Before the 49ers signed Brandon Lloyd in the offseason, offensive coordinator Greg Roman compiled a reel of plays – perhaps 80 to 90 – the veteran wide receiver had made over his career.
“What showed up continuously was how good he was outside the numbers, contorting his body, making plays wherever he has played,” coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday. “And he’s special the way he keeps his feet in bounds. Can’t recall seeing one better than the (catch) he made in (Sunday’s) ballgame.”
That catch, in which Lloyd outleaped Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith, gained 29 yards and was the 49ers’ only third-down conversion in the second half. Lloyd also had a 38-yard catch on the opposite sideline earlier in the game against cornerback Marcus Cooper.
Lloyd’s three catchesdoubled his production for the season. They also were rare among 49ers wide receivers, who run few deep routes and rarely have the ball thrown to them down the sideline. That’s normally the domain of tight end Vernon Davis, who has missed all or part of four games this season and was on the sideline Sunday with a back injury.
Lloyd’s 38-yard catch was the longest by a 49ers wide receiver this season and the second-longest pass play by the 49ers this year. Only Frank Gore’s 55-yard catch and run in Week 4 – in which the ball traveled only a few yards across the line of scrimmage – was longer.
“He’s a great receiver,” quarterback Colin Kaepernick said of Lloyd after the game. “He has a proven track record. And he’s been talking to me that we need to take a shot and he’s going to go up and get it. So at some point, you have to trust them and just give them a chance.”
At 33, Lloyd isn’t going to outrace defensive backs down the field. But his body control and leaping ability give the 49ers a big-play option when the defense stacks the line of scrimmage to stuff the run, which happened at times Sunday. That’s likely the main reason Roman, whose biggest challenge since joining the 49ers three years ago has been figuring out ways to create more running room, advocated signing Lloyd.
Harbaugh normally avoids comparisons, but he agreed that Lloyd’s ability was reminiscent of former Steelers wide receiver Lynn Swann, whose downfield acrobatics were common when Pittsburgh was winning championships in the 1970s and early 1980s.
“That’s a fair comparison,” Harbaugh said.
Kaepernick completed passes to eight receivers Sunday, and the 49ers have had a different receiving yards leader in four of their five games: Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Stevie Johnson and Lloyd.
Also, four receivers have finished with 75 or more receiving yards in a game this year. Last year at this point, Boldin was the only one to top 75 yards in a game.
“Everybody can get the ball,” Harbaugh said. “That’s the mentality you want your offense to have.”
First CEO Jed York went on “The Rich Eisen Show” and said a Fox Sports report a day earlier that Harbaugh would not be back next year, even if the 49ers win the Super Bowl, was “categorically not true.”
Later in the day, Harbaugh said York – with whom he’s been unable to work out a contract extension – stopped by his office and the two had “a real good talk.”
“Everybody is working hard at the craft of helping us be the best we can possibly be as a football team,” Harbaugh said. “And that’s all you can ask of anybody. They’re doing their best. Nobody appreciates that like I do. And that’s what Jed appreciates. We work at the pleasure of the York family and San Francisco 49ers organization. That’s our job. Do the best we possibly can. I see everybody doing that.”