San Francisco 49ers

Big hits and key blocks: Five plays that sparked 49ers’ first win

New York Giants starting quarterback Eli Manning (10) fumbles the ball after a hit by San Francisco 49ers Ronald Blair III. The ball is recovered by the San Francisco 49ers in the second quarter during a game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017.
New York Giants starting quarterback Eli Manning (10) fumbles the ball after a hit by San Francisco 49ers Ronald Blair III. The ball is recovered by the San Francisco 49ers in the second quarter during a game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. The Bee

After Sunday's win it seemed as if everything went right for the 49ers in Week 10. Not really. They had two turnovers -- and nearly a third on a punt return -- vs. one for New York, and the game still was in the balance late in the third quarter. The Giants had several opportunities to take over momentum in the second half. In the NFL, however, a handful of plays are the difference between wins and losses and the 49ers simply made more than the Giants. These were the five biggest:

5. Bourne again. Undrafted rookie Kendrick Bourne had career highs in catches (three) and receiving yards (42). Two of them came on third downs on the same third-quarter drive with the 49ers clinging to a 17-13 lead. Bourne caught a 20 yarder on third and 12 early in the possession, then again kept the drive alive with an eight-yard catch on third and 6. The drive ultimately ended in C.J. Beathard's 11-yard touchdown run, which turned out to be the game-winning score. Bourne and newcomer Louis Murphy essentially replaced injured Pierre Garcon in the game. They combined for 56 snaps and 90 receiving yards.

4. Blair's sack fumble. With Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas and Aaron Lynch out with injuries, Blair filled in at the "Leo" pass-rushing spot and came up with two sacks. The first came early in the second quarter after the Giants had forced a 49ers fumble and quickly drove to the San Francisco 22-yard line. Blair sacked Eli Manning on second down, forcing the quarterback to fumble the ball forward where it was recovered by Eric Reid. Blair spent most of the offseason as the third-team defensive end at the so-called 'big end' spot. Both he and Elvis Dumervil, who played a season-high 37 snaps, fared well at the Leo spot on Sunday. Dumervil had his team-leading fourth-and-half sack of the season.

3. Celek's score. The 49ers were short on tight ends Sunday with George Kittle out with an ankle injury and Cole Hikutini finished for the season with a knee sprain. The result was that both Garrett Celek and fullback Kyle Juszczyk played a season-high number of snaps. Celek's 47-yard touchdown -- he got a nice block from Marquise Goodwin on the play -- was a career long for the tight end and gave the 49ers a rare lead going into halftime. The Giants have been dreadful against opposing tight ends this season and Celek was the latest to burn them.

2. Colbert's hit. Those watching Adrian Colbert over the last one and a half games have had to caution themselves that it's early and it would be irresponsible to rush to judgment on the seventh-round pick. But, boy, Colbert really has looked the part at free safety early on and had four walloping hits while rushing from his center-field post. The biggest came midway through the third quarter when it seemed as if Manning was about to connect with receiver Tavarres King deep down the sideline on what would have been a back-breaking third-and-16 conversion. Instead, Colbert arrived from the inside, thumped King and dislodged the ball in the process. The Giants punted and Beathard scored his rushing touchdown on the ensuing drive.

1. Made ‘em pay. Beathard and the 49ers had been killed by the blitz since he took over at quarterback, and Kyle Shanahan lamented that his offense had failed to make defenses pay for their boldness. In the second quarter the 49ers finally fixed that. The Giants blitzed up the middle and running back Carlos Hyde aggressively stepped forward at the line of scrimmage to take on the extra rusher. That not only bought Beathard more time, it allowed him space to step into his throw and hit Goodwin streaking down the middle of the field. It was an example of everyone doing his job correctly. Beathard could have gone with a short or intermediate route. When he saw the safety zero in on the intermediate receiver he knew Goodwin would have a rare one-on-one situation. The receiver, playing with a heavy heart, made the grab, pushed away from cornerback Janoris Jenkins and ended up in the end zone with the 49ers' longest touchdown play in 12 seasons.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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