Tuesday, November 14, 2017

49ers Taste Victory in Emotional Win over Giants

Week 10 - For the first time in 2017, the San Francisco 49ers are in the win column. Though it would take them much longer than they had hoped, the Niners were able to claim their first victory of the season and first win under the John Lynch-Kyle Shanahan regime against a struggling (1-7) New York Giants team. In an emotional game that featured two teams with the fewest amount of wins this late in a season since 1984, the 49ers would ride a season-high in rushing yards (186) on their way to a 31-21 victory. Despite liking their chances of getting win No. 1 of the season entering Sunday's game, San Francisco would still be 3-point underdogs against a team that had been embarrassed at home by a score of 51-17 one week earlier.

With both teams scoring field goals on their opening possessions, the game would quickly jump out to a 3-3 score as the 49ers benefited from a penalty on New York's special-teams which gave San Francisco the ball at their 40-yard line after the opening kickoff failed to reach the end zone and rolled out of bounds. A 28-yard rush by running back Carlos Hyde on the first play from scrimmage and an extra 15-yards tacked on thanks to an unnecessary roughness penalty called on New York would set the table for kicker Robbie Gould before being answered by Giants rookie kicker Aldrick Rosas. San Francisco's second possession appeared to be heading in the same direction before being halted on a failed 4th and 1 attempt at New York's 36-yard line. After another Giants field goal, both teams would exchange fumbles as another promising 49er drive went up in flames as fullback Kyle Juszczyk fumbled the ball away for the second consecutive week. But the San Francisco defense would respond just three plays later with a forced fumble of their own as second-year defensive-end Ronald Blair's first of two sacks on Giants QB Eli Manning jarred the ball loose, forcing the turnover.
The biggest story of the day for the 49ers, however, would be that of receiver Marquise Goodwin who had received the unfortunate news that he and his wife had lost their unborn child due to pregnancy complications just hours before kickoff. Courageous enough to still hit the field and play on Sunday, albeit with a heavy heart, Goodwin would show up in a big way for his team as he hauled in his first touchdown reception as a 49er on an 83-yard bomb from rookie QB C.J. Beathard. Though it would be his only reception of the game, it would mark the longest pass reception by a 49er since 2005 as Goodwin used his speed coupled with a stiff-arm to break free of the defender as he struck pay dirt before being overcome with emotion as he dropped to his knees and blew a kiss to the sky. Making his 208th consecutive start, Eli Manning would be quick to respond to his 49er counterpart as he connected in the end zone with tight-end Evan Engram. Entering Sunday, San Francisco had led in games for a league-low 29 minutes and 37 seconds before leading in much of this one as Beathard would help the 49ers jump back ahead on their ensuing possession with a lead that they wouldn't relinquish for the remainder of the afternoon as he found tight-end Garrett Celek for a 47-yard touchdown to give SF a 17-13 lead heading into the half. It would also mark the first time the 49ers would lead heading into halftime this year.

New York would open the second half by marching into field goal range before things went sour after Rosas missed a field goal from 34-yards out. But another 49er turnover would once again put an end to an otherwise nice possession as Beathard was picked off by Olivier Vernon who disrupted a screen pass intended for Matt Breida before tipping it to himself for the interception. It would be the only blemish on the day for Beathard who finally received some protection from his offensive-line as the rookie QB was sack-free all afternoon long, this after taking an absolute beating against the Cardinals a week ago. And on the first play of the fourth quarter, Beathard would rebound from his earlier mishap with an 11-yard touchdown run to make it a 24-13 ballgame for San Francisco's first double-digit lead of the season. That lead would increase one possession later as Breida logged the first rushing touchdown of his career with a 33-yard score to give the Niners a 31-13 advantage. With scoring being a non-factor for the offense on Sunday, San Francisco's punting unit wouldn't be called upon until the 5:46 mark in the 4th quarter.
With the game all but decided, the Giants would get a garbage time touchdown from Manning to receiver Roger Lewis as well as a successful 2-point conversion with just over a minute remaining. But New York's onside-kick attempt would be recovered by the Niners who were able to get into victory formation and milk the clock for the 31-21 win. The victory at home would be San Francisco's first win at Levi's Stadium since their Week 1 shellacking of the Rams over a year ago on Monday Night Football and one that would result in a Gatorade bath inside the 49ers locker room for head coach Kyle Shanahan who was congratulated by his players. Game balls would be given out following the celebration as GM John Lynch personally handed a ball to Goodwin for his courageous efforts and heroics in spite of the family tragedy.

After a career-high in pass attempts (51) in his last outing, quarterback C.J. Beathard (19 for 25) would out-duel Eli Manning (28 for 37) 288 to 273 in the yards department as both QB's threw for a pair of touchdowns and finished with one turnover each. Giants receiver Sterling Shepard would finish with a game-high 142 yards receiving and 11 receptions and Carlos Hyde would lead all backs on the ground, falling two yards shy of the century mark with 98 yards rushing on 17 carries. On the defensive side, 49ers rookie linebacker Reuben Foster tallied double-digit tackles for the second consecutive week with 10 (6 solo, 4 assisted) to lead all tacklers. As for the Giants who dropped to 1-8 on the season for the first time since 1980, New York has now gone 13 games without scoring at least 24-points, the longest active streak in the NFL. The loss also adds some warmth to head coach Ben McAdoo's hot seat as his status to return next season remains up in the air following the Giants' dreadful 1-8 start.

Week 12 Preview - With the 49ers heading into the BYE on a winning note, Kyle Shanahan will look to get his guys mentally and physically ready for their next opponent as the Niners play host to division rival Seattle in Week 12. Since San Francisco's 3-point loss to Seattle in Week 2, the (6-3) Seahawks are looking much better than the team that barely escaped Century Link Field with a win in the first meeting between these two bitter rivals. But after suffering a loss at home just two weeks ago to the Washington Redskins, the Seahawks are still very beatable if the Niners can stick around at home much like they did in their first meeting while applying pressure to QB Russell Wilson. Carlos Hyde will look to add another busy day against the Seahawks defense as his 124-yard performance on the ground in Week 2 remains the only 100-yard performance for the 49er running back this season. Hosting the reigning NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons this week, Seattle currently trails the (7-2) L.A. Rams by a game in the NFC Western Division standings.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Tempers Flare in 49ers Loss to Cards

Week 9 - Returning home to Levi's Stadium for the first leg of a three game homestand, the 49ers would renew rivalries with division foe (3-4) Arizona. Looking to both take advantage of the absence of Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer who's been placed on injured reserve with a broken arm and avenge a 3-point overtime loss suffered the last time these two teams met in Week 4, the San Francisco defense would have their hands full with running back Adrian Peterson who the 49ers have had a good history against in the 4 games they've faced him. But seeing Peterson for the first time in a Cardinals uniform, however, the former league MVP who tallied 27 carries in four games with the Saints before being traded to Arizona, would record a career-high 37 carries for 159 yards on Sunday. And while the San Francisco defense was able to keep Peterson out of the end zone once again, leaving him searching for his first career touchdown versus the Niners, they weren't able to make that claim against the Cardinals' passing attack.

