SANTA CLARA (AP) — One decisive 18-play drive told the story of San Francisco’s successful day on offense.
The 49ers (4-2) churned out 89 yards and used up 9½ minutes of clock time, from late in the third quarter to just less than seven minutes left. Kendall Hunter’s 6-yard touchdown run put his team ahead of Arizona by nine points on the way to a 32-20 victory Sunday.
Vernon Davis produced a career performance with 180 yards receiving and touchdown catches of 61 and 35 yards, while Frank Gore ran for 101 yards in his second 100-yard day this year. Quarterback Coin Kaepernick found his groove again in both the running and passing games, and San Francisco looked its most balanced yet.
“We wanted to win every scorecard, every round,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “Then, at the end of the game, we wanted to knock them out. But they are a tough defense. It took 60 minutes to wear them down.”
And, for the second straight week, the 49ers’ vaunted defense forced four turnovers leading to points. During the Niners’ three-game winning streak, they have forced 10 turnovers and turned them into 54 points on nine scoring drives — including a pick-6 by Tramaine Brock in a 34-3 rout of the Houston Texans on Oct. 6.
“That felt good,” right tackle Anthony Davis said. “We need it. Good offenses are balanced. It felt productive.”
Davis declined to accept the game ball for best offensive performer. Davis vowed to give it to “Kapy,” as he is now referring to the QB.
“He could bequeath it to somebody else,” Harbaugh said. “That’s allowed.”
When Hunter scored to put the 49ers ahead 29-20, safety Tyrann Mathieu threw Hunter and was flagged for a personal foul as Arizona’s defense let its frustration show.
Harbaugh credited the offensive line and even the unsung plays, such as wide receiver Anquan Boldin’s block as fullback Bruce Miller went up the middle for 3 yards on a fourth-and-1 to sustain the long drive.
“We really start feeling good when we’re moving the chains like we were doing and when we’re moving the clock down, continue to hold onto the football,” Miller said. “But the big thing was finishing with a touchdown to make it a two-score game on them. That was huge for our defense and our team.”
The reigning NFC champion Niners now begin a two-week stretch leading into their bye week in which they play at Tennessee on Sunday, then travel to London to face Jacksonville at Wembley Stadium.
They’re happy to be on a nice roll again after the first back-to-back losses of third-year coach Harbaugh’s tenure against Seattle and Indianapolis in Weeks 2 and 3.
“Pretty much I’ll just go with the clothes on my back, my playbook, a toothbrush and a great attitude,” Harbaugh said. “And we’ll see if we can’t encourage the rest of the guys to do the same.”
And the 49ers are gearing up to get some much-needed reinforcements in the mix this week.
Wideout Mario Manningham is set to return to practice after beginning the year on the physically unable to perform list for six games.
Manningham made 42 receptions for 449 yards and one touchdown in 12 games and 10 starts last season before injuring his left knee in a loss at Seattle Dec. 23. He underwent reconstructive surgery to repair torn anterior cruciate and posterior cruciate ligaments.
Boldin is eager to see what Manningham can do once back on the field.
“We’ve seen him the last couple of weeks, out there running around with the trainers. Running routes and stuff,” Boldin said. “We’re happy to get him back in the fold. Think he brings a lot of that play-making ability to our offense. So we’re definitely excited to get him back.”
Rookie defensive tackles Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial and cornerback Eric Wright are expected to practice when the team reconvenes Tuesday.
No matter his targets, Kaepernick wants to keep this good thing going with Gore, Davis and Boldin — and anybody else who can make big plays.
“As long as we come out with a win, that’s a good script for me,” Kaepernick said.
Notes: Harbaugh had no updates on NT Glenn Dorsey, who injured his right hamstring in the first quarter. The Niners already lost NT Ian Williams to a season-ending left ankle injury against the Seahawks on Sept. 15. “We really wouldn’t talk about the possibilities, let’s wait and see where we’re at,” Harbaugh said. ... San Francisco signed OG Al Netter to the practice squad after he spent 2012 with the unit.