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October 27, 2013
Sharp -- some say, paranoid -- 49ers catch Jaguars napping


LONDON - The 49ers used powerful blocking, sound tackling and solid quarterback play to beat the Jaguars 42-10 on Sunday and increase their winning streak to five games. But don't discount paranoia when it comes to the team's winning formula, players said afterward.

"We have the most paranoid staff in the National Football League," safety Donte Whitner said. "We go over things so many times that when you go in the game you could do it in your sleep." Left tackle Joe Staley agreed. "I think it's great to play never (feeling) comfortable," he said. "We always think about every worst-case scenario beforehand."

The result is that neither jet lag nor the winless Jaguars could distract the 49ers in the run-up to the game. Not only have they bounced back from a two-game losing skid early in the season, they have now scored 30 or more points in five straight contests.

Games played in London have been marked by sloppy play due to wet weather, soggy field conditions and, in the case of west-coast teams, a difference of eight time zones. The 49ers, however, were sharp from the outset, driving eight plays - including a 4th-and-one conversion - before Frank Gore burst through the belly of the Jacksonville defense for a 19-yard touchdown.

"The players were dialed in, did a great job in practice and off the practice field in their free time," Jim Harbaugh said. "We were real good. Curfews were 100 percent each night. Good team."

In fact, it was the 49ers who caught the Jaguars napping in the first quarter.

Harbaugh said the team has a play called "big sleeper" in which a pass catcher pretends to be jogging to the sideline but instead lingers in the field of play hoping to go unnoticed by the defense. It nearly worked last year in Week 4 when Colin Kaepernick was the target, but the Jets called time out just before the snap.

On Sunday the Jaguars couldn't react in time. Kaepernick, playing quarterback this time, quickly got to the line of scrimmage, then fired a pass to fullback Bruce Miller, who was hovering at the sideline.

"It's hard," Miller said of being wide open on the play. "Because I'm thinking, 'Don't jump off-sides, don't drop the ball.' ... I was thinking, 'Catch it first, then get what you can get.'" He ended up picking up 43 yards on the play, the longest gain of his career.

Harbaugh called the play "a Greg Roman creation." The 49ers' offensive coordinator played college football and was roommates with Jaguars general manager David Caldwell at John Carroll University. When the Jaguars were looking for a head coach this offseason, Roman - whose 49ers were playing until early February - never got an interview.

Roman's offense racked up 398 yards, 221 yards of which came on the ground on Sunday. Three players - Kendall Hunter, Gore and Kaepernick - finished with more than 50 yards rushing. Kaepernick, who scored his first rushing touchdown last week against Tennessee, scored two more in the first half. He also had a nice, touch-pass touchdown to Vernon Davis from the shadow of the goal line.

"He looked much like a running back," Harbaugh said of Kaepernick's first touchdown run, on which he got key blocks from Gore and Staley and dove toward the pilon. "That's great courage," Harbaugh said. "You don't always see that in the quarterback position. As soon as he saw that window, he had great dartCQ and speed to get the ball in the end zone."

At 6-2, the 49ers have nicely set themselves up for second half of the season in which they will face just three teams with winning records - Carolina, New Orleans and Seattle. But first they had to get past a Jaguars squad that hasn't won a single game and that the 49ers knew would be hungry for first victory.

"We understand it," said Willis, whose team was 1-6 when it played in London three years ago. "We were once that was struggling to get wins. We've been there. ... But we also enjoy and are thankful to be where we are now. And we don't want to go back."

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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