Facing their third opponent coming off a BYE in four weeks, it would be a frustrating day all around for San Francisco as the offense generated only a single touchdown for the third consecutive game. Meanwhile, the defense would fail to log a single sack for the fourth time this season as Cardinals backup QB Drew Stanton threw for 201 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the afternoon while completing half of his passes (15 for 30) and under minimum pressure from San Francisco's defense. Stanton and the Arizona offense would come out of the gates firing as the former Michigan State product connected on a 52-yard pass to receiver John Brown on the first play from scrimmage. Though it would be the only reception on the day for Brown, it would appear to be enough to at least set up a field goal try for the 42 year old Phil Dawson who had spent the last four seasons as a reliable kicker with the 49ers before signing with Arizona in the offseason. But having struggled mightily thus far in a Cardinals uniform despite now playing his home games indoors, Dawson who missed six field goals combined over the last two seasons with San Francisco, would miss his sixth field goal already this season as the game remained scoreless.
Like they've done so often this season, self-inflicted miscues would harm the 49ers and benefit the opposition once again. A fumbled carry near midfield by fullback Kyle Juszczyk on San Francisco's first possession of the game would help setup the Arizona offense who would strike first just three plays later on a touchdown pass to receiver Jaron Brown. Stanton would later connect with tight-end Jermaine Gresham for a second Arizona touchdown and nearly threw for a third before being picked off in the end zone by linebacker Eric Reid who had made the transition from the safety position just a week ago. Trailing 14-3 entering the second half, San Francisco's one and only trip to the end zone on Sunday would come on a 14-play drive that rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard capitalized with a 1-yard rushing touchdown to make it a 14-10 ballgame. Inspired by Stanton's 52-yard pass on the first play of the game, Beathard would show off his own arm strength with a 55-yard bomb to Marquise Goodwin as the speedy receiver used his Olympic speed to blow by both Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu for the big gain. But the highlights and lowlights for San Francisco would be few and far between as Beathard received little support from his offensive-line and was constantly under pressure all afternoon long.

After failing to pick up a first down on 4th and 3 near midfield, the 49ers would get another chance after forcing a fumble on Adrian Peterson the very next play. But the 9-yard line would be as far as the offense would get as Beathard threw an absolute clunker off his own man's helmet as the pass intended for Garrett Celek failed to make it over the head of his 6' 8" guard Trent Brown, allowing Arizona's Karlos Dansby to come up with the easy interception, sealing the 20-10 win. With his family in attendance watching from the stands, the boneheaded turnover would be the cherry on top of a miserable day for Beathard who received a beating under center to the tune of 5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits. Perhaps none harder than the lick he took from former 49er Antoine Bethea who was flagged for unnecessary roughness on a hit he made while Beathard was sliding. The hit would lead to a scuffle that resulted in three players being ejected including Niners running back Carlos Hyde, but not before he hauled in 9 receptions for 84-yards, both career-highs. The shellacking endured by Beathard who threw for 294 yards in the loss, would draw the attention of Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians who described the rookie QB as, "tough as nails."
Following their first 0-8 start in franchise history a week ago, the 49ers have now dropped to 0-9 on the season as Arizona completed their third straight season sweep of their division rivals. The game wouldn't be the only thing the 49ers would lose as strong-safety Jaquiski Tartt was injured during the 2nd quarter and lost for the season after suffering a fractured arm, the same injury free-safety Jimmie Ward would suffer a week ago. San Francisco has had terrible luck in the injury department this year season and now has an NFL-leading 16 players on Injured Reserve. However, there would be some good news on Sunday as rookie linebacker Reuben Foster who has had his fair share of injuries this season not only completed the first full game of his career, but racked up a game-high 14 tackles in doing so, 13 solo and 1 assisted.

Week 10 Preview - Before heading into their Week 11 BYE, San Francisco will play host to Eli Manning and the struggling (1-7) New York Giants. Coming off a 51-17 shellacking at home to the L.A. Rams, the Giants have been one of the biggest disappointments of 2017 and their struggles are something nobody saw coming as New York entered the season expected to cause fits for the Cowboys and at least pose a threat in the NFC East. Instead, the Giants have gotten off to a sluggish start that has not only begged the question of whether or not head coach Ben McAdoo isn't the man for the job, but also if it's time to move on from longtime quarterback Eli Manning. Sure they're without their star receiver in Odell Beckham Jr. who was lost for the season after fracturing his ankle, but the 2017 Giants have been a far cry from their 2016 self after making it to the playoffs as a Wild Card team via a 11-5 record just a season ago. Averaging just 16.1 points per game (29th in the league) compared to San Francisco's 15.9 (30th), the Giants trail the 49ers in all three of the following categories: total yards per game, passing yards per game, and rushing yards per game. At this point, their meeting with the Giants this week appears to be their best chance at recording a win this season. And what better way for head coach Kyle Shanahan to head into the BYE week with than after a win.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

SF Falls to Philly in Worst Start in 49ers History

Week 8 - What do you get when you put an 0-7 San Francisco 49ers team that is tied for the worst overall record in the NFL against a 6-1 Philadelphia Eagles team that boasts the best record in the league? How about at a 33-10 shellacking in what is now the first 0-8 start in franchise history for first-year head coach Kyle Shanahan and the woeful 49ers. Entering Sunday's meeting against the Eagles in Philadelphia, the 49ers knew they'd have their work cut out for them matching up on defense against second-year quarterback Carson Wentz who has already surpassed his touchdown total from a year ago (16 TD's) in eight fewer games. They'd also have their hands full against a Philadelphia defense that ranks tops in the league against the run.

Playing on a damp Sunday afternoon, the 49ers would need to play a near perfect game if they had plans of pulling off the upset in rainy Philadelphia. Instead, they'd fall behind 17-0 heading into the locker room at the half as a pair of touchdowns allowed highlighted a dismal first two quarters for San Francisco. The 49ers would manage to stick around for a majority of the first half as Philly hung onto a 3-0 lead entering the 2-minute warning. But things would change quickly as a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight-end Zach Ertz and a pick-six by cornerback Jalen Mills just 17 seconds later would allow the Eagles to take a 17-0 lead into the half. The lead would reach 20 to nothing before the 49ers finally scratched the scoreboard on a touchdown set up by rookie corner Ahkello Witherspoon who recorded his first career interception. San Francisco would capitalize as another 49ers rookie recorded a career first when quarterback C.J. Beathard's shovel pass to backup running back Matt Breida sprung the undrafted rookie from Georgia Southern 21-yards for the first touchdown of his career.
The two big plays by the trio of 49ers rookies would be the lone highlights on the afternoon for San Francisco as the mistakes and wrongdoings far outweighed the good. A week after setting a 49ers franchise record by throwing for the most yards in a rookie debut with 235 yards against the Cowboys, Beathard threw for only 167 yards in his second time around in another tough outing by the San Francisco offense who was stymied by Philadelphia's solid defense. Against the run, the Eagles held both Breida and Carlos Hyde to a combined 42-yards rushing as neither back was able to get anything going on the ground. Veteran kicker Robbie Gould would also see better days as he saw his perfect 91-for-91 mark of field goals from 20-30 yards come to an end as his 27-yard field goal attempt to start the fourth quarter was blocked. It would be Gould's first blocked field goal since 2012 with the Bears, though he would redeem himself on San Francisco's ensuing possession with a successful 50-yard try.

