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Matt Dunham The Associated Press Linebacker Dan Skuta of the 49ers breaks a tackle by Jacksonville quarterback Chad Henne on a 47-yard touchdown return in the fourth quarter Sunday. San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis forced the fumble by tight end Marcedes Lewis that Skuta recovered.

49ers notes: Willis' broken hand improving

Published: Monday, Oct. 28, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 6C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013 - 8:18 am

LONDON – Patrick Willis couldn't remember whether he forced a fourth-quarter fumble with his right or left hand – and that's a positive sign for the 49ers linebacker.

Willis had to go to his left hand when he caused a game-altering fumble against the the Cardinals in Week 6 because his right hand still was recovering from a broken bone that cost him most of training camp and the entire preseason.

"It's starting to get a lot better," Willis said of the hand. "I was able to lift with it this week and put up a little weight."

Sunday, he hit Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis after a short gain, knocking the ball free. It was scooped up by outside linebacker Dan Skuta, who had dropped into coverage on the play.

Skuta weaved through would-be tacklers – and nicely set up his blockers – on his way to a 47-yard touchdown return. The 49ers have forced at least one turnover in all but one game this season, and they have converted three of the takeaways – two on defense, one on special teams – into touchdowns.

Skuta said he had "a couple of picks in college, but that was the first run with the ball in a long time." How long had it been since he scored a touchdown? His senior year in high school, Skuta said.

Meanwhile, the silver lining to traveling 6,000 miles for a game is that the 49ers will get their bye at the midpoint of the season.

"It's a good time for our team," Willis said, "for guys who are on the verge of coming back, for guys who are dealing with some injuries, for guys to rest their body a little bit."

The 49ers reported no injuries from the game.

Williams replaced – Kyle Williams, who had a mistake-filled first half on kick returns, didn't get a chance to make amends in the second half.

Following the Jaguars' only touchdown of the game, tailback Anthony Dixon was waiting in the end zone, and he returned the kickoff to the Jacksonville 46-yard line. The field position set up the 49ers' fifth touchdown of the game, a 2-yard run by Frank Gore.

Williams' struggles meanwhile, seemed to symbolize the surging 49ers' only weaknesses – little production by the No. 2 wide receiver and a lackluster return game.

He flubbed both a punt and a kickoff in the first half, though he didn't lose either. He also allowed his momentum to carry him out of bounds at the 3-yard line following a kick return with a few seconds left at the end of the first half.

He also had two passes glance off his hands, although one was very difficult. Williams finished with one carry for 10 yards and one catch for seven yards.

RB for sale? – The 49ers are dangling Dixon as trade bait, according to NFL.com. Dixon's main role is on special teams, but he also has served as an effective short-yardage runner this season, scoring two touchdowns. He also played fullback for the 49ers late in Sunday's blowout win.

A sixth-round draft pick in 2010, Dixon is making only $630,000, which makes him affordable for a team seeking a runner. Meanwhile, the 49ers have a glut of running backs. LaMichael James was inactive for the third straight week.

Additionally, they have a promising young runner, Jewel Hampton, on the practice squad and another, rookie Marcus Lattimore, on the non-football injury list. The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday.

Home flavor – Teal-colored Jaguars flags were placed in every seat in the stadium, and Jacksonville wide receiver Cecil Shorts ran onto the field waving a Union Jack before the game. The Jaguars, who will play games in London through 2016, technically were the "home" team.

Still, there was a distinct red hue to the crowd, which booed 49ers penalties and was at full throat for each San Francisco score. According to the NFL, the 49ers are the United Kingdom's third-favorite team – behind the Patriots and Dolphins.

Et cetera – Harbaugh said the 49ers would hold voluntary practices Tuesday and Wednesday but acknowledged only young players likely will attend during the 49ers' bye week.

• Colt McCoy threw his first pass as a 49er, a 13-yard completion to Bruce Miller on third and 7 late in the game.

• The third-round pick in 2014 the 49ers received from the Chiefs for Alex Smith is now a second-round pick thanks to Kansas City's 8-0 start. The pick improved to a second rounder if Kansas City finished .500 or better.

Read Matthew Barrows' blogs at www.sacbee.com/ sf49ers and listen for his reports Tuesdays on ESPN Radio 1320.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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