COMMENTARY | It wasn't the cleanest of games, but the San Francisco 49ers reeled in their third consecutive victory with a 32-20 triumph over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. It was the first time since Jeff Garcia was tossing the pigskin around Candlestick to Terrell Owens in 2003 that San Francisco has racked up 30-plus points in three consecutive regular season games.
Let's take a look at five stars who stood out for San Francisco in the Week 6 victory against its divisional rivals.
It's stunning that Gore is playing like a top-five running back in the NFL at the age of 30. This is something that rarely happens. Gore's 101-yard rushing performance against Arizona was the 34th time that he has put up triple-digit yardage on the ground in his career. In what can't be seen as a coincidence, San Francisco is now 27-7 in those games. Including the postseason, it is 11-1 when Gore goes for at least 100 yards in the Jim Harbaugh era.
Gore struggled a bit early, but was able to wear down Arizona's defensive front in the second half and played an integral role in San Francisco's mind-boggling 18-play, 89-yard touchdown scoring drive that took up over nine minutes and gave the 49ers a two-score advantage late in the game. Gore carried the ball eight times for 41 yards, including a span of five consecutive attempts on that drive. Great running backs have the capability of going up against tough defenses late in the game and literally running the clock out. This is what Gore did against Arizona on Sunday.
Reid's rookie season just continues to startle many who believed he would struggle early in his career. The 2013 first-round pick had yet another great outing at free safety, racking up three tackles, one interception and a fumble recovery in the winning effort. Equally as important, Reid played well in coverage and did an amazing job diagnosing both the pass and the rush. He stopped Cardinals' receivers two separate times right at the first-down line, forcing punts both times. It's this type of game-changing performance that led Trent Baalke and Co. to trade up in the first round of April's draft to nab the LSU product.
Through six games, Reid has to be considered a serious contender for Defensive Rookie of the Year. He's right up there with Kiko Alonso of the Buffalo Bills and Sheldon Richardson of the New York Jets. This is how good Reid has been as a rookie in 2013, and his performance against Arizona only cements that status.
What a ridiculous performance by Davis on Sunday. The talented tight end tallied over 170 receiving yards and two scores in the first half. In the process, Davis helped Kaepernick open up the passing game a great deal. While it won't show up in the statistics, his performance enabled San Francisco's ground game to get going in the second half and grab a stranglehold on the game. With the expected returns of Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham within the next month or so, Davis should have himself a couple nice running partners. Until then, he's going to be Kaepernick's go-to guy. Davis' ability to make the difficult catch in traffic coupled with his insane athleticism seems to indicate he will perform up to level against the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars prior to San Francisco's Week 9 bye.
Lemonier's first NFL sack resulted in a safety when he brought Carson Palmer down in the end zone in the first half. This was a big momentum changer, as it came immediately after Kaepernick was intercepted at the inch line. San Francisco scored a touchdown after the ensuing free kick on a 61-yard touchdown pass from Kaepernick to Davis. This nine-point swing ended up pretty much being the difference in the game.
The rookie third-round pick from Auburn has been a pleasant surprise since Aldon Smith was admitted into rehab following the Indianapolis Colts' game. Depending on what happens with Smith moving forward, Lemonier might see the field on a consistent basis for the remainder of the season. If so, San Francisco appears to be in good shape. The Auburn product has been a force as a pass-rush specialist over the past couple weeks. While his production won't come close to duplicating what we saw from Smith, it's enough to provide some consistency opposite Ahmad Brooks at outside linebacker.
Is there any doubt that this mauler is quickly becoming one of the best overall guards in the NFL? He dominated Arizona's front seven in the second half when Gore really got it going. Looking at NFL.com's Game Rewind, Gore had huge hole after huge hole to run through. In short, Iupati was clearly dominating the Cardinals defensive front at the point of contact. His ability to pull to either side of the line on outside run plays was evident in this game as well. More than a couple times, Iupati was out in front of the ball carrier in a position to open up rushing lanes wide. If Iupati can continue to play like this, there is no defense in the NFL that can stop the 49ers run game. That's how impressive he's been as of late.
Vincent Frank has been covering the National Football League for three years. He started out writing for Niners Nation and was a featured columnist at Bleacher Report. His work has been published on CNN, Pro Football Focus and BR, among other sites.
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