Leading the league in passing touchdowns entering Sunday, Wentz added his second touchdown pass of the afternoon on a 53-yard connection to Alshon Jefferey on the longest play of the receiver's brief Eagles career. A 12-yard touchdown run by LeGarrette Blount would round out the rest of the scoring for Philly who stormed away with the 33-10 victory and improved their league-best record to 7-1 on the year, leading the NFC East over second place Dallas (4-3). As for San Francisco who fell to 0-8 on the year for the first time in their 73-year history, the 49ers were also dealt a blow on both sides of the ball in the injury department as cornerback Jimmie Ward (fractured left forearm), offensive-lineman Joe Staley (broken orbital bone) and receiver Pierre Garcon (neck) were all bit by the injury bug on Sunday with Ward and Garcon's injuries being season-ending. The loss of those players would only add salt to the wound as the 49ers have now dropped 10 consecutive games in the eastern time zone. You'd have to date back to November 16, 2014 against the Giants in New York for the last time San Francisco departed the eastern part of the country with a victory.
Week 9 Preview - Returning home to kick off the first game of a three game homestand, the 49ers will play host to division rival Arizona as the (3-4) Cardinals are coming off a BYE week following their shutout loss to the Rams in London. With an 18-15 overtime win against the 49ers in their Week 4 meeting earlier this season in Arizona, the Cardinals are looking for the season sweep of San Francisco, but will be without quarterback Carson Palmer who is out for the season and is likely to retire after suffering a broken arm. The 49ers will hope to get the first win of the season after nearly defeating the Cardinals in Arizona after taking a 15-12 lead in overtime before Palmer connected with Larry Fitzgerald in the end zone for a walk-off, game-winning touchdown. San Francisco will be met by backup QB Drew Stanton and will also get their first look at running back Adrian Peterson in a Cardinals uniform as the former league MVP who began the season in New Orleans, was traded from the Saints to the Cardinals before Week 6.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Zeke, Cowboys run Wild vs Struggling 49ers

Week 7 - Returning home to Levi's Stadium where the (0-6) San Francisco 49ers would play host to the (2-3) Dallas Cowboys, head coach Kyle Shanahan had hopes that his team's first home game in over a month would bring some good fortune. But after suffering five consecutive losses by a combined 13-points entering Sunday, the 49ers who were plagued by a trio of fumbles, stood little chance and were embarrassed by a whopping 30-points in their first game at home since Week 3. On a day the Niners honored former receiver Dwight Clark, the recipient who authored arguably the most famed play in NFL history "The Catch" 35 years ago against the Cowboys, 49er fans were left with a bad taste in their mouths following the largest loss in the Dallas-San Francisco rivalry since October 12, 1980.

With many 49er greats on hand for Dwight Clark's halftime ceremony, Niner fans would be left reminiscing of better days and fantasizing of how well those greats of yesteryear could help this team. In at quarterback making his first career start and hoping to one day cement his legacy among the great 49er QB's before him would be rookie C.J. Beathard who would also see his first bit of action in front of the Niner faithful. And just like he did a week ago, Beathard would take his first snap with his team trailing as things once again got off to a rocky start for San Francisco. Entering Sunday's game coming off a BYE week and having lost two straight, Dallas would look a lot more like the team that dominated their way to the No. 1 seed in the NFC a year ago and were given a golden opportunity before San Francisco's offense even took the field. After forcing a three and out on Dallas' opening possession, 49ers rookie Trent Taylor would fumble the punt return inside the 20-yard line to setup an early touchdown by running back Ezekiel Elliott.
The rushing touchdown by Elliott would kick start a busy day for the reigning rushing leader from a season ago as he would strike pay dirt again just one possession later to give Dallas a double-digit lead that they wouldn't relinquish. San Francisco would get on the board on the ensuing possession thanks to a Robbie Gould field goal, but their inability to reach the end zone would prove to be costly as Dallas continued to pile on points with score after score. After the first of three touchdown passes on the afternoon by Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, the 49ers offense would finally begin to show some promise as Beathard would help get his team to the red zone just before halftime. Looking to cut the deficit in half, San Francisco found themselves knocking on the door at the 5-yard line before Beathard was blindsided from behind, resulting in a fumble that would preserve Dallas' 17-point lead heading into the half.

The Cowboys would open the second half much like they did the first, this time needing only one play to find the end zone. A pair of nice blocks would allow Elliott to add to his already busy day by recording his third touchdown of the afternoon and first of the receiving variety as he caught a screen pass and took it 72-yards to the house while walking the tightrope along the sideline. Elliott would be a thorn in the side of the San Francisco defense virtually all afternoon as he rushed for 147 yards and finished with over 200-yards in total. Prescott would get in on the fun one possession later as he added a 2-yard touchdown run of his own to run the score up to 33-3. For Beathard, the first start of his career would quickly turn into one he would prefer to forget as he was sacked for a fifth time, fumbling and turning the ball over yet again. Dallas would capitalize one final time as Prescott connected in the end zone with receiver Dez Bryant who displayed some nifty footwork while leaping into the air and coming down with the ball for the touchdown.
With the game well out of reach, the 49ers would finally find the end zone with a garbage time touchdown as Beathard used his legs to punch it in from 4-yards out. Though Beathard failed to log a single touchdown pass on the afternoon, he also steered clear of throwing any interceptions, but his offensive-line didn't do him any favors as the pair of fumbles on five total sacks for 48 yards would be his downfall as Dallas came away with the 40-10 victory to snap their 2-game losing streak. Completing six more passes in 13 more attempts than his counterpart, Beathard (22-for-36, 235 yards) managed to out pass Prescott (16-for-25, 234) by a yard despite the Cowboys QB benefiting from a 72-yard dump off. The 40-point outburst by Dallas would mark the second time this season the 49er defense had allowed 40-points or more. It would also be the third contest this season in which the 49ers failed to log a single quarterback sack.

Week 8 Preview - The (0-7) 49ers will have another tough task in store for Week 8 when they hit the road again to face the Philadelphia Eagles who boast the NFL's best record at 6-1. Coming off a 34-24 victory against the division rival Redskins on Monday Night Football, second-year quarterback Carson Wentz is looking to improve off his 4 TD performance against Washington and strengthen his case for MVP. San Francisco will need to play a much cleaner game on offense if they want to pull of the upset and record their first win of the season. In need of a more solid performance defensively, San Francisco will see a change of position as Pro Bowl safety Eric Reid will be asked to make a start at inside linebacker after being moved to the position against Dallas. Whether this is a position Shanahan and GM John Lynch plan to keep Reid at long-term is unknown at this point as the former right-round pick will be a free-agent at the end of the season.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

49ers Rally but Fall Short behind Beathard's Heroics

Week 6 - Entering their Week 6 meeting with the (2-2) Washington Redskins who were coming off a BYE, the (0-5) San Francisco 49ers had been on the cusp of victory in four straight matches, including overtime losses in each of their last two games. Since a blowout loss to the Carolina Panthers to open the season, head coach Kyle Shanahan has witnessed his team fight hard week after week but has had little to show for as his team's last four losses have all come by three points or less. Hoping to avoid the first 0-6 start in 49ers franchise history since 1979, Shanahan would look to earn his first career win against a Redskins franchise he served four seasons with from 2010 to 2013 as the team's offensive coordinator. He and 49ers GM John Lynch would also get a much closer look at Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins who has been on San Francisco's radar as a possible long-term solution to their QB problem. But it wouldn't be long before both Shanahan and Lynch also got a look at their youngest quarterback that coincidentally has been compared to Cousins.

