JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Even though the 49ers were expecting a different kind of game, their winning formula Sunday looked very familiar.
The 49ers used their running game to control all aspects of their 30-10 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11 at TIAA Bank Stadium.
They carried over the momentum they built with their impressive victory Monday night over the Los Angeles Rams to get back to the .500 mark on the season with a 5-5 record.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo played well for the fourth consecutive game, and it is no surprise the 49ers have gone 3-1 during that stretch. Garoppolo completed 16 of 22 pass attempts for 176 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Even without their starting running back, the 49ers controlled the game on the ground. The 49ers ran the ball 42 times for 171 yards as a team.
Jeff Wilson earned 50 tough yards on 19 rushing attempts. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel was again a factor in the backfield, as he gained 79 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
Here are three takeaways from the 49ers’ never-in-doubt victory:
First drive sets tone — again
The 49ers’ first drive of the game was a long journey that lacked the maximum payoff.
Still, it clearly established the flow of the game.
Coach Kyle Shanahan might not have been the rage of the analytics community with his decision to kick the field goal on a fourth-and-1 situation from the Jaguars’ 2-yard line.
But he saw the downside of failing to score points as a bigger downside than the upside of scoring a touchdown.
The 49ers went into the game with a great deal of respect for Jacksonville’s interior defensive line, which likely factored in his decision. Shanahan called a timeout after the 49ers’ offense went to the line of scrimmage for a fourth-down play. He did not like the defensive look for the play call, and opted to come out of the drive with three points.
Robbie Gould entered and kicked a 20-yard field goal to cap a 20-play, 87-yard drive that exhausted 13 minutes, 5 seconds.
It was the longest drive in the NFL in the past 20 years.
The debate could rage, of course.
Who knows how it would have turned out, but the Jaguars could have gained momentum with a defensive stop. What we know is that the Jaguars never were in this game, so it obviously was not the kind of decision that loses a game.
The 49ers’ defense held Jacksonville to a three-and-out on the next possession. Again, the offense marched down the field and. This time, they got into the end zone on Samuel’s 25-yard touchdown run.
Aiyuk, Sermon cash in on chances
Perhaps, Shanahan knew what he was doing with his handling of wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk and running back Trey Sermon this season.
The 49ers got little production from Aiyuk through the first half of the season. Aiyuk said recently that he and Shanahan “had some words.”
Clearly, Shanahan challenged Aiyuk to improve his work habits in order to get the most of his ability. Aiyuk recognized his deficiencies.
Coaches and teammates have remarked on how much better Aiyuk has been working during the week.
Those improvements have manifested themselves into improved production on the field.
Aiyuk was a key player for the 49ers in the first half, as the 49ers racked out to a 20-3 lead. Garoppolo targeted him six times, and he caught six passes for 78 yards. Two of those receptions came on third downs, including a 6-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
Sermon, a third-round draft pick, was pressed into service on Sunday with injuries sidelining running backs Elijah Mitchell (finger) and JaMycal Hasty (ankle).
Sermon looked ready for his opportunity, as he played a key role. He picked up four yards on a third-and-1 run near the end of the first half. Then, his 23-yard reception set up Robbie Gould’s 48-yard field goal as time expired at the end of the half. Sermon finished with 32 yards on 10 rushing attempts.
Norman, Warner team up for big play
When fans and media were calling for the 49ers to part ways with veteran cornerback Josh Norman following the team’s Week 9 meltdown against the Arizona Cardinals, Shanahan held firm.
Shanahan pointed out Norman had been one of the few defensive players who have produced takeaways.
Norman made the big defensive play in the first half when he punched the ball out of the grasp of Jaguars wide receiver Laviska Shenault. Linebacker Fred Warner recovered the ball at the Jacksonville 35.
The 49ers cashed in that takeaway for a touchdown, which gave the 49ers a 17-0 lead.
It was a pretty easy day for the defense, which spent most of the game on the sideline.
The 49ers thoroughly dominated the time of possession, and the Jaguars’ offense could never get much going.