Jim Harbaugh walked out of an elevator at Levi's Stadium with his parents late Sunday evening, smiling and cracking jokes with reporters after a day that began with more fuss about his future.
If there's any drama surrounding Harbaugh, he certainly doesn't seem to mind it.
The San Francisco 49ers came through in the clutch for their coach again, converting a fake punt from deep in their territory and leaning on five field goals from Phil Dawson to beat the Kansas City Chiefs 22-17 on Sunday.
The victory quieted the latest questions surrounding Harbaugh's tenure and provided an emphatic response to all the "outside noise," as he calls it. That is, for at least one more week.
"The team doesn't have to respond. The team has to do their job and play football," Harbaugh said. "It's my job to love them, those players, those coaches, everybody in our organization. It's their job to love each other. They don't need to respond in any other way than their job."
Reports have appeared since the offseason that players aren't particularly happy with Harbaugh, and the most recent ones caused 49ers CEO and acting owner Jed York to speak out.
About three hours before kickoff, York posted on Twitter: "Jim is my coach. We are trying to win a SB (Super Bowl), not a personality or popularity contest. Any more questions?"
Harbaugh and his players helped answer some of them with a gutsy call late, spoiling the return of former franchise quarterback Alex Smith in the process.
The 49ers (3-2) turned to a trick play on fourth-and-1 from their 29 early in the fourth quarter, giving a direct snap to Craig Dahl for a 3-yard run up the middle. Colin Kaepernick directed the offense downfield, and Dawson kicked a 27-yard field goal with 8:42 to play for the go-ahead score.
Dawson also connected from 55, 52, 35 and 30 yards.
The 49ers smothered Smith and the Chiefs (2-3) twice in the closing moments. Smith threw for 175 yards and two touchdowns, but Perrish Cox intercepted his overthrown pass to end Kansas City's comeback.
"It's tough, you're competitive, you want to win the game," said Smith, who completed 17 of 31 passes. "Some of those guys I played a long time with."
Here are some other takeaways from Sunday's game:
LIMITED PENALTIES: The 49ers came into the game with a league-leading 46 penalties. They had only two for 10 yards against the Chiefs, who were whistled for four penalties for 29 yards.
RECORD RUSHER: Jamaal Charles ran for 80 yards on 15 carries for the Chiefs but was mostly a non-factor late. Charles is still on pace to become Kansas City's career rushing leader. He eclipsed Larry Johnson (6,015 yards) for second place and needs 53 yards to pass Priest Holmes (6,070 yards) for the franchise record.
NINERS GROUND GAME: The 49ers have gotten back to what they do best the last two weeks: running the ball with authority. Frank Gore ran for 107 yards on 18 carries, and rookie Carlos Hyde had 10 carries for 43 yards. San Francisco finished with 171 yards rushing.
DAT'S DEBUT: De'Anthony Thomas made a big impact for the Chiefs, showing he could be an electric playmaker the way he was in college. The former Oregon standout ran his first punt return 28 yards, then caught a short screen and sprinted 17 yards for a score to put the Chiefs back in front 17-13 in the third quarter. Thomas also had another punt return for 10 yards.
KAEPERNICK UNDER CONTROL: Kaepernick completed 14 of 26 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps more importantly, he finished with no turnovers, which had been a growing problem lately. He nearly was intercepted in the first quarter but kept calm under pressure — and got a few big grabs from his receivers — the rest of the way.
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