But after a rocky start that saw Washington score a touchdown on their opening possession before jumping out to a 17-0 lead in the first half, San Francisco appeared to be in store for a beat down and were in dire need of a jolt on offense. Following four unsuccessful possessions led by starting quarterback Brian Hoyer, coach Shanahan decided to kick the tires on rookie QB C.J. Beathard after the third round pick from Iowa turned a few heads during preseason. Making his debut with 6:39 remaining in the first half and his team down by 10, Beathard completed a 13-yard completion on his first pass attempt, but showed some jitters on his next three attempts as a trio of incompletions would bring on the punting unit. With another Redskins touchdown on the ensuing possession, Beathard would be forced to dig his team out of a 17-point hole despite only a handful of plays under his belt. And on his second possession, the 23 year old Tennessee native would look much more comfortable in the pocket as three of his next four passes would go for gains of 19, 31 and 12 yards, helping march the offense to the 1-yard line before running back Carlos Hyde put the Niners on the board with a touchdown run on 4th down in the final seconds of the first half.
By adding a field goal on their first possession of the second half, San Francisco would cut the deficit to 7 as kicker Robbie Gould improved his streak to 32 consecutive made field goals, the longest active streak in the league. Unfortunately, that streak would come to an end just one possession later as Gould missed from 47 yards out, failing to bring his team within a point. San Francisco would catch a break, however, as former 49ers tight-end Vernon Davis hauled in a 6 yard pass before being stripped of the ball by linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong, thus allowing cornerback Jimmie Ward to pick up the ball and nearly take it to the house before being pushed out of bounds near the goal-line. Carlos Hyde would need only one play to do the rest as his second rushing touchdown of the day tied the game at 17 all. Looking to answer, Washington would get a Dustin Hopkins field goal on a 16-play drive that lasted nearly seven and a half minutes to regain the lead. 'Skins captain Kirk Cousins would add to that lead with his feet as he scampered into the end zone untouched from 7-yards out for a touchdown before a missed extra-point by Hopkins.

Taking over with under three and a half minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the former Iowa Hawkeye would tally his first career passing touchdown on a 45-yard pass to receiver Aldrick Robinson who found an opening near the right sideline as the Niners pulled within two points. In need of a stop on defense, the 49ers would force a three and out to put the ball back in the hands of their rookie QB with under a minute to go. But standing in the way of his team's first win of the season and the first victory of his young career would be the franchise C.J.'s grandfather Bobby Beathard once served over a decade with and helped win two Super Bowl's as the Redskins' general manager from 1978 to 1989. Hoping to make his grandfather proud by beating his old employer, Beathard would soon find himself stuck between a rock and a hard place as any chances of a late comeback attempt would be thwarted by yet another questionable penalty on the offense in the wining minutes of the fourth quarter.
Facing 2nd and 10 with 23 seconds remaining, former Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon would be called for offensive pass-interference as he collided with a defender when trying to make a cut while running his route. The penalty would set the Niners back an additional ten yards, turning the tide and knocking them out of field goal range and erasing any shot at setting up a potential game-winning field goal. Staring down a crucial 4th and 20 play with 9 seconds to go and zero timeouts remaining, Beathard would be forced to go for the home run play as his pass intended for Kittle was intercepted by corner Kendall Fuller as Washington survived for the 26-24 victory, handing San Francisco their fifth consecutive loss by a combined 13 points. Close but no cigar would be the motto once again for rookie head coach Kyle Shanahan who witnessed his team become the first squad in NFL history to lose five straight games by three points or less. For Beathard, the close loss is definitely something the rookie can hang his hat on as he nearly helped pull off the comeback victory by throwing for 245 yards and a touchdown despite missing all but the final six minutes of the first half. He also gives the franchise a glimmer of hope at the QB position moving forward.

Week 7 Preview: With the (0-6) 49ers returning home to Levi's Stadium for the first time since a Thursday Night loss to the Rams on September 21, Beathard will take over the reigns of the QB position for the first time in front of the home fans. Looking to make that homecoming as unwelcoming as possible will be the (2-3) Dallas Cowboys as the two teams renew rivalries once again. Having lost two straight, Dak Prescott and company who are coming off a BYE week, will look to avoid losing a third straight game and hope to keep pace in the NFC East with both (3-2) Washington and first place (5-1) Philadelphia. Week 7 could also see the possible return of 49ers rookie linebacker Reuben Foster who's been nursing an ankle injury suffered in the season-opener versus Carolina. And with the recent trade of veteran Pro-Bowl linebacker NaVorro Bowman, the 49ers defense could use all the help it can get against Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant and the rest of the Cowboys' play makers.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

49ers Lose another Close one in Overtime

Week 5 - With a trip to Indianapolis to take on the (1-3) Colts for the first time since the end of the Peyton Manning era, the (0-4) San Francisco 49ers would be reunited with one of their own franchise greats in running back Frank Gore, a match up Niners linebacker NaVorro Bowman was excited for as the two spent five seasons together as teammates and remain close to one another to this day. A day after revealing the statue of Peyton Manning outside of Lucas Oil Stadium, the Colts honored the great No. 18 by inducting him into their ring ceremony and officially retiring his jersey during halftime. But with the 49ers still seeking their first win of the season, San Francisco would look to crash the party and spoil the special day arranged for one of the game's all-time greats.

Looking to continue his success against the Colts who he threw a career-high 397 passing yards against in Week 5 a season ago while a member of the Chicago Bears, QB Brian Hoyer had himself another nice game statistically after shaking off a slow start. But before any scoring would be done, Colts running back Frank Gore would move his way up the rankings on the NFL's all-time rushing list with a 9-yard carry on Indy's first possession as he passed Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson to move into the No. 7 spot. Several plays later, another all-time great added his name to the record books as Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri converted on a 52-yard field goal to give his team an early 3-0 lead while also becoming the third player ever with 2,000 points. With nothing but field goals to show for and the score tied at 6 heading into the half, San Francisco opened the third quarter with more woes on third down as their league-worst third down efficiency continued to plummet as the 49ers converted on only 4 of their 14 third down tries on Sunday. Because of those woes, it wouldn't be long before Hoyer and company found themselves behind by double-digits with less than 10 minutes to play in regulation.
Trailing 23-9 following back-to-back touchdown scoring drives by the Colts, coach Kyle Shanahan would need his offense to ditch the field goals for touchdowns if they stood any chance of pulling off the comeback. It would be a tall task, however, as the 49ers found themselves in a drought that saw 22 consecutive possessions without a touchdown. But a pair of deep passes hauled in by receiver Marquise Goodwin spanning 20 and 51 yards would put the Niners in position to score that elusive touchdown. Facing a 3rd and 6, Hoyer would find fullback Kyle Juszczyk with a shovel pass as he bulldozed his way into the end zone to pull his team within a touchdown. The 6-yard score would be San Francisco's first touchdown since Week 3 and first on the road this season. With a much needed stop on defense on Indy's ensuing possession, San Francisco would get the ball back with 5:29 remaining in regulation. They would use all but 20 seconds of that time by stringing together a 14-play drive that featured two 4th down conversions on passes to rookie tight-end George Kittle, the first of which on a 19-yard connection on 4th and 1 and the second on 4th and goal from the 5 as Kittle caught the ball and just made it over the goal line, thus tying the score at 23-all and sending the game into overtime.

