Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Lakers make Magical hire

With the NBA currently in its All-Star break and some 50 games into the regular season, the Los Angeles Lakers which consists mostly of a young crop of talent, are enjoying some time off the court in preparation of the final stretch. But while the team sent zero players to participate in the actual All-Star Game itself, the organization has remained every bit as busy in the front-office. And on Tuesday, team owner Jeanie Buss made the announcement that both Mitch Kupchak who had been with the Lakers organization since 1981, including six years as a player before spending the last two plus decades in the front-office as general manager, and Jim Buss (executive vice president of basketball operations) would be relieved of their duties. And the man Jeanie would replace her own brother with is one that knows the Lakers franchise as well as anyone -- Mr. Earvin "Magic" Johnson. After helping lead them to five NBA titles in the 80's, Magic isn't quite done helping the Lakers return to being the dominant franchise he remembers them as.

The move to bring Johnson aboard is a seismic shift in the landscape of the Lakers organization and is one Jeanie Buss says she should've made years ago as the franchise is suffering from its worst playoff drought in team history which will reach four consecutive seasons come seasons end. And in just his first day on the job, Johnson wasted little time before making phone calls to get a deal done just days before Thursday's trade deadline as he shipped guard Lou Williams to the Houston Rockets in exchange for small forward Corey Brewer and a first round pick in this year's draft. Williams, a former Sixth Man of the Year Award winner in 2015 with the Toronto Raptors, is having the best year of his career while averaging 18.6 points per game coming off the bench. With the Rockets (40-18) being one of the better teams not only in the Western Conference this year but in the entire Association, the acquisition of Williams provides depth to a team already stacked with shooters including Eric Gordon who won Saturday's Three-Point shooting Contest and is second in the league in points off the bench, trailing only his new teammate.
The trade figures to help both teams as the Lakers add another draft pick in their ongoing efforts to rebuild and Houston adds another shooter which now gives them the top two highest scorers coming off the bench. Not to mention Rockets superstar James Harden gets some much appreciated help while leading the league in assists per game (11.3) and trailing only Russell Westbrook and Isaiah Thomas for the scoring title. With the Western Conference looked at as being Golden State's to lose, Houston is one of the teams that isn't expected to stand in the way of the Warriors but at least stands a punchers chance and could cause problems for the back-to-back Western Conference Champions come playoff time.

Back to the Lakers, Los Angeles is suffering yet another disappointing season at 19-39, one win better than the Phoenix Suns for the worst record in the West and third worst overall, but has already surpassed last season's win total of 17-65 under first-year head coach Luke Walton. After a fast start to the season which saw L.A. win six of its first ten games for the first time since the 2011-12 season, Walton's team has taken a step back whether that be a result of a series of injuries they've endured or the young guys are experiencing exhaustion while still getting acclimated to the grind of the NBA season. Or perhaps a combination of the two. Moving forward, Johnson promised in his interview with Spectrum Sportsnet that when it comes time to making a pitch to a player in the free-agent process, that it won't be about telling old stories about the organization's past success during the Showtime Lakers or the Kobe-led Lakers, but rather "the new Lakers." For me personally, this comes off as especially important considering its an area that Kupchak struck out in numerous times in the past few seasons when attempting to lure star players via free agency. With a new GM expected to be announced in the coming days, only time will tell if the hiring of Magic will pay off. But at least for now it's a hire that ensures Lakers fans they've got someone in the drivers seat who cares dearly about the organization and one who will give it his all to try and right the ship in Tinsletown just like he did on the court.

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Niners set for New Era under Shanahan/Lynch

From Niners ball boy to head coach - For 49er fans the wait is finally over as the once proud San Francisco football franchise held a press conference on Thursday to officially introduce and announce the hiring of John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan as their newest general manager and head coach. It's been a long time coming for the Niners who have been without a coach for over a month after deciding to relieve Chip Kelly of his duties following the final game of the regular season -- a 25-23 loss to Seattle. GM Trent Baalke was also let go following the loss, though his firing wasn't as big a surprise. Since then 49ers CEO Jed York searched high and low to find the next candidates to help pull the franchise from out of the rubble. And while the hiring of Shanahan would make him the team's fourth head coach in as many years, it finally feels like Jed got it right with this one.

