After losing to the Rams in overtime last week, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said he was confident his team would come back strong.
Once again, Harbaugh’s instincts were correct.
The Niners beat the Miami Dolphins 27-13 at Candlestick Park Sunday to improve to 9-3-1 and stay in the hunt for the NFC’s best record.
With three games remaining, the Niners trail Atlanta (11-2) in the quest for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and will go on the road next Sunday for a night game at New England, followed by another road game at Seattle and then a season finale at home against the Arizona Cardinals.
On Sunday against the Dolphins, the Niners rebounded nicely behind a solid defense – led by NFL sack leader Aldon Smith, who added two more for 19½, to break the season franchise record set by Fred Dean.
The San Francisco defense, which leads the NFL in fewest points alowed, gave up just 227 total yards.
Offensively, the 49ers were balanced, rushing for 156 yards and passing for 166.
Colin Kaepernick, in his fourth start, improved his record to 3-1 since replacing Alex Smith, and completed 18-of-23 throws for 185 yards and no interceptions – nine of those passes goes to Michael Crabtree. Kaepernick’s passer rating for the day: 100.2. The downside was, Kaepernick took four sacks.
But, Kaepernick again showed how dangerous he can be with his feet, breaking away for a 50-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter for the Niners’ final touchdown.
Running back Frank Gore carried 12 times for 63 yards and a touchdown and passed the 1,000-yard mark for the sixth time in his career.
The game also marked the debut of rookie running back LaMichael James, the team’s second-round pick from Oregon. He carried eight times for 30 yards in relief of Gore and had runs of 15 and 13 yards.
The game started slowly, with the 49ers taking a 6-3 lead in the second quarter on a pair of David Akers field goals.
After the half, the 49ers capitalized on a muffed punt by Miami’s Marcus Thigpen. C.J. Spillman recovered the ball at the Miami 27 and advanced it to the 9. Two plays later, Gore burst over from the 1 to give San Francisco a 13-3 lead.
Anthony Dixon (on a 1-yard run) and Kaepernick (on his breakaway) added touchdowns in the fourth quarter as the Niners locked up the victory.
The victory keeps San Francisco ahead of Seattle (8-5) in the NFC West race.