San Francisco 49ers

Upon further review: Gore keeps churning; where’s Brooks?; three cheers for Walt Coleman!

SANTA CLARA -- Remember waaay back when Frank Gore only had 10 yards on six carries? It was only two weeks ago, but it seems like an eternity considering Gore's back-to-back 100-plus-yard outings. Gore currently ranks 5th in rushing in the NFL. He could fall to sixth if Washington's Alfred Morris has only a moderate outing tonight, but it's a sign that the 49ers – and Gore – are past their identity crisis issue in Week 3 that seemed to cause so much tumult around the 49ers' facility.

Gore had more yards and a flashy touchdown last week against the Eagles. But Sunday's effort may have been more impressive given the respective caliber of defenses he was facing. There were several runs where he kept his legs churning a forced the pile forward a few extra yards.

It was another strong game from fullback Bruce Miller, who was in on 42 snaps. The 49ers also were decidedly left handed in their running attack, and left tackle Joe Staley, left guard Mike Iupati and Vance McDonald had particularly good games in the blocking department. McDonald played all 70 snaps, meaning he was a true replacement for Vernon Davis, who missed the game with a back injury.

The 49ers lost the time-of-possession battle in the first half but that facet of the game more than swung to their advantage in the second half, and San Francisco ended up having the ball for 36:04. As a result, the 49ers' defense only was on the field for 50 snaps. Justin Smith played only 35 snaps, which is about half a normal game's total snaps. That's not a huge deal on a per-game basis, but it adds up at the end of the season and becomes significant for a team that wants to go deep into the playoffs.

Gore got to his feet slowly after his final run, an eight yarder that put him over the 100-yard mark. He's not hurt. But position coach Tom Rathman has become adept at reading his veteran's body language and he took Gore out of the game from that point on.

Backup Carlos Hyde also had a strong game and received kudos from Jim Harbaugh afterward. Overlooked on the gravity-is-for-mortals catch by Brandon Lloyd: Hyde did an excellent job of picking up a Chiefs blitz and buying Kaepernick that extra moment he needed to loft the ball down field. ... As for Kaepernick, he did a nice job of looking off the single-high safety on the 39-yard pass to Lloyd down the right sideline.

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On defense, it was another below-par outing by Ahmad Brooks. He missed a tackle on Jamaal Charles' longest run of the day, a 26 yarder in the third quarter. For the second straight game, the 49ers finished without a sack, and Brooks came away with one quarterback hurry. He did have what turned out to be a critical batted pass on third down in the fourth quarter.

“The guy didn’t rush, and he ends up batting it down,” Alex Smith said after the game of the play. “It’s going to be a bang-bang play even if you throw it firm, and if I clutch it or lob it over his head it’s probably going to be incomplete, or even worse. I was trying to get it to him as fast as I could, but the D-end didn’t rush.”

On the topic of batted passes, Aaron Lynch had two more on Sunday, and he again looked good in a limited role. Lynch has lost weight after getting up to 275 pounds during his hamstring strain issue this summer, and he is noticeably better at moving sideline to sideline and chasing down plays than he was just a month ago. He was in on 25 of the 50 defensive snaps; for the second straight game, Corey Lemonier didn't play at all on defense.

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Don't ever question Trent Baalke's decisions when it comes to cornerbacks. After Sunday's game, there probably aren't many fans lamenting last year's loss of Marcus Cooper, who gave up a 39-yard pass to Lloyd as well as Stevie Johnson's touchdown. According to @PFF, Cooper was targeted nine times and allowed four catches for 81 yards. Remember, Baalke is the cornerback whisperer. He could find one working at the local Bennigans. If he let’s a guy go, there’s a very good reason.

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The Chiefs’ nicely executed touchdown toss to D'Anthony Thomas underscores how badly used LaMichael James was. James obviously has similar skills to Thomas, his former teammate at Oregon. But the 49ers always used James as if he was a 225-pound between-the-tackles runner, which he's not. It's like buying a cat and then getting bummed when you can't teach it to fetch and roll over. That's not what cats do.

Speaking of Thomas, he nearly broke a punt return for a touchdown on nearly the exact part of the field where Darren Sproles had his punt-return TD a week earlier. Chris Borland was good on the special teams units, including as a blocker on Craig Dahl's fake-punt run. But the coverage units as a whole remain shaky.

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When the Chiefs bunched three pass catchers, including big tight end Travis Kelce, at one end of the field near the goal line, it should have been obvious to anyone who watched the Chiefs-Patriots game, what they planned to do. But the 49ers were slow to react. Dan Skuta did his part in trying to stonewall Kelce after he got the pass, but the only other player on that end of the field, Chris Culliver, was not nearly aggressive enough while Michael Wilhoite was too far away to arrive in time.

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Michael Crabtree's one catch for 16 yards Sunday was the lowest output he's had since a one-catch, three-yard game in the 2011 NFC Championship game. Crabtree was on the injury report all week with a foot ailment that kept him out of part of last week’s contest. He practiced in full every day and played 42 of 70 snaps Sunday.

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Three cheers for Walt Coleman! He called exactly six penalties, two of them on the 49ers who are now in third place in total penalties after leading the league the past few weeks. The penalties: Brooks jumped offsides (he typically leads the defense in penalties each year) while Mike Iupati had a false start (Vernon Davis typically leads the offense in penalties).

It underscores my point that the officiating crew has the biggest bearing on whether a given game will be penalty-addled. That may seem obvious, but it also should be an obvious fix – let the teams play the game like Coleman's crew did Sunday. It actually was a fun game to watch. What a revelation!

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