Brought in to become the 20th head coach in franchise history, Kyle Shanahan who spent the last two seasons as offensive coordiantor of the Atlanta Falcons, grew up around the 49ers organization, serving as the team's ball boy as a teenager while his father Mike Shanahan served as offensive coordinator for three years. The elder Shanahan helped lead San Francisco to a victory in Super Bowl 29 before heading off to Denver where he would win another pair of Super Bowl's as head coach of the Broncos. With son Kyle now in the drivers seat, he'll try to instill the same success his father did with the team he grew up helping as he and his father become the seventh father-son coaching tandem in NFL history. But with Shanahan behind schedule due to Atlanta's trip to the Super Bowl which prevented the 49ers from hiring him until after the Falcons' season concluded, there's lots of work to be done in between now, the start of free-agency and April's Draft. One glaring hole is the vacancy at the team's defensive coordinator position. As for the offensive job, there won't be any interviews needed as Shanahan has expressed he'll be the one in charge calling the plays on offense.
What's different this time around compared to San Francisco's hiring's of the past, is the patience and commitment York figures to have with Shanahan and Lynch. With both Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly each fired from the head coaching job only one season into their four year deals, it's obvious that the rebuild is going to take much longer than the time each of the past two coaches were given. Hoping the third time is a charm for the Niners after York's decision to part ways with Jim Harbaugh which proved to be a day in infamy and a decision that has left a sour taste in the mouths of 49er fans as the team's been trying to pick up the pieces ever since, both Shanahan and Lynch agreed to six-year pacts. Though both guys are new to their positions, the excitement by the 49er Faithful couldn't be greater heading into next season. And with a projected cap space of $87.6 Million dollars on the books, San Francisco could make a splash in the free-agent market.

One position they'll surely have their eyes on is at quarterback as the 49ers currently have zero QB's under contract. With Colin Kaepernick most likely to exercise his player option to opt out of his contract to play elsewhere in 2017 and Blaine Gabbert, Thad Lewis and Christian Ponder all free-agents, next year's staff could look entirely different at the quarterback position. Early rumors have Shanahan kicking the tires with several potential QB candidates such as Matt Schaub, Jimmy Garoppolo and Kirk Cousins. Having worked with Cousins for two years in Washington where Shanahan served as OC, the two have history together. The same can be said about Schaub who served three seasons with Shanahan as a Houston Texan and this past season as Matt Ryan's backup with the Falcons. Serving as Schaub's QB coach in 2007 before moving to OC for each of the next two years, Shanahan helped Schaub lead the league in passing in 2009, earning him his first of two Pro-Bowl appearances. Unfortunately, Schaub is entering his year 36 season and is over a year removed from his most recent start. But given the fact that he knows Shanahan's system already and could sign at a much more affordable rate as a free-agent opposed to having to be traded for like both Cousins and Garoppolo, it might not be such a bad move.
First we'll have to see what direction the Niners go in with the Draft and whether or not they'll take the risk of drafting their quarterback for the future with the second overall pick. Even so, Schaub starting while the rookie QB watches from the sideline and learns from a distance instead of being thrown into the mix right off the bat, might not be such a bad idea after all. Shanahan brings with him his impressive resume that helped the Atlanta Falcons put together the number one offense in the league as well as aid Matt Ryan to an MVP Award. Under Shanahan's tutelage, the Falcons ranked 1st in the league in points per game (33.8), 2nd in total yards (6,653), 3rd in passing (4,725), 5th in rushing (1,928) and tied for the fewest giveaways. Those stats are a day and night difference from what the 49ers produced on offense this past season, ranking among the league's worst in almost every category. However, Shanahan's most recent performance in the Super Bowl has drawn criticism for the way the final two quarters played out on offense. With Atlanta leading by 25-points midway thru the third quarter, the Falcons would fail to score again as New England pulled off the largest comeback in Super Bowl history to win its fifth title. Part of the blame was put on Shanahan for not running the ball as often as many say he should've, especially considering how well the run game worked in the first half. Then again it was Atlanta's defense which allowed their opponent to score on each of their final five possessions.

