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Patrick Willis Leads Way in 45-3 Win

Posted Oct 7, 2012

Patrick Willis had much to celebrate Sunday afternoon.

Not only did the five-time All-Pro feel the euphoria of his team’s 45-3 statement win over the visiting Buffalo Bills, but the 49ers defensive co-captain was one day removed from proposing to his fiancée.

Willis admitted he was nervous about popping the big question and said it was much like the jitters he experiences on gamedays with the 49ers.

Only, this Sunday, Willis had much more to celebrate: a successful marriage proposal followed by his latest dominant performance among San Francisco’s cast of talented defenders.

Willis recorded his 13th career forced fumble in 81 regular season games, a crucial takeaway in the lopsided 49ers win at Candlestick Park. The key turnover led to a 28-yard Michael Crabtree touchdown reception and a 17-3 halftime lead, one the 49ers would build on to the tune of 28 unanswered second-half points.

“It was a huge day,” Willis said after the 49ers improved to 7-0 at home games following a road contest under coach Jim Harbaugh. “Yesterday was truly a blessing for me and it was even better to come back out here and play a game. We played together as a team and to have a game like that individually, it makes everything that much better.”

Willis led the 49ers with seven tackles. With the star linebacker doing an excellent job in coverage against Bills tight end Scott Chandler, the same player Willis stripped late in the first half, San Francisco’s defense was thoroughly impressive throughout Sunday’s non-conference matchup.

The Bills mustered 10 first downs, 204 net yards and 3 points. Since the 49ers were defeated 24-13 in Minnesota two weeks ago, the defense has allowed three points and two red zone appearances by opponents in eight quarters of work.

“Defensively, outstanding as well,” Harbaugh said postgame after rattling off the names of his offensive difference-makers. “Great team defense, great team victory.”

Buffalo entered the red zone twice on Sunday, but only managed to score on a 31-yard Rian Lindell field goal.

Turnovers and ineffective third-down production (2-of-11) spoiled any kind of Bills comeback. Second-year cornerback Chris Culliver recorded a key interception at San Francisco’s own 6-yard line to prevent Buffalo from getting back into the game in the third quarter.

“It felt good to come through for my team,” said Culliver, who recorded his second career interception. “First and foremost we’re trusting Coach Vic (Fangio) to put us in the right call, and that’s why we’re always in position to make big plays.”

Because of the trust in their defensive coordinator’s play calls, the 49ers were able to thrive in their sub packages for most of the day. Without nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga, who plays only in base package situations, the defense matched up well with the Bills, who utilized many spread offensive alignments.

“It was big,” Willis said of the defense’s performance in space. “We pride ourselves on getting to the ball, getting takeaways. Today, our defense came out and played good team defense. If we can do that, play our assignments exactly and continue to get that ball, it sets us up for a good opportunity to help our team win.”

Willis and the 49ers defense didn’t have to do too much against the run to win this game. With San Francisco’s offense keeping the football for 36:17, that left 23:43 of time of possession for Buffalo. The Bills were in comeback-mode throughout the game, while leading running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller were held in check to the tune of 3.2 and 3.4 yards per carry, respectively.

But just because the 49ers weren’t on the field for most of the game didn’t mean the unit didn’t have fun.

Willis and others appreciated seeing their offense rack up 621 total yards, most in team history while becoming first NFL team to rush and pass for more than 300 yards in the same game.

“We know our offense is capable of that each Sunday,” Willis said. “For our offense to have a big-time game like that statistic-wise under their belt, now they know they’re capable of doing it. Now, it’s about reaching a new level… Our offense will continue to do that.”

The added attention to the 49ers offense isn’t a problem according to many in the locker room.

In fact, it’s welcomed.

“We don’t have a problem being overshadowed by the offense,” said safety Donte Whitner, who recorded three tackles against his former team. “As a defense, we’re a top defense in the National Football League – we want an offense that puts up points.”

The 49ers haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown in 12 consecutive home games, the longest active streak in the NFL.

Need more proof of dominance? San Francisco only allowed two plays of 20-plus yards, a 32-yard designed run for wide receiver Brad Smith and a 20-yard Chandler reception.

For the season, the 49ers have allowed 12 plays of 20-or-more yards.

Willis remains as one of the focal points in that dominance. He’ll also continue his role with a bride-to-be by his side.

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