With Indianapolis winning the coin toss and electing to receive in OT, it didn't appear that the 49ers would even get a chance to possess the ball as Colts QB Jacoby Brissett (22 for 34, 314 yards) marched his team all the way to the 8-yard line following multiple strikes down the field including a 46-yarder to T.Y. Hilton who amassed a game-high 177-yards receiving on 7 receptions. That wouldn't be the case, however, as 49ers linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong came up with his second interception in the end zone in as many weeks as he leaped into the air for the pickoff and returned it 29-yards. But after a costly holding penalty by the 49ers offensive-line, San Francisco would fail to cash in on their golden opportunity and were forced to punt. From there, backup running back Marlon Mack who showed the potential to be the team's starting running back of the future as he tallied 91-yards rushing on the afternoon including a 35-yard gain on his final carry of the ball game to put the Colts in field goal range and setup their Pro-Bowl kicker for the game-winner. And from 51-yards out, Vinatieri would add yet another feather to his cap as one of the most clutch kickers of all-time split the uprights one more time to give his team the 26-23 victory.
For San Francisco, the loss would be their fifth in as many games this season which in itself is frustrating, but perhaps even more so simply because of just how close they've been as they've now lost the last four games by a combined 11-points. And like they did a week ago in their overtime loss to Arizona, the 49ers squandered yet another golden opportunity in overtime as victory slipped through their hands once again. On the positive side of things, kicker Robbie Gould who had made 28 straight field goals entering Sunday added a trio of makes on Sunday to improve his streak to 31 consecutive made field goals, the longest active streak in the NFL. Brian Hoyer threw for 353 yards on the afternoon, 94 of those yards would go to former Colts wide-out Pierre Garcon who caught a game-high 8 passes while also adding to his streak of 271 consecutive receptions without a fumble, the longest active streak of its kind. Running back Carlos Hyde appeared to once again be bothered by his lingering hip injury as he started the game but missed a majority of the second quarter and all of the third quarter before returning late in the fourth.

Week 6 Preview - Rounding out their current 3-game round trip and 5th road game in seven weeks, the (0-5) 49ers will pay a visit to the nation's capital to take on the (2-2) Washington Redskins. Coming off a BYE week, QB Kirk Cousins and company will look to keep pace with the first place Philadelphia Eagles as he matches up with his former offensive coordinator in Kyle Shanahan. With rumors swirling regarding the 49ers showing interest in acquiring Cousins next season, the game could very well be a tryout as Shanahan and general manager John Lynch will get a clear look at Cousins on the field. San Francisco, meanwhile, will try and make his day as miserable as possible as they look to log their first win of the season before returning home next week to host Dallas. And just like Week 5 when they were reunited with long time Niner Frank Gore, San Francisco will see another familiar face in Washington as former head coach Jim Tomsula will be on the opposite sideline serving as the Redskins' defensive-line coach, a position he excelled at for 8 seasons with the 49ers.

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

49ers Blow 5 leads, Falter to Cards in Overtime

Week 4 - In the desert to take on the (1-2) Arizona Cardinals, the (0-3) San Francisco 49ers looked to pull off the upset and claim their first victory of 2017 against a scuffling Arizona team that has had its fair share of injuries just three weeks into the season. The game between the two struggling offenses would turn into a battle of field goals and would feature a combined nine made field goals for the first time in an NFL game since September 26, 2011 between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys. Five of those field goals would translate to five different leads for the 49ers before this one was all settled in overtime by one of the game's greats as rookie head coach Kyle Shanahan was once again left searching for his first career win at the helm.

From Arizona's first offensive possession, a long day on defense appeared to be in store for the 49ers who were bailed out by an interception in the end zone after quarterback Carson Palmer led the Cardinals all the way to the 4-yard line. A pass intended for tight-end Jermaine Gresham was tipped by San Francisco corner Rashard Robinson before a diving grab by linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong completed the turnover to give the 49ers the ball. And while they would also fail to score on their initial possession, their second drive would end with the first of many Robbie Gould field goal's on the afternoon. Gould would be matched by the ageless wonder and former 49ers kicker Phil Dawson who countered with four field goals of his own including two in the first half, the second of which set up by another former 49er in Antoine Bethea who intercepted San Francisco QB Brian Hoyer on a hurried pass.
Both teams would have touchdowns taken off the board in the game, Arizona's on a controversial review call and San Francisco's on a penalty, just one of many committed by the 49ers who were flagged a total of 13 times. Getting the ball to open the second half, the 49ers appeared to have finally struck pay dirt with an 11-yard touchdown from Hoyer to rookie running back Matt Breida before it was called back on an offensive pass-interference call against receiver Trent Taylor who has had his fair share of run ins with the officials already this year. The 49ers would  have to settle for yet another field goal before both teams sent it into overtime with the score tied at 12. Winning the coin toss and electing to receive in overtime, the 49ers offense would eat up a over seven and a half minutes of the ten minute extra period but were once again only able to walk away with a field goal after being stood up at the 5-yard line. From there, Palmer would go to work. Needing only six plays and less than a minute and a half to march his team to the red zone, Palmer would hoist up a prayer answered by the Cardinals Future Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald who hauled in the walk-off touchdown to give Arizona the 18-15 victory. Close but no cigar as they say as it would be the fourth loss in as many weeks for San Francisco who have now lost their last three games by a combined 8 points.