From commentator to GM - For John Lynch who attended school at Stanford and played collegiate football under 49ers great Bill Walsh, the general manager position is entirely new for the 9-time Pro-Bowler who played strong safety with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Denver Broncos. Though he has zero front-office experience, Lynch has a plethora of football knowledge having played the game at a Hall of Fame level and serving the past eight years in the broadcast booth as a color commentator with the NFL on FOX. Despite his inexperience at the position, those who know Lynch best have had nothing but positive things to say after news broke that he would become the 49ers next general manager. The news came as a surprise to everyone considering his name was under the radar and was never mentioned by the media among candidates interviewing for the job. Lynch later revealed that it was his request that the interview process was kept a secret between him and 49ers brass to test whether or not he could trust 49ers CEO Jed York.
Foreign to his new position, Lynch wasted no time to make his first move by adding Broncos Vice President of Player Personnel Adam Peters to his staff. The hire garnered praise and many around the league have called the move a home run as Peters is said to be one of the most respected talent evaluators in the NFL, not to mention he comes from a winning background having been a part of three Super Bowl victories with the Broncos and Patriots. Lynch followed up that move by naming former Lions GM Martin Mayhew as the team's Senior Personnel Executive. With a long way still to go for the Niners, the franchise finally appears to heading in the right direction with the foundation in place to return the 49ers to prominence. But of course, only time will tell.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Pats Shock Falcons in Super Bowl LI

For the fifth time, the New England Patriots are Super Bowl Champions. Led by the greatest quarterback-coaching tandem in NFL history, the Patriots pulled off the unthinkable by completing a 25-point comeback in the first ever Overtime Super Bowl. With the Falcons leading New England by a score of 28-3 midway through the third quarter, the game seemed to be all but over as Atlanta appeared to be on their way to claiming their first ever Lombardi Trophy. So much so that President Trump even reportedly left his Super Bowl party early once the Patriots fell into their 25-point hole. But Tom Brady and company would have none of that as they would soon orchestrate the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, while treating us to an instant classic in the third most watched Super Bowl ever.

Making their record-setting seventh Super Bowl appearance, Brady and coach Bill Belichick would have their fair share of mistakes early on as the tide quickly turned against them following a scoreless first quarter. With New England marching on offense and putting together what appeared to be a promising drive, things would soon go up in flames as running back LaGarrette Blount was stripped of the ball just two plays into the second quarter. The play would ignite a scoring barrage by Atlanta who scored 21 unanswered-points in a span of 12 minutes. After Devonta Freeman began things off with a 5-yard touchdown in which he cut far left and found his way into the end zone untouched, QB Matt Ryan who was named MVP the night before, needed only five plays to extend that lead, ending the drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass to his tight-end Austin Hooper. Things would only get uglier the rest of the half as the Patriots were plagued by a series of unfortunate firsts.
After failing to score in a quarter for the first time in their last 32 quarters, came Blount's first fumble in 16 games. It would also mark the first time the Patriots would trail in a game since Week 12. Then came an 82-yard interception returned for a touchdown by Robert Alford to make it a 21-0 game. It would be the first return for a touchdown of any kind all year against New England and the first pick-six thrown in Brady's postseason career. It wasn't long before you began seeing coach Belichick on the sidelines, pencil and paper in hand, making early adjustments to address in the locker room come halftime. With only a field goal to show for at the half, the Patriots would watch their deficit climb to 25-points following a second touchdown pass from Matt Ryan on Atlanta's second possession of the third quarter. Leading 28-3 with a quarter and a half remaining, New England would need to pull off the largest comeback in Super Bowl history if they wanted to award their future Hall of Fame coach and quarterback duo with an unprecedented fifth ring. But while most teams would fold under pressure when facing such a deficit, Brady remained calm and poised as ever despite his team having its back against the wall. After a touchdown pass to backup running back James White who had himself a game to remember, the Patriots managed to inch a bit closer before the start of the fourth quarter, despite a missed extra-point by kicker Stephen Gostkowski, his fifth missed PAT of the year.

