Which way does the thumb turn for the 49ers after their 13-6 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on…
Reading the keys: 49ers/Jets
YES: The 49ers handed the football to Frank Gore on two of their first three offensive plays, and that set the tone for an afternoon when San Francisco would run through and over the Jets for 245 rushing yards – the highest total of the Jim Harbaugh era. Gore already had 10 carries by halftime on his way to a game-high 62 yards rushing on 21 carries, and Kendall Hunter complemented him well with a season-high 56 yards rushing on eight carries. The 49ers also got the nimble legs of quarterback Colin Kaepernick involved with their offense like never before, and he produced a career-high 50 yards and scored on a seven-yard touchdown sweep. Nine different San Francisco players had at least one carry and six finished with 12 or more rushing yards.
Never allow Mark Sanchez/Tim Tebow QB combo to get in the flow
YES: The Niners dominated Sanchez, sacking him three times and thoroughly frustrating him into a poor performance in which the New York starter completed just 13 of 29 passes for 103 yards and an interception. Sanchez finished with a 39.9 passer rating and never was a factor in the game as the Jets were blanked on the scoreboard. Tebow also was a non-factor, being stuffed for zero yards on his two carries. The Niners did a tremendous job of taking both New York quarterbacks completely out of the game.
Better protection for Alex Smith
YES: It's a marginal yes, because Smith was sacked on back-to-back plays in the second quarter after San Francisco had driven to a first down at the New York 29-yard line. That forced the Niners backward into a 55-yard field goal attempt at the end of that drive by David Akers, which he missed. But those ultimately were the only two sacks of Smith, who threw a season-low 21 passes and didn't need to throw much in the second half with the 49ers comfortably ahead.
Force the Jets to the air by stuffing run game
YES: The Jets could do nothing on the ground, finishing with just 45 yards rushing on 17 carries as their offense went nowhere, finishing with just 145 total yards – the fewest allowed by the 49ers during the Jim Harbaugh era. Leading rusher Shonn Greene was stuffed for just 34 yards on 11 carries, a 3.1 average, and Tim Tebow went nowhere on his limited attempts behind center, finishing with zero yards on the ground on his two attempts.
Win the turnover battle
YES: The Niners won this battle emphatically, looking very much like the team that led the NFL in turnovers and turnover differential last season. The Niners forced a season-high four turnovers, and cornerback Carlos Rogers returned the last of San Francisco's three recovered fumbles 51 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. New York's two deepest penetrations into San Francisco territory – to the San Francisco 44 and San Francisco 25 – both ended with lost fumbles. The 49ers, meanwhile, played turnover-free football.
Exploit the loss of Darrelle Revis and challenge Jets with the deep ball
YES: The 49ers went right after Revis' replacement, Kyle Wilson, on the first play of the game when Michael Crabtree beat Wilson on an out-and-up wheel route and Wilson was flagged for pass interference. Though they finished with only a season-low 143 yards passing, the Niners tested the New York secondary several times on long passes and barely missed on a few of them. Alex Smith did connect for 26 yards to Mario Manningham, 25 yards to Delanie Walker and 23 yards to Vernon Davis, the three longest pass plays of the game. Colin Kaepernick's only pass also was a deep ball that fell incomplete in the end zone.
Superiority on special teams
YES: Though David Akers missed two field-goal attempts, the 49ers held the upper hand on these units throughout the afternoon. Andy Lee dropped two punts inside the New York 3-yard line, and a 44-yard kickoff return by Joe McKnight was the only damage done against San Francisco's coverage units. Larry Grant also blocked a punt deep in New York territory that set up San Francisco's final touchdown. Ted Ginn got back in the flow with a 20-yard punt return, and on a day when he was off, Akers still contributed field goals of 36 and 40 yards.
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