Sunday, October 27, 2013
Jim Harbaugh's 49ers dominate in London
By Bill Williamson
Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers gave coach Jim Harbaugh, right, reason to smile in London.
LONDON -- From staying the week on the English countryside to experiencing Winston Churchill's War Rooms to getting chills while listening to "God Save the Queen" before the game to watching his team put on a clinic in front of 83,000 fans at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, it was quite the week for Jim Harbaugh.
“What a great experience,” the animated 49ers coach said Sunday after seeing his team dismantle the winless Jacksonville Jaguars 42-10 to complete the first half of the season. San Francisco has turned 2013 around, after starting 1-2. It is 6-2 going into the bye week.
“A-plus, plus,” Harbaugh said of the week.
While drubbing the 0-8 Jaguars might not look like a landmark win, it was an impressive outing for the 49ers.
They entered the game on a four-game win streak and have been on the road since Oct. 18, first traveling to Nashville and then London. There was some concern internally this could be a trap game, the 49ers letting down to a lesser opponent during a week spent in unfamiliar surroundings. It was one of the reasons nearly every member of the franchise talked so glowingly about the Jaguars all week. The 49ers made sure to stay focused.
The 49ers showed early they were the better team and there would be no Wembley Stadium upset. San Francisco led 28-0 (they led 24-0 in Nashville last week) in the second quarter. The 49ers scored on their first four drives and had 18 first downs in their first 35 plays.
The 49ers played with the intensity of a Seattle game. That’s exactly what Harbaugh wanted to see.
“The preparation was outstanding,” Harbaugh said. “The players were dialed in.”
Safety Donte Whitner said the team -- which Harbaugh proudly announced had a 100 percentage curfew rate all week in London -- has no choice but to be on point. Harbaugh and his staff saw to it.
“Coach Harbaugh is the most paranoid coach in the National Football League. I promise you that.” Whitner said. “Doesn’t matter who we are playing, doesn’t matter if it’s the last play of a practice, he makes sure we are watching our p’s and q’s.”
No NFL team is upset-proof, but Harbaugh's outfit is professional and no-nonsense. Veteran defensive end Justin Smith scoffed during the week at the idea of an overseas San Francisco let down. He said the 49ers trail Seattle, which plays Monday night, by a game in the NFC West, so they had to stay sharp. That mantra could bode well for San Francisco in the second half of the season. Going into Week 8, the 49ers have the fourth easiest remaining schedule in the NFL.
San Francisco has won five straight and scored at least 31 in all five. They now go to their bye week, confident that they are one of the NFL’s finest teams.
Looking good in England was clearly important to Harbaugh. He embraced this week. He said he was thankful for the opportunity every step of the week as he traveled to the land where his hero, Churchill, ruled. Harbaugh said hearing the national anthems of the United States and England being played before the game was “an Olympic moment” for him.
Then, his team gave a gold-medal performance.
While his numbers were not staggering, San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick played brilliantly. He threw and ran at will. For the second straight game, the 49ers called several run plays for Kaepernick. He finished with 164 yards passing, and had 54 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries. He was the primary reason why the 49ers scored on their first four drives.
Defensively, San Francisco was suffocating. That has been the case during this winning streak.
There is reason to believe San Francisco will improve in the second half of the season. Six players -- including receivers Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham, and star pass-rusher Aldon Smith -- should return in the coming weeks.
“Can’t wait,” said running back Frank Gore of the impending reinforcements.
For the moment, the 49ers can enjoy their long flight home into the bye, knowing they were the conquerors during their English excursion. Harbaugh said Friday that he would use the words of Churchill to inspire his team. Fullback Bruce Miller said Sunday night that the speech hasn’t been delivered ... yet.