With Atlanta ahead 28-9 thru 3 quarters, the Falcons seemed destined to win and had the odds in their favor considering teams leading by 19 points thru 3 quarters in the postseason were an unbeaten 93-0 all-time. But if anybody was going to put that record to the test, you knew it would be Brady. Another Gostkowski field goal to start the fourth quarter helped make it a two-score game. And on Atlanta's ensuing possession, the New England defense would step up and put the ball back into their captain's hands. Facing 3rd and 1, the Falcons elected to opt for a pass play as Ryan was blindsided by middle linebacker Dont'a Hightower who made it to the quarterback freely after Devonta Freeman failed to pickup the blitz, resulting in a fumble recovered by New England. With new life and only 25-yards to go, you could feel the momentum shift immediately as Atlanta suffered their first turnover of the postseason. A touchdown pass from Brady to Amendola five plays later and a successful 2-point conversion on a direct-snap up the middle to James White made it an 8-point game.
Pinned back at their own 10-yard line, the Falcons quickly found themselves at mid-field as a wide-open Devonta Freeman gained 39-yards on the first play of the drive. Two plays later Julio Jones would display the type of footwork that would make Super Bowl hero Santonio Holmes proud as Jones somehow contorted his body and got both feet in-bounds to make a spectacular 27-yard catch, despite his momentum falling towards the sideline all while securing the ball. It would be the last positive of the day for Atlanta, however, as they soon found themselves going backwards. With the ball at the 22 and kicker Matt Bryant standing by in case of a field goal attempt to make it a two-score game, the Falcons would be doomed by a 12-yard sack and an offensive holding call which knocked them out of field goal range and allowing Brady and company to pull off a comeback for the ages. Entering the game, the longest drive the Patriots had put together all season was 91-yards, and with the game on the line, New England would need to duplicate that mark in order to tie the game.

With three and a half minutes to go and a pair of timeouts remaining, Brady would march his team into the end zone with time to spare. But not before a miraculous catch that almost wasn't as Atlanta nearly intercepted the ball which would've sealed the win for the Falcons. Instead, receiver Julian Edelman came down with an awe-inspiring reception that rivaled that of David Tyree's helmet catch against Brady and the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Surrounded by three defenders, Brady looked for Edelman down the middle but had the pass batted up into the air by Robert Alford. With Alford falling back on the play and landing on his back, the combination of Alford's foot and the hand of safety Ricardo Allen prevented the ball from hitting the ground which then allowed Edelman to get both hands on the ball as all four players hit the ground simultaneously. Though the catch would feature" 70% of luck" according to Edelman himself, it would help gain another 23-yards to keep the drive alive and avert disaster. Four plays later, James White scored his second of three touchdowns with a 1-yard run up the middle. Still needing to tack on the game-tying 2-point conversion, New England would to just that. With WR Danny Amendola in motion, Brady threw a dart to his receiver who was met at the goal-line, barely breaking the plane and knotting the game at a dead-even 28-28.
Heading into overtime, the Patriots seemed destined to win whereas Atlanta was left stunned at the fact that they had squandered a 25-point second half lead. And after winning the coin toss and electing to receive, New England marched their way to the 2-yard line before once again handing the ball to James White who put the finishing touches on the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history by breaking the plane to win it, 34-28. Hoping to get another crack at it and pull off some late-game heroics of his own, the reigning MVP was left watching hopelessly from the sideline as his defense was unable to keep the Patriots out of the end zone. While many have blamed the Falcons collapse on the offense for simply disappearing in the fourth quarter, Atlanta's defense allowed New England to score on each of their last five possessions, including their game-winning touchdown in OT to the tune of 31-unanswered points. Though I agree that they probably should've ran the ball more, if Atlanta stands their ground and stops at least one of New England's two-point conversion attempts, it's Matt Ryan and the Falcons who are the ones celebrating a tinker-tape parade. Instead, the Brady-Belichick regime etches yet another milestone into their legacy, becoming the first-ever QB and coach to hoist five Lombardi Trophies.

As for the Falcons who remain one of 13 NFL franchises yet to win a Super Bowl, the road back to Super Sunday figures to be a much harder task given they'll be without offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan who agreed to take the reigns as the next head coach of the San Francisco 49ers on Monday. Shanahan will be replaced by college offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian after serving in last month's BCS title game with the Alabama Crimson Tide. As for the Patriots, they now trail only the Pittsburgh Steelers' 6 Super Bowl titles and tie the 49ers and Dallas Cowboys with 5. With the loss, Matt Ryan became the eighth MVP since 2000 to make it to the Super Bowl and lose (0-8). Completing 17 of 23 passes, Ryan threw for 284 yards and 2 touchdowns but suffered that pivotal fumble which helped New England turn things around. Brady on the other hand set Super Bowl records for the most pass attempts (62), completions (43) and pass yards (466) to go with his pair of touchdowns and one interception, helping him claim Super Bowl MVP honors for a record 4th time. Many (Brady included) think it was Patriots backup running back James White who deserved the award, as he rushed six times for 29 yards, tallying a record 14 receptions for 110 yards and adding three total touchdowns to become the first player to ever record two rushing touchdowns and one receiving in a Super Bowl.
Now begins the speculation and chatter of whether or not we've seen Tom Brady in uniform for the last time. With a record five Super Bowl's under his belt and a promising young quarterback behind him in Jimmy Garoppolo for the Patriots to fall back on if need be, the man has nothing left to prove having already etched his name alongside his boyhood idol Joe Montana as the game's all-time greats, regardless of how you want to rank them. But with Belichick at his side and no real threat in the AFC to get in the way of yet another title run, why wouldn't he return for No. 6? After sticking it to his critics and redeeming himself from the Deflategate scandal, it's obvious that the fire still burns inside of Brady and that he's not ready to release his grasp on the league just yet.