Having made a career out of torturing San Francisco defenses throughout his 14-year career, all with the Cardinals, it would be a quiet day for Fitzgerald up until his heroic catch in overtime as he caught just four passes for 32 yards including the 19-yarder to win it. The game-winning touchdown pass and only touchdown of the game for either team would be the 290th touchdown pass of Palmer's career, tying him with Hall of Fame QB Johnny Unitas for 13th all-time. The 37-year old Palmer who threw for 357 yards in the contest to log his third consecutive 300-yard performance, can pass another pair of Hall of Fame quarterbacks in the coming weeks as he currently stands one TD behind Warren Moon and ten behind John Elway. As good as Palmer was down the stretch, the San Francisco defense didn't make it easy on the former Heisman Trophy winner who's been hit the most times in the league this season at the quarterback position and was taken down for a total of six sacks. Among those sacks were a couple of milestones by a pair of defensive-ends in Elvis Dumervil and Solomon Thomas. Dumervil, a 5-time Pro Bowler with Denver and Baltimore collected career sacks No. 100 and 101 on Sunday while rookie Solomon Thomas added his first.
49ers running back Carlos Hyde who shook off a hip injury and was a game-time decision, tallied 68 rushing yards and another 27 yards on five receptions from QB Brian Hoyer who finished with 234 yards through the air. With Sunday's loss being the third game in four weeks without a touchdown for San Francisco, fans are wondering if it's time to kick the tires on rookie QB C.J. Beathard. And though head coach Kyle Shanahan has admitted that Hoyer needs to step up and perform better, he explained in his press conference that he's not ready to pull the plug on his starting quarterback just yet. One area Hoyer will need to improve in going forward if he wants to keep his job, is third down efficiency as San Francisco's woes continued on third down to the tune of 5 for 19 (19%) on Sunday.

Week 5 Preview - Continuing their three game road trip, the 49ers will make a pit stop in Indy in Week 5 to take on the (1-3) Indianapolis Colts. Though they haven't had many breaks go their way through the first few weeks, Shanahan and company will be relieved knowing that the Colts will be without quarterback Andrew Luck who has yet to play this season while nursing a shoulder injury. Instead, the Colts QB position will be manned by Jacoby Brissett. Accompanying him in the backfield will be a familiar face as the 49ers will be reunited with running back Frank Gore, San Francisco's all-time leading rusher as the two square off for the first time since his departure in 2015 from the team that drafted him in 2005. Heading into the game, the Colts are an early 1 1/2 point favorite, but if the Niners like their chances in any game in the coming weeks, it's gotta be this one.

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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Giants Finish Nightmarish 2017 Hopeful for 2018

At last, the torture that has been the San Francisco Giants' 2017 season has finally come to an end. Finishing the month of September as well as the final game of the season on October 1 with a record of 11-15, skipper Bruce Bochy saw his underachieving ball club fall to 64-98 on the year, some 40 games behind the first place Dodgers as they failed to log a single winning month all year. And though they were able to avoid the dubious 100-loss mark, the Giants still finished last in the National League West and finished tied with the Detroit Tigers for the worst overall record in all of baseball. But as forgettable as the season might have been while the negatives far outweighed the positives, there were plenty of heartfelt moments down the stretch including the retirements of two fan favorites and Giants postseason heroes -- Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong.

Despite not appearing for the Giants since 2015 and most recently playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates a season ago, 40-year old right-handed pitcher Ryan Vogelsong was signed to a one-day contract to officially retire as a Giant as he suited up one final time in a Giants uniform and was honored by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch prior to a 7-2 win against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Having played seven of his twelve Major League seasons with the same organization that drafted him in 1998, Vogelsong is best remembered for his breakthrough season in 2011 which saw him make the National League All-Star team as well as his postseason contributions most notably in 2012 when his 1.09 ERA in four starts helped the Giants win the World Series that year before helping them win it again in 2014.
As for Cain, the Giants saw their longest tenured player call it quits after 13 seasons in San Francisco, the longest for any player to remain exclusively with the franchise since moving from New York in 1958. Appropriately nicknamed "the horse", Cain, the owner of the only perfect game thrown in Giants franchise history, was integral in both championship runs in 2010 and 2012 before a mid-season injury in 2014 kept him out of action for the 2014 World Series. Ironically, the 34-year old righty would be, "Cained" one final time after tossing five shutout innings in his final start, a term appropriately used by Giants fans when a pitcher receives little to no run support during a well pitched game. With Cain departing with a 1-0 lead thru 5 innings, the Giants bullpen gave up the tying run in the following frame and then two more runs in the 9th inning to blow a 2-1 lead and eventually fall to the Padres, 3-2, giving Cain yet another no-decision. Finishing his career with an ERA of 3.68 and an overall record of 104 wins and 118 losses, few pitchers have suffered luck as bad as Cainer who should easily have 30 or so more career wins than losses as 109 of his 331 career starts have led to no-decisions. And like Vogelsong, Cain would exit to a thunderous ovation and hugs from his manager and teammates upon exiting the game.

Another starting pitcher who the Giants are hoping can mold into the next Matt Cain is former first-round pick Chris Stratton who emerged as one of the more surprising players for the Giants in 2017 and made his first career start in 2016 while filling in for an injured Matt Cain. The 27-year old righty is expected to at least be considered for San Francisco's fifth spot in the rotation next season barring any changes to the roster heading into the offseason after boasting a 4-4 record and an ERA of 3.68 in 10 starts. One question mark that rotation will face heading into 2018 will be whether or not it'll still feature starter Johnny Cueto who can opt out of the six-year, $130 Million contract he signed before last season. But after finishing 2017 with an 8-8 record and an ERA north of 4.50, a down year statistically to Cueto's standards, it's unlikely he'll find a better deal on the market than what he has on the table with the Giants. Giants brass hopes Cueto will join a 2018 rotation that will also feature ace Madison Bumgarner, Matt Moore who's 2018 team-option was picked up a week ago and strikeout specialist Jeff Samardizja.
Though Samardzija wouldn't necessarily finish his 2017 campaign the way he would've liked (9-15, 4.42 ERA), Shark did manage to register 207.2 innings pitched as well as 205 strikeouts and only 32 walks, the best strikeout to walk ratio in Giants franchise history at 6.41, besting than the previous mark of 6.17 shared by two Hall of Fame pitchers -- Christy Mathewson (1908) and Juan Marichal (1966). It would mark the second most strikeouts in a single season for Samardzija and third time he's finished above the 200 K plateau. Another impressive feat would be one accomplished by second baseman Joe Panik who dazzled in the month of September with a .375 batting average. During a three-game road trip in Denver, Panik would put on a show against the Rockies, collecting 12-hits in the series to set a franchise-record. Panik's historic series of going 12-for-15 (.800 avg) with 3 doubles, a home run, 5 RBI and an OPS of 2.000 helped increase his batting average to .288 on the year and also helped the Giants secure an 11-3 victory in the series-finale that snapped a 10-game losing streak at Coors Field. The Giants would face the Rockies just two weeks later in San Francisco where they would win both games to complete the short 2-game sweep while also stringing together their first 3-game winning streak since June 30-July 2.

