SANTA CLARA — Wide receiver Anquan Boldin came in motion from the right side, sidled up next to left tackle Joe Staley and joined the 49ers' blocking brigade at Sunday's most critical juncture.
Fullback Bruce Miller followed a path carved by Boldin and Staley to gain three yards on fourth-and-1, extending an 18-play touchdown drive that sealed the 49ers' 32-20 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
"I felt him kind of leap across, so I was pretty excited about that," Boldin said Monday of Miller's carry, his first of the season.
Coach Jim Harbaugh proudly reflected on that drive, too, and he gave special recognition to 6-yard touchdown run. With Hunter coming behind Anthony Davis, Vernon Davis helped create an opening with a block on linebacker Karlos Dansby.
"The blocks by Vernon Davis and Anthony Davis were textbook, something to really be admired and highlighted," Harbaugh said.
The 49ers had been unable to produce touchdowns on three earlier trips into the red zone, and Hunter's scoring run snapped that skid. San Francisco has scored touchdowns on 10 of 20 red-zone possessions.
Also encouraging on that drive were three conversions on third-down attempts. The 49ers were just 1 of 8 on third-down efficiency before the 18-play drive, which was kept alive with third-down catches by Boldin and Kyle Williams, as well as a third-and-1 run by Gore two snaps before Hunter's touchdown. The 18 plays were the most of any drive in the NFL this season.
"It was big for us," Boldin added. "Our defense had been on the field for quite some time, and we felt they needed a break."
We were able to put the game away."
JAMES MAY GET CALLED ON
LaMichael James could be summoned off the bench to spark the 49ers' punt-return efforts, a role that's strictly belonged to Kyle Williams through six games.
Harbaugh did not, however, express any discontent Monday with Williams, who's averaged 7.1 yards on eight returns while otherwise opting for 16 fair catches.
"Those fair catches aren't all on Kyle," Harbaugh said in noting how the 49ers improperly blocked opponents' gunners. "He does a good job of knowing whether to fair catch or return."
Williams' 16 fair catches already are the ninth-most in a season by the 49ers. Vinny Sutherland had the most with 21 in 2001, and 20 were made by John Taylor (1989), Dexter Carter (1993) and Arnaz Battle (2004).
"They're kicking it short and putting it in a spot where gunners are able to make a play on me and force a fair catch," Williams said. "You never want to be too safe or too risky, and you want to get something going."
BOLDIN TAKES SHOT
Boldin took a critical swipe at the NFL's new emphasis on player safety, saying "I think the league is covering their butt to be honest with you."
The 49ers wideout was taking part in an online chat with the Bay Area News Group and fans when he was asked if he had seen the PBS documentary "League of Denial," which details the NFL's history with concussion studies and protocol.
Boldin said he hadn't seen it yet and gave the league credit for taking gameday diagnoses out of the hands of coaches and potentially concussed players.