Follow me on Twitter: @FraserKnowsBest 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Super Bowl LI Preview: Falcons vs Patriots

With both the AFC and NFC Championships in the books and new conference champions crowned, the table is officially set for Super Bowl LI. And with each team coming off of blowout victories, there should be no shortage of fireworks when Tom Brady and the New England Patriots square off against Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons come February 5. But aside from claiming division crowns and dismantling their opponents in the playoffs in blowout fashion, the road these two teams have taken to get this far are very different from one another.

In what will be New England's fourth trip to the Super Bowl in the last decade and an NFL record 9th appearance overall, the Patriots who feature the number one ranked defense in the league, were able to shake off the early distraction of being without their star quarterback for a quarter of the season as Tom Brady served his 4-game suspension due to his connection with the Deflategate scandal. While the team would go 3-1 in his absence to begin the year, they wouldn't skip a beat upon his return either and were near perfect with their leader on the field to the tune of a 14-2 regular season record while ranking tops in the league in Wins and Losses: 11-1 (1st), Point Differential: +208 (1st), Points Per Game: 30.7 (2nd), and Points Per Game Allowed: 15.9 (1st). Even a red-hot team like the Pittsburgh Steelers, winners of nine straight, couldn't get in the way of Brady and company as the Patriots handed Pittsburgh their worst loss in an AFC Championship in their 16 trips -- a 36-17 shellacking on Sunday. Brady would register a near perfect performance by passing for 384 yards and 3 touchdowns in the victory that would send his team to the big game. His go-to target in that game? Undrafted journeyman Chris Hogan who hauled in a career-best 180-yards and two touchdowns on 9 receptions.
As for the Falcons who made it this far under second-year head coach Dan Quinn by way of their high-octane offense which led the league in scoring spearheaded by MVP candidate Matt Ryan, the big game will be only the second trip to the Super Bowl for Atlanta in the franchise's 51 year history. With the Falcons' one and only Super Bowl appearance coming in 1998 -- an eventual loss to the Denver Broncos in the last game of John Elway's Hall of Fame career, the franchise is still seeking its first piece of hardware. Finishing atop the NFC South with an overall record of 11-5 during the regular season, the Falcons were a mediocre 7-5 on the year through their first 12 games before flipping the switch and winning their last four to closeout the season strong and hold off the surging Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the division. And while most teams lacking Super Bowl experience are unable to translate their regular season success to the playoffs, the Falcons offense has been every bit as potent in the postseason as evident of their 44-21 handling of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers who entered Sunday's NFC Championship winners of 8 straight and playing out of this world at the QB position. But in the biggest game of his career and the Falcons' last game at the Georgia Dome, QB Matt Ryan was able to match and out-duel the performance of Rodgers by throwing for 392 yards and 4 touchdowns in a turnover-free game which gave him a passer rating of 139.4, the second-highest ever posted in a conference championship game behind only Kurt Warner's rating of 145.7 in 2009, bidding the perfect farewell to the team's home since 1992 and further solidifying his case for something no Atlanta Falcon has ever won before -- an MVP Award.

