First quarter: Triple threat
San Francisco loves to run multiple tight-end formations. The 49ers lined up with two or more tight ends 60 percent of their plays last season, second most in the league, according to FootballOutsiders.com.
The Niners made the biggest play of the first quarter out of a three-tight end alignment. Quarterback Alex Smith faked a handoff. One tight end ran deep down the middle of the field, and the Bills had him covered. But Vernon Davis ran an “arrow” route, up and out toward the right sideline, and the Bills were late covering him. Smith had a wide-open throw, and safety George Wilson, caught chasing Davis, didn’t run him down until it was a 53-yard gain to the Buffalo 8.
Key plays: The Bills’ defense had a goal-line stand, stopping the Niners on two run plays from the 1 to force a field goal by David Akers from 19 yards.
Zebra report: A holding call on Jairus Byrd on the first punt of the game wiped out an 80-yard return for a touchdown by Leodis McKelvin. McKelvin was credited with 28 yards and gave the Bills possession on their 38. It was a marginal hold.
Second quarter: Long haul
Kyle Williams was the goat of the 49ers’ NFC Championship Game loss to the New York Giants in January. Williams lost two fumbles on punt returns, the last one in overtime. That turnover led to the winning field goal in New York’s 20-17 decision.
Williams sees only spot duty at receiver, but he made the most of his playing time in the second quarter. Williams caught a 43-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline to give San Francisco a 10-3 lead.
It was a go route, and Bills cornerback Aaron Williams ran stride for stride with the receiver. But Williams cut off the route, and Alex Smith threw it to his back shoulder. Williams shrugged off Aaron Williams and ran the final 10 yards to the end zone.
Key plays: The Niners scored a touchdown with 24 seconds left in the half, just one play after Bills tight end Scott Chandler fumbled on a short catch over the middle. Rookie Stephon Gilmore was burned on the TD. He took a step up and let receiver Michael Crabtree get behind him.
Second-guess: Should the Bills have played safe and run with 34 seconds left instead of throwing to Chandler?
Third quarter: Blood and Gore
San Francisco flexed its power football muscle in the third quarter. The Niners rushed 10 times for 97 yards in the quarter and held a 24-3 advantage with 15 minutes to go.
San Francisco entered the game third in the NFL in rushing with an average of 167 yards a game.
The Niners had 180 rushing yards after just 45 minutes against the Bills.
The big gainer on the ground was a 31-yard run by Frank Gore to the Bills’ 16. The Niners caught the Bills in a blitz on the play and Gore gashed the defense through a big hole off left guard.
Wildcat quarterback Colin Kaepernick then ran 15 yards off left tackle, and Gore dived over from the 1 for a touchdown on the next play. It put the Niners up, 24-3.
Bad INT: The Bills marched 60 yards to the Niners’ 20 late in the quarter. But Ryan Fitzpatrick threw an interception at the 1. There was pressure in Fitzpatrick’s face and he made an ill-advised throw, off balance, that fluttered.
Ball control: The Niners ran off the last 11 plays of the quarter. A 17-yard rumble by Gore was the big gainer.
Fourth quarter: Home cooking
The 49ers love their home cooking.
San Francisco’s win was its 12th in its last 13 regular-season home games.
Niners quarterback Alex Smith has 24 touchdown passes and just three interceptions in his last 13 regular-season home games. In six of those games, he had a passer rating of 107.7 or better. Smith was 19-31 as a starter when coach Jim Harbaugh arrived in San Francisco. Now Smith is 36-35, above .500 for the first time in his NFL career.
Smith finished the game with 18 completions in 24 attempts for 303 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He ran for 49 more yards.
Over their last 12 regular-season home games, the Niners are averaging 31 points.
Pouring it on: The Niners got three touchdowns. Smith hit a wide open Mario Manningham for a 10-yard touchdown on the second play of the quarter. Colin Kaepernick rumbled 16 yards for a touchdown from the Wildcat formation to make it 38-3 midway through the quarter. Anthony Dixon bulled in from 3 yards out with 1:11 left to make it 45-3. The Niners ran straight ahead and the Bills couldn’t stop them.