Madison Bumgarner who put a damper on San Francisco's season early on after a dirt-biking accident led to the Giants ace spending nearly three months on the disabled-list, had his worst month of the season statistically due to a pair of sub-par starts in which he gave up 11 earned runs in 11 innings. However, after losing four straight decisions for the first time in his career, Bumgarner bounced back with consecutive solid starts including a gem in his final outing of the year to beat the Dodgers, 2-1 and finishing 4-9 on the year with an ERA of 3.32. But it would be MadBum's battery mate who had the best overall season for the Giants as Buster Posey led the club in batting average and finished tied for fourth in the National League and sixth overall with a .320 batting average. It would be the fifth season batting over .300 for Posey who shook off an early concussion after taking a pitch to the head in the Giants home-opener as the former NL MVP once again managed to put up solid numbers that helped him secure the starting nod in July's All-Star Game. A few other team leaders on offense included Brandon Crawford who led the team in RBI's for a second straight year with 77, Brandon Belt who had a team-high 18 home runs despite missing the final month and a half with a concussion and Eduardo Nunez who stole 18 bases with the Giants before being traded to Boston at July's trade deadline.
The power-less Giants once again finished at the bottom of the pack in home runs, slugging a league-low 128 long balls, 23 behind the next closest team (Pittsburgh Pirates). Oddly enough, the final at-bat of the season for the Giants would be a walk-off home run by Pablo Sandoval who's solo shot in the 9th inning of the season-finale gave the Giants a 5-4 victory over the Padres. But as joyful as the moment was, it was received with mixed reviews in the baseball world as the win surrendered the first overall pick in next year's MLB Draft to the Detroit Tigers, meaning the Giants will select second. Take it as you want it, it was a nice reminder of what its like to win a game, something the Giants did very little of in 2017 and something they hope to improve on heading into 2018. In need of bullpen help which is expecting a bounce back year from a healthy Mark Melancon and contributions from Wil Smith who was plagued by injury and lost for the season during Spring Training as well as an outfield power presence in the lineup, the Giants may be one of the more active teams come December's winter meetings.

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Questionable late Penalty Derails 49ers Comeback

Week 3 - With the (0-2) 49ers returning home on short rest to host the division rival (1-1) Los Angeles Rams on Thursday Night Football in their only game scheduled in prime time this season, San Francisco would hope to continue their recent dominance of the only team they were able to beat a season ago when they claimed both wins against the Rams in their first season back in southern California. Boasting a record of 7-wins, 1-loss and 1-tie in their last 9 home meetings against the Rams, the 49ers would put that streak to the test under rookie head coach Kyle Shanahan. And after failing to score a single touchdown in each of their first two games this year, the 49ers offense would finally show signs of life while wearing their blacked-out Color Rush uniforms. Expected by many to be another lackluster showcase on Thursday night, this NFC West battle between northern and southern California would instead evolve into one of the more exciting and action packed Thursday Night Football games we've seen in years as the two rebuilding teams in search of their identities went blow for blow in a high-scoring affair.

After scoring a combined 12-points through their first two games of the season, the 49ers offense erupted for 39-points on Thursday night. But before their five touchdown barrage, San Francisco QB Brian Hoyer would get off to as bad a start as you could ask for as he saw his first pass attempt on the first play of the ballgame intercepted and nearly taken to the house by Nickell Robey-Coleman before a shoestring-tackle by Niners tight-end Garrett Celek helped save a touchdown. Unfortunately, the Rams would need only one play and a total of 12 seconds to capitalize as running back Todd Gurley took it in from three yards out to begin what would ultimately be a busy day for both he and the L.A. offense. The early pick-off would catch everyone on the San Francisco side by surprise, including Hoyer who entered the game with the third lowest interception rate among active QB's (70 passes), trailing only Tom Brady (126 passes) and Aaron Rodgers (75 passes). Oddly enough, the interception on the first play from scrimmage would serve as a wake up call for Hoyer as he would help the 49ers march down the field to tie the game on their ensuing possession. Aided by an offsides call during a punt that gave the offense another chance, Hoyer took advantage by taking matters into his own hands and scoring with his feet to give San Francisco their first touchdown of the season some 23 possessions later on a 9-yard scramble.
Second-year quarterback Jared Goff who was drafted first overall a year ago just a stones throw away from Levi's Stadium at nearby Cal, would look rather comfortable under center as a visitor while facing the team he grew up rooting for. With many of his friends and family in attendance watching from the stands, the game would serve as a homecoming for Goff who threw three touchdowns in a game for just the second time in his career and the first without recording an interception. The former Golden Bear and his receivers would feast on a banged up Niners secondary that was without Pro Bowl safety Eric Reid, to the tune of 292 passing yards, with both Robert Woods (108) and Sammy Watkins (106) each eclipsing the century mark in receiving yards. After receiving a gift on their first score, Goff and company would prove that they too could create scoring chances as they answered Hoyer's touchdown with one of their own on the ensuing possession as Gurley struck pay dirt for the second time in the opening quarter, this time of the receiving variety.

Both teams would turn turnovers into points in the second quarter as the two exchanged field goals with both 49ers third-string running back Raheem Mostert (fumble) and Rams return man Tavon Austin (muffed punt) serving as the guilty parties. Gurley's third and final touchdown on the evening, a 2-yard rush, would allow the Rams to take a 24-13 lead into the locker room at halftime. Receiving the ball to open the second half, the Rams nearly made it a three-score game before a goal-line stand by the San Francisco defense held them to another Greg Zuerlein field goal. Trailing 27-13, the 49ers would spark a streak of four consecutive touchdown-scoring drives between both teams as running back Carlos Hyde shook off an early hip injury by rushing for his first of two 1-yard touchdowns on 4th down. Rams receiver Sammy Watkins would match Hyde's pair of touchdowns with two scores of his own including a 1-yard score on L.A.'s ensuing drive. One drive later, Hoyer would connect with Marquise Goodwin for a 50-yard completion just before the end of the third quarter, setting up Hoyer's first passing touchdown as a Niner -- a 1-yard strike to Garrett Celek, and a very wacky 4th quarter.
Following a crucial missed extra-point by 49ers kicker Robbie Gould, L.A. would answer with the second touchdown connection between Goff and Watkins -- a 13-yard strike as Watkins fought off defenders and muscled his way over the goal-line. It would also be the fifth touchdown pass of the season for Goff, tying the mark he threw all of last year while needing four fewer starts. From there, both teams would exchange punts before another big gainer from Hoyer. Receiver Pierre Garcon who entered Thursday's game with 573 career receptions, the most by any active player without a single Pro Bowl selection, would haul in seven more catches including this one for 59-yards to set up another score. It would prove to be a game of firsts as Garcon finished with a game-high 142-yards receiving for his first big game in a 49er uniform. Three plays later, rookie wide-out Trent Taylor would haul in his first career touchdown on a 3-yard pass from Hoyer, making it an 8-point game with just over 5 minutes remaining in regulation. In need of another break, the 49ers would get one on the ensuing kickoff as Victor Bolden forced a fumble on return man Pharoh Cooper. Capitalizing on yet another Ram fumble, Hyde would once again rumble into the end zone on a do or die 4th and 1 call from the 1-yard line.