Ryan also added a rushing touchdown in Sunday's win over Green Bay to become the first-ever QB in Falcons franchise history as well as the first in playoff history to pass for four touchdowns and rush for another in the same game. He also became the first QB in history to record a passer rating of 120.0 in six consecutive games. Ryan's favorite target and in my opinion the best receiver in the league -- Julio Jones, led the way with a game-high 180-yards and a pair of touchdown grabs on nine receptions, eerily similar to Hogan's stats for the Patriots. Another team performance like that in a winning effort would make the Falcons the highest-scoring team to ever win a Super Bowl. Not to mention a title would do wonders for the city's fan base as Atlanta's only championship in either of the four major sports (NFL, MLB, NBA & NHL) came in 1995 (Atlanta Braves). But as we all know, that last win is always the hardest to get. And with history on New England's side, odds makers have the Patriots as 3-point favorites out of the gates. In case you were wondering the last time the Falcons defeated the Patriots, you'd have to go back to Week 10 of the 1998 season during Atlanta's only other Super Bowl run and before Brady was even drafted. Since then, the Patriots are a perfect 4-0 against Atlanta in the Brady era and are one of six teams the 2-time league MVP has never lost to in his career.
What also makes this match-up intriguing is that it will mark the seventh time the league's No. 1 scoring offense will meet the league's No. 1 scoring defense. A stat that figures to favor New England considering No. 1 offenses are 1-5 all-time versus No. 1 defenses in the Super Bowl. The last team sporting the league's best offense to fall victim to the league's best defense was Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos who set numerous records on offense during the regular season but were no match for the Seattle Seahawks' dominant defense in 2014 at Super Bowl 48. In fact, the only team with the No. 1 scoring offense to defeat a team with the league's No. 1 ranked defense was the 1989 San Francisco 49ers who blew out the Denver Broncos in record fashion with the largest blowout in Super bowl history, 55-10. A win for New England would give them five Lombardi Trophies, tying them with the 49ers and Dallas Cowboys for the second most Super Bowl victories of all-time with five. Brady will be trying just as hard to bring the Patriots their fifth title. Regarded as one of if not the greatest quarterback of all-time, Brady who will be making a record seventh Super Bowl appearance, can silence the critics once and for all if he's able to capture that elusive fifth Super Bowl ring, one for the thumb if you will, to add to his Hall of Fame resume.

But unless you're a Patriots fan, live in New England or just a Tom Brady fanboy, there's no reason you shouldn't be rooting for the Falcons to claim their first ever Super Bowl win. Unless for some odd reason you enjoy seeing the same thing over and over again. That's no diss to Brady and Pats head coach Bill Belichick who are undoubtedly the greatest quarterback-head coaching duo the NFL has ever seen, but the two have long been the commander and chief of the Evil Empire. You know, that team you've grown tired of watching win year in and year out. The Falcons on the other hand are both refreshing (seeing as they've never won it before), and exciting to watch. The Little Engine That Could, if you will. And for what it's worth, a computer simulation of Madden17 predicted back in August that the Falcons would make it to and win Super Bowl LI. With that said, here's to hoping for an exhilarating game (unlike last year's snoozefest) and a Falcons victory. Prediction: Falcons 27, Patriots 24.

Catch Super Bowl LI from Houston - Sun, Feb 5 Live on FOX @ 3:30PM PST.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

DeFo a Positive in a Negative Season for 49ers

With the San Francisco 49ers' 2016 season officially in the books and very few bright spots to look back on, one thing Niners fans can be excited about is defensive lineman DeForest Buckner who was named to the 2016 All-Rookie team by the Pro Football Writers of America. Despite San Francisco's struggle-filled season in which they finished with a franchise-worst record of 2-14 and failed to send a single player to the Pro Bowl, Buckner tallied 6 sacks and 73 tackles in his rookie campaign. After being taken by the 49ers in the first round of last year's draft (7th overall), the Oregon alum played alongside last year's first round pick and Oregon Ducks teammate Arik Armstead and even out-shined him on the field. Though Buckner was left still seeking his first sack through the first four weeks and sat out in Week 5 with a foot injury, he returned to the field in Week 6 vs Buffalo where he would record the first two sacks of his career. The game would serve as Buckner's coming out party as he also recorded 9 tackles and his first of two fumble recoveries on the year.

Buckner would continue to grow better as the season wore on as he recorded three sacks in the final four games of the season, further proving the 49ers made a good choice in the draft by selecting him. A freakish athlete weighing in at 300 lbs. and standing at 6-feet, 7-inches tall, the kid is a force to be reckoned with and is one of the building blocks that the 49ers will look to build on going forward as they look to right the ship on defense, something that has ailed them in each of the last two seasons. The same goes for the offense which ranked among the worst in the league in 2016 -- 27th in points per game, 31st in yards per game and dead last in passing yards per game. But help should be coming in 2017 if the rumors are true that Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is the next man in line for the Niners' vacant head coaching position after the firing of Chip Kelly. Seeking their fourth head coach in as many years, Shanahan has been San Francisco's top candidate alongside Patriots OC Josh McDaniels since the job became available. But with both Shanahan and McDaniels still on the sidelines helping their respective teams in hopes of winning this weekend and making a trip to the Super Bowl, the 49ers who are the only team without a head coach at this point, are left playing the waiting game until either team is eliminated. And with recent reports of McDaniels pulling his name from consideration for the job in San Francisco due to an unwillingness to relocate across the country, the job appears to be Shanahan's for the taking. And after helping the Falcons rank 2nd overall in yards per game over the past two seasons, why wouldn't it be?

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

49ers Drop Finale, Fire Baalke & Kelly

Week 17 - Hoping to close out the 2016 regular season on a positive note, something they've had very few of this year, the (2-13) San Francisco 49ers would play host to the rival (9-5-1) Seattle Seahawks. Of the 22 starters for San Francisco that played in Week 3 when these two teams last met, only 11 would be healthy enough to play in this one and it showed early on. With 49ers running back Carlos Hyde out with a knee injury, backup Shaun Draughn would get the call to start Sunday and would give Seattle a gift right out the gate. On the second play of the game, Draughn would fumble the hand-off exchange from QB Colin Kaepernick, recovered by the defense. With Seattle already in scoring range, the 49ers would comp the NFC West champion Seahawks with an early 3-point lead on Steven Hauschka's field goal.

However, Kaepernick and company would answer back quite nicely on their next possession by marching 75 yards as a trio of short passes would result in big gains which ultimately set up Draughn who redeemed himself by running it in for a 1-yard touchdown to put the Niners ahead, 7-3. After forcing a three and out on defense, San Francisco's next possession would also end in success, turning a 14-play drive into another touchdown as Draughn punched in yet another 1-yard score, this time converting on fourth down. But after taking a 14-3 lead following a hot start from Kaepernick who logged over 100 yards passing in the first quarter but threw for only another 115 the rest of the way, Seattle would storm back with 19 unanswered-points, seven of which coming off another 49er turnover as DuJuan Harris was stripped of the ball. With Seattle pinned back in their own end zone, San Francisco would manage to get two of those points back as a high snap on a punt attempt was airmailed out of bounds over the head of Seahawks punter Jon Ryan for a safety. The 49ers would inch even closer on a fourth quarter touchdown from Kaepernick to tight-end Garrett Celek to make it a 2-point game with under six minutes remaining.
But even with Seahawks backup quarterback Trevone Boykin taking over for Russell Wilson (258 yards passing, 1 touchdown) under center midway through the fourth, the 49ers were unable to get a stop on defense when they needed it most as Boykin and the Seattle offense successfully milked the clock, sealing the 25-23 victory. With Seattle's ticket to the playoffs already punched, the Seahawks improved to 10-5-1 on the year and will host the winner of the second NFC Wild Card -- Detroit Lions. As for San Francisco, the loss would drop the 49ers to 2-14 on the year, tying a franchise worse record of 14 losses in a season. It would also be their seventh consecutive loss at home, setting a new franchise record. With much speculation regarding the firing of 49ers GM Trent Baalke heading into the week, the team made the announcement official following the game and he wouldn't be shown the door alone. After inking head coach Chip Kelly to a contract last offseason, the 49ers decided to relieve Kelly of his duties just one year into his four year pact he signed last January. All this coming after someone paid to have a plane fly over Levi's Stadium before kickoff with a banner that read: Levis Stadium, The House That Harbaugh Built.

The move comes after another disappointing season by the Niners who will now be in search of a new GM as well as their fourth head coach in as many years as the state of the franchise continues to spiral out of control since 49ers CEO Jed York cut ties with Jim Harbaugh in favor of Baalke who is now without a job. Niner fans have been calling for Baalke's head since the decision and though it came much later than we would've hoped, better late than never as the team seeks a new direction. While the hiring of Kelly was looked at as being an experiment to try and help revive the luster of Colin Kaepernick's career who took the league by