the red zone until the fourth quarter, when Locker threw both of his two touchdown passes and 159 of his 326 passing yards.
The defense's success on third downs in the first three quarters gave the team the breathing room it required.
On 3rd-and-5 during the 49ers ensuing possession, Kaepernick found wideout
And a big play on third down set it up again.
On 3rd-and-11, Kaepernick ran 20 yards deep into Tennessee territory thanks, in part, to a Boldin-thrown block. Then a 20-yard pass to
Gore’s 66th career touchdown tied him with former 49ers running back Roger Craig for third in team history. His 67th came on the first drive of the third quarter and resulted in the 49ers 24-0 lead, when the hometown fans, almost in unison, took their seats.
During the game-clinching drive, Kaepernick converted a pair of third-down opportunities by finding tight end
Davis (four catches, 62 yards) and Boldin (five, 74) were Kaepernick’s favorite targets on the afternoon. The quarterback also rushed for 68 yards on 11 carries -- his most since racking up 87 yards on the ground in Week 2.
The Titans scored 10 consecutive points in the fourth quarter, but the 49ers third unit -- special teams -- provided an answer with six-plus minutes remaining. Rookie reserve cornerback
It was the first such score by a 49ers special teamer since linebacker Scott McKillop's on Oct. 4, 2009 against the St. Louis Rams.
The 49ers go straight from Nashville to London, where they will meet the Jacksonville Jaguars for an international Week 8 matchup. The Jags (0-7) fell to the San Diego Chargers, 24-6 on Sunday.