Electing to go for the game-tying 2-point conversion, Hoyer would have nobody to throw to as his receivers were blanketed and the pass was intercepted. But an excellent recovery on a surprise onside-kick would allow San Francisco one final chance to pull off the comeback victory. Facing third and 10 with the ball at their own 40 yard line, Hoyer would connect with Taylor for an 11-yard pickup for the first down. But a controversial offensive pass-interference call against Taylor would negate the first down and pin the 49ers back another 10-yards. With the fans already out of their seats in hopes of witnessing a comeback victory of epic proportions, the Levi's Stadium faithful was none too pleased as the replay of the heinous call resembled nothing remotely close to what would normally warrant an offensive pass-interference call. And on an all or nothing 4th and 20 two plays later, Pro Bowl defensive-end Aaron Donald would come up with a game-sealing sack as the 49ers turned the ball over on downs. With under two minutes remaining, Goff and co. would milk the clock as San Francisco's last-ditch effort fell just short, 41-39. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first game in NFL history to end with a final score of 41-39.
The loss would be painful one for San Francisco as it marked their second defeat in four days by a combined five points. However, the team finally showed that they're more than capable of lighting up the scoreboard. Or was the 80-point outburst between the two teams simply a product of two tired defenses playing on short rest? 49ers All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman admitted after the game that he didn't feel like he normally would have had the game been on Sunday and it definitely showed on the field as he missed a handful of tackles he usually makes in his sleep. Whether or not that sentiment was felt from the entire 49er defense, they would look the part as their inability to get to the quarterback resulted in their second game this season without recording a single sack. This while watching their guy go down a total of four times. As for the offense, Hoyer completed 23 of 37 passes for 332 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while also getting some help from Hyde who rushed the ball 25 times for 84 yards and two TD's.

Los Angeles' first-year head coach Sean McVay who happens to be the youngest head coach in modern NFL history at 31 years of age, has the Rams trending in the right direction, especially on offense which has been their Achilles heal the past few seasons as they've now scored 107 points thru their first three games, the franchise's most thru 3 games since 2000 (119 scored). He also appears to have been able to breathe life back into the running game as Todd Gurley set a career-high with 33 touches (28 carries, 5 receptions) while logging his first 100-yard rushing performance since 2015. Only 3 games in and the 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year has already matched his touchdown total from a season ago with six. Hopefully this will serve as a preview for what will be an exciting rivalry for many years to come between two inner-division, rebuilding teams with rookie head coaches who're quite familiar with one another having served on the same Washington Redskins staff from 2010-2013. These two teams will meet again in Los Angeles on New Year's Eve for Week 17.
Week 4 Preview: The (0-3) 49ers will continue their play against the NFC West in Week 4 when they take a trip to the desert and face the (1-2) Arizona Cardinals for the first of three consecutive road games for San Francisco. With Carson Palmer and the Cards off to a sluggish start without their All-Pro running back from a season ago as David Johnson will miss an extensive amount of time while nursing a dislocated wrist, the 49ers will hope to take advantage of his absence. But once again they'll be hitting the field without yet another key player on defense as defensive-end Tank Carradine sustained a high ankle sprain in Thursday's loss which will sideline him for 4 to 6 weeks, thus adding to the pressure put on San Francisco's D-line. Coming off a Monday night loss at home to the Cowboys, Arizona hopes to right the ship against a banged up Niner D as Carradine joins both Eric Reid and Reuben Foster in the injury department. 

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Monday, September 18, 2017

49ers, Hyde put up a Fight but Fall short in Seattle

Week 2 - Entering San Francisco's Week 2 meeting with the division rival Seahawks, the 49ers were given the daunting task of having to face a Seattle team that not only has had their number over the past few years (6-0 since 2014), but has also been a perfect 12-0 at home in the month of September since 2010. Though Kyle Shanahan's squad would put up much more of a fight in the latest chapter of the rivalry, it would end up being the same old same when it was all said and done. With neither team scoring a touchdown in their season-openers (both losses), both teams would struggle to find the end zone for a majority of this one as well.

Making his first career start at rainy CenturyLink Field, known as one of the toughest stadium's in the NFL for an opposing team, 49ers quarterback Brian Hoyer looked a lot like he was making his first NFL start as he was stymied and held in check virtually all afternoon long. Throwing for only 99-yards passing, the offense was forced to ride the coattail of Carlos Hyde who had himself quite a game while supplying most of the offense. Coming into 2017 as the only visiting player to rush for 100 yards in Seattle since 2015, Hyde doubled down on that feat and was at it again, rushing for a game-high 124-yards on 15 carries on the afternoon. After falling behind 6-0 in the first quarter following a pair of Blair Walsh field goals, one of which set up by a Brian Hoyer interception, Hyde would break off a career-long 61-yard run to help get the 49ers in field goal range as kicker Robbie Gould cut the deficit in half. Another nice rush by Hyde this time for 27-yards with a 15-yard face mask penalty tacked on at the end of it during San Francisco's next possession would again get them in field goal range and allow them to tie the game at 6 just before the half.
With neither team scoring in the third quarter, both squads would witness their touchdown scoring drought reach seven quarters to start the season. Unfortunately for the Niners, that's where Seattle's dry spell would end. As the 49ers took a 9-6 lead in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter with their third field goal of the day, the Seattle offense would respond in a big way. After struggling in the season-opener at Green Bay's Lambeau Field a week ago and suffering from a poor offensive-line, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson once again failed to resemble a comfortable quarterback in the pocket as he was constantly under pressure and was sacked three times on Sunday. However, he still managed to throw for twice the amount of yards as his counterpart (198 yards) and came through in the clutch when he was needed most. Helping march the Seattle offense inside the red zone, a crucial third and seven play on the 9-yard line would spell doom for San Francisco. With the pocket collapsing, Wilson managed to weave around four 49er defenders and toss the ball into the end zone where he found a leaping Paul Richardson for the touchdown. Blair Walsh would miss the extra point to give the 49ers at least a sliver of hope, but Seattle's defense would clamp down and force a punt with a much needed three and out which allowed Wilson and company to milk the clock from there, sealing the 12-9 victory and handing San Francisco their seventh consecutive loss to their northern rival.

With another nice showing on defense, the loss again falls on the hands of the offense which has now been held out of the end zone for each of the team's first two games and has been virtually nonexistent through the air as the most productive 49er receiver would net only 26 yards (Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin). On a much brighter note, the defense has already appeared to turn the corner after suffering both a league and franchise worst in multiple categories just a season ago. After failing to record a single sack in Week 1, the San Francisco defense tallied three sacks in their second performance, albeit against a below-average Seattle o-line as Tank Carradine, Arik Armstead and Aaron Lynch each supplied a QB sack.
Week 3 Preview: Carlos Hyde and company will have a short week to prepare for the Los Angeles Rams (1-1), the only team the 49ers were able to collect wins against a season ago as San Francisco plays host on Thursday Night Football. Like the 49ers, the Rams are looking to bounce back from a disappointing season a year ago and went out and hired a new coach of their own during the offseason in Sean McVay. The Rams are coming off a 27-20 defeat to the Redskins after serving up a 46-7 shellacking of the Colts in Week 1. Looking to get back into the win column, second-year quarterback Jared Goff will look to claim his first victory in two career tries against the team he grew up rooting for as the 49ers look to continue their recent dominance of the rival Rams. And they'll be doing so with a banged up defense that has already been without starting rookie linebacker Reuben Foster and will now be without one of their key cogs in the secondary as safety Eric Reid is out indefinitely with a knee injury. Fellow safety Jaquiski Tartt is also nursing an injury (neck) and will most likely be a game-time decision, leaving plenty of concern in the Niners' secondary for their only prime time match-up of the season. Rookies Lorenzo Jerome and Adrian Colbert could see some playing time in the absence of both players as they compete for the starting job.

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