NFL Preview - San Francisco (4-2) at Tennessee (3-3)
By Michael Rushton, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - After putting up just 10 points over their only losing streak of the season, Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco offense have gotten on track in a big way.
The 49ers try to push their winning streak to four straight games on Sunday afternoon when they visit LP Field and the Tennessee Titans, losers of two straight.
Outscored 56-10 in consecutive losses to Seattle and Indianapolis, the Niners have rebounded by averaging 33.7 points per contest over a three-game winning streak, the club's first in the regular season since 2011.
San Francisco held St. Louis and Houston to just 14 points combined in the first two games of this winning streak before a tighter battle with Arizona this past weekend. However, a big game from tight end Vernon Davis helped spark the 49ers to a 32-20 win.
Davis had eight catches for a career-high 180 yards, scoring twice on touchdown catches of 61 and 35 yards in the second quarter.
"We knew he'd be a mismatch," Kaepernick said of Davis. "He came to play today. He did a great job out there."
Kaepernick had 252 yards passing and his two scoring throws to Davis helped overcome his two turnovers on an interception and lost fumble. A ground game that totaled 149 yards -- 101 from Frank Gore -- also keyed the attack.
San Francisco forced four turnovers in the game, with rookie safety Eric Reid picking off a pass and recovering a fumble.
Key to the victory was an 18-play, 89-yard scoring drive by the Niners in the fourth quarter that came after a fumble by Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald. The march ate up 9 1/2 minutes of clock.
"I just thought it was a gritty, determined win by the football team. I thought, really everybody was contributing. This was another real good team win," said Niners coach Jim Harbaugh.
Harbaugh's squad has scored 30-plus points in three straight for the first time since 2003 and will play its next two on the road before a bye week.
The Titans have lost two straight following a 3-1 start, with both setbacks coming with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. Starter Jake Locker missed his second game in a row this past Sunday due to a hip and knee injuries, with Tennessee dropping a 20-13 game to the Seattle Seahawks.
A 77-yard fumble recovery by Titans defensive back Jason McCourty to close the first half send Tennessee into the break up 10-7, but the Titans were held to just a field goal after that.
Fitzpatrick completed 17-of-29 passes for 171 yards with a pair of interceptions and no touchdowns. That gave him a passer rating of 46.8.
"They're a good defense but I think if you look at the game, we couldn't get into a rhythm on offense and a lot of that is me. I didn't play well today, really for the last two weeks, played poorly and we haven't won a game," said Fitzpatrick.
"We got to go home and win next week, and that will kind of get the mojo back. The last two weeks unfortunately, especially offensively, we just haven't played well and I haven't played well enough for us to win."
Tennessee got just 33 yards rushing from both running back Chris Johnson and Fitzpatrick, but also forced five fumbles in the game, recovering two.
The Titans have won their past two meetings with the 49ers, a 33-22 decision in Tennessee on Nov. 27, 2005 and a 34-27 win at San Francisco on Nov. 8, 2009.
The Niners still lead the all-time series 7-5, winning four of six on the road.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Niners opened the season without wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham due to injury and Davis had tallied 14 catches for 224 yards and four touchdowns in four games prior to last weekend, missing one contest with a hamstring injury.
However, he and Kaepernick were on the same page versus the Cardinals, with Davis becoming the first tight end in franchise history to record a touchdown reception of 60-plus yards in consecutive weeks after hauling in a 64-yarder versus Houston in Week 5.
The last NFL tight end to do so was Cincinnati's Bob Trumpy in 1969.
"Vernon is someone who has all of those tools. So, every route it is going to vary for him, but he uses those tools to his advantage," said Kaepernick.
San Francisco's hard-nosed defense has also been key and the unit forced four turnovers versus Arizona. The offense converted all four into points, picking up a touchdown and three field goals.
In fact, the offense has turned all 10 turnovers the defense has recorded over the last three weeks into points, scoring six touchdowns with four field goals.
"I think we're playing now," said Niners linebacker NaVorro Bowman. "I think we're back to the way we play football. Used to the new guys, the new guys are used to us. I think we're just playing 49er football and that's something that we add to our game is just turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. It's starting to pan out for us."
Rookies have had a big impact, with Reid notching his third interception of the season while also coming up with the key fumble recovery on Fitzgerald's miscue.
Linebacker Corey Lemonier, meanwhile, picked up his first career sack last weekend and it resulted in a safety. He also forced a fumble in the game.
Tennessee will be tasked with trying to slow down San Francisco's linebacking group, led by Bowman and Patrick Willis, who returned from a two-game absence last weekend that was caused by a groin injury.
Willis tied for the team lead with eight tackles and also forced a fumble and will return to the state in which he began his playing career as a product of Central HS in Bruceton, Tennessee.
With the chances of Locker playing this weekend slim -- he returned to practice on Wednesday wearing a knee brace -- Fitzgerald will have to keep cool against the pressure caused by the Niners defense. It hasn't helped that he has been sacked six times in his two starts while also putting the ball on the ground three times, though the Titans recovered all three.
"We're going forward with Ryan, but we want to see how well, how fast along Jake comes," Munchak said.
Fitzgerald has thrown four interceptions to one touchdown pass in his two starts, but has run for 83 yards with a score in the two games. Making a few plays with his feet could benefit Johnson and receivers Nate Washington and Kendall Wright, who led the Titans with five catches for 69 yards versus the Seahawks.
San Francisco, though, ranks second in the NFC with just 206.3 passing yards allowed per game, behind only Seattle's 188.3 average.
Tennessee's defense has kept the club in games as it is allowing a manageable 19.2 points per game, giving up 20 points or fewer in four games this season.
Linebacker Moise Fokou forced two fumbles last weekend versus the Seahawks, while McCourty and safety Bernard Pollard had nine tackles each. Pollard also had a sack.
The Titans have a turnover ratio of plus-8, second-best in the NFL.
The inability to get Johnson going has plagued the Titans offense. He is averaging 3.1 yards per carry, picking up 327 yards on 106 carries without a rushing touchdown, keeping him one shy of becoming the fourth player in franchise history to reach 50 TDs.
The Titans were hoping to compliment the speedy Johnson with the more powerful Shonn Greene this season, but Greene has been out since Week 1 due to a knee injury.
He is expected to ramp up his activity this week, however.
"Well, I think he'll help us without a doubt," said Titans coach Mike Munchak of Greene. "That's why he's here, that's why we were excited about bringing him over because of the type of runner he is. ... He's a different type of runner, and that's the whole thing with that combination. You have that and all of a sudden Chris Johnson is hitting you."
Titans tight end Delanie Walker will face his former Niners club for the first time since leaving as a free agent this past offseason. A sixth-round pick by San Francisco in 2006, Walker hauled in 123 passes for 1,465 yards and eight touchdowns in 99 games, making 40 starts.
The Titans certainly have a better chance with Locker on the field, but likely won't rush him back for this contest given the club is next on its bye week. Fitzgerald is likely to see a lot of pressure from the talented 49ers defense and will likely hit the turf more than a few times.
San Francisco defends the pass well and should feast on Fitzgerald, especially if Johnson again can't get going.
Kaepernick, meanwhile, has put some struggles behind him thanks to an improved reliance on the run game and the Niners' offense will allow them to dictate the pace of this game.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: 49ers 31, Titans 13
10/17 15:12:05 ET