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NaVorro Bowman Big Again with Willis Out

Posted Oct 6, 2013

Bowman led all tacklers with 13 stops in a one-way game that saw the 49ers record Matt Schaub’s fourth consecutive game with a pick-six.

No Patrick Willis. No Aldon Smith.

The San Francisco 49ers played a second consecutive game without two of its All-Pro standouts from 2012 and it didn’t seem to affect the team.

The 49ers came up with four takeaways and nearly enjoyed a shutout against the Houston Texans.

PHOTO GALLERY: 49ERS VS. TEXANS

In the end, a Willis-less defense helped produce a 34-3 victory on “Sunday Night Football.”

The defense wasn’t looking to make excuses without key members of the uit. No, they chose to rise to the occasion instead.

“We’re still overcoming a lot of adversity,” NaVorro Bowman, another of San Francisco’s All-Pro defenders, said after the 49ers improved to 3-2 on the season.

Bowman led all tacklers with 13 stops in a one-way game that saw the 49ers record Matt Schaub’s fourth consecutive game with a pick-six. Fourth-year cornerback Tramaine Brock intercepted Schaub on Houston’s first offensive drive and returned the ball 18 yards to put the 49ers on the scoreboard.

Brock finished the game with two interceptions and was later joined by second-year defensive tackle Tony Jerod-Eddie in the interception column. Safety Donte Whitner also forced a fumble which was recovered by cornerback Tarell Brown.

All four takeaways led to points.

“That’s why the coaches harp on turnovers,” Bowman said. “It can energize the team.”

Jim Harbaugh felt the same way.

“It was great to get them and they came in bunches today,” the 49ers coach said.

“I thought first of all, great plan defensively by (defensive coordinator) Vic Fangio and staff,” Harbaugh added. “Executed very well by our defense.”

Harbaugh called out the play of inside linebackers Bowman and Michael Wilhoite, who filled in for Willis for a second-straight game. Willis was scratched out of the lineup and made inactive right before the game. Willis practiced on a limited basis this week to test his groin injury, but ultimately the team decided it was best to rest him another week.

No matter, Wilhoite continued to fill in nicely for the six-time Pro Bowler.

“We have confidence in Mike,” Harbaugh said of the young linebacker who finished with 11 tackles.

When it came time to decide if Willis would return to the starting lineup, the 49ers coach didn’t want to risk losing Willis for a longer period of time.

“Didn’t want to do anything stupid,” Harbaugh said.

San Francisco’s linebackers didn’t record any turnovers, but they didn’t get fooled by Houston’s respected play-action passing game. The 49ers didn’t allow the Texans to get into the end zone either.

Houston rushed 30 times for 131 yards, but could not spring a big run against San Francisco’s rush defense. The 49ers often brought safeties into the box and rookie Eric Reid was a beneficiary, finishing the game with eight tackles. Arian Foster (21 carries for 98 yards) picked up Houston’s longest run of the game, a 17-yard carry.

Bowman insisted it was a group effort to limit one of the best rushing offenses in the NFL.

“It was an all-team effort,” Bowman said. “Everyone stepped up and did their job.”

When starting defensive tackle Ray McDonald left the game with a biceps injury in the second half, Jerod-Eddie joined the base defense and later recorded his first career interception when he surprisingly dropped into coverage and snatched a short Schaub pass out of the air. Harbaugh noted that McDonald will have an MRI on the injury on Monday.

“Felt like a little bee sting," said McDonald, who was able to put on his shirt postgame without grimacing.
"It doesn’t really hurt, but I’ll know more tomorrow when I get the MRI. They say it’s not that bad.”

McDonald was the only member of San Francisco’s defense to sack Schaub.

The Texans quarterback was later replaced by T.J. Yates, another sign of the 49ers dominance on defense.

After the game, Harbaugh could relate to the struggles of Houston’s quarterback.

“I’ve had more downs than ups,” the 49ers coach said. “He’ll bounce back. There’s no question about that.”

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