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Titans-49ers: What we learned

The SportsXchange

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Colin Kaepernick was asked Sunday after another victory if he feels the San Francisco 49ers are in midseason form.

"I'm not sure what you mean by that," the quarterback said, "but I know we're stringing some wins together."

Four, to be precise, and in a fashion that displayed why many pundits picked San Francisco to return to the Super Bowl this season.

With Kaepernick playing efficiently and the defense punishing the Tennessee Titans for the first three quarters, the 49ers rolled to a 31-17 win at LP Field.

Kaepernick completed 13 of 21 passes for 199 yards and added 68 yards on 11 rushes, including a 20-yard touchdown run off a read-option play with 6:42 left in the half that gave San Francisco (5-2) a 10-0 advantage.

Kaepernick's many skills were on display during that 80-yard drive. He hit passes of 25 yards to Vernon Davis and 11 yards to Anquan Boldin, then made a pretty fake to Frank Gore on the scoring play before racing down the left side, using Gore's downfield block to make his way to the end zone.

The 49ers are not using read option as often as they did when Kaepernick took over last year, but coach Jim Harbaugh said the Titans' defense gave fewer opportunities.

"It's a club in the bag," Harbaugh said, using a golf analogy.

Every club in San Francisco's bag is hitting it straight since a 27-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 22 dropped the 49ers to 1-2. San Francisco outscored its next four opponents 132-51, with no game closer than 12 points.

"We were treating this one like Game 7 of the World Series," Harbaugh said. "This was our biggest game of the season because it was our next game. The next game, we'll treat it the same."

While the 49ers remain a game behind the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West standings, Tennessee (3-4) heads into its bye week with a three-game losing streak. Not even the return of Jake Locker could help.

Locker injured his knee and hip during a Sept. 30 win over the New York Jets, and he missed two games. He returned to practice this week and did enough to convince the coaches he should regain the starting job over veteran backup Ryan Fitzpatrick.

However, Locker couldn't provide enough of a spark for an offense that managed just two touchdowns in his absence. He completed 25 of 41 passes for 326 yards and threw his first interception of the year.

What the Titans said

"There have been many stories of teams worse off than we are at 3-4 coming back and making the playoffs. All is not lost, but it's not a happy time right now." -- Coach Mike Munchak, on a three-game losing streak.

What the 49ers said

"He was like an arrow through snow." -- Coach Jim Harbaugh, on CB Darryl Morris, who forced a muffed punt by Tennessee's Darius Reynaud that Kassim Osgood covered in the end zone for a fourth-quarter touchdown.

What we learned about the Titans

1. They have to run to win. Tennessee hasn't run effectively the last four games and it managed just 13 rushes for 70 yards Sunday. Chris Johnson had just 39 yards on nine attempts, though that's an improvement of sorts after he gained just 71 yards in 33 carries the last three games. After vowing to commit to running before the season, the Titans are still ranked in the league's bottom half through seven games.

2. WR Kenny Britt might be running out of time. Britt, who was looking like a rising star before sustaining a torn ACL in the third game of 2011, doesn't see the field much and isn't productive when he does. He was targeted just twice Sunday with one catch for eight yards, and then drew a 15-yard penalty when he struck Tarell Brown late in the fourth quarter after an incomplete pass. The coaching staff and some of the fans have lost confidence in Britt.

What we learned about the 49ers

1. QB Colin Kaepernick continues to grow. It shouldn't be forgotten that he's only been starting since late November last year. Technically, he has not even started for a full season in the NFL, so there's still plenty to learn. But he displayed maturity Sunday against a blitz-happy Tennessee defense, playing a mistake-free game and accounting for 267 total yards. As Kaepernick keeps gaining experience, he should only become scarier.

2. San Francisco's special teams set the tone. They held Darius Reynaud to 18.3 yards on four kick returns and scored the team's final TD by forcing Reynaud to muff a punt during the fourth quarter, then recovering the loose ball in the end zone. The Titans' average starting point for their drives was their 21, and few offenses will consistently move the ball 79 yards against the 49ers.
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