“It was probably the highest vertical I’ve ever seen an NFL player jump in my life. No lie. It just seemed like he kept on going up.”
That was left tackle Joe Staley’s assessment of Brandon Lloyd’s 29-yard sideline catch in the fourth quarter Sunday. Colin Kaepernick was blitzed on the play and hurled a high, arcing pass down the left sideline to Lloyd.
The 33-year-old receiver did the rest, twisting his body, out-jumping 6-foot-3 cornerback Sean Smith and picking up a critical first down late in the 49ers’ 22-17 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
“It was well defended,” said 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, who was a few feet away. “Brandon stopped, leaped and didn’t interfere and really went from being out-leveraged to jumping and leveraging the ball and making a great play. Contorted his body to change the leverage. I mean, that’s what it looked like to me. Colin trusted him and threw the ball up and gave him a chance to make that play.”
Lloyd made similar acrobatic catches when he was with the 49ers a decade ago. He spent last season away from football, but he rejoined the 49ers so that, in his words, he could put closure on his career.
He and Stevie Johnson have been splitting time as the No. 3 receiver. Johnson has been more prolific through the first four weeks – his one reception Sunday went for a 9-yard touchdown – but Lloyd led all receivers in yardage with 76 on three catches.
“I think that was just more of an in-the-game, instinctual kind of play as opposed to something that we’ve practiced,” Lloyd said of his dramatic catch. “I always like to think of those lobs, whether they’re in the red zone or in the field, as football’s version of the alley-oop.
“It’s the quarterback understanding the ability of the pass catcher and putting the ball in position where the guy can make the play. I think it was more of just a feel for how (Smith) was playing and Colin throwing the ball to where I could catch it.”
Five for Phil – For the last two months, kicker Phil Dawson has fretted and stewed about not having enough time to learn the idiosyncrasies of the 49ers’ new stadium. After Sunday, however, it seems as if he has Levi’s Stadium solved.
Dawson went 5 for 5 on field goals, including two from beyond 50 yards. He has made nine consecutive attempts and has yet to miss on his home field, which he said was in very good condition after a new surface was installed last month.
The 39-year-old Dawson also is 3 for 3 from 50 yards and beyond this year and is 31 for 43 lifetime from that distance. He said that in some ways, longer attempts are easier.
“Sometimes when it is a lower-percentage kick, it frees you up to go out there and let it rip,” he said. “One thing I do know throughout my career, whether it is a long one or a short one, if I go out there and freely trust my technique, the ball generally goes where it is supposed to go.”
Hot-field advantage – There’s a reason the 49ers’ sideline is on the shady side of the stadium.
With the temperature reaching 89 degrees Sunday, players said the conditions were far hotter than they ever were at their previous home.
“I tell you what, it’s a lot hotter than people think out there. It is hot,” guard Alex Boone said. “It’s not like Candlestick (Park).”
Perhaps that explains why Frank Gore, who hails from South Florida, has had two straight games with more than 100 rushing yards at Levi’s. He feels right at home.
“Oh, man, it was hot,” Gore said. “I like it that way, though. I like it like that.”
Et cetera – The 49ers, who entered Sunday leading the league in penalties, committed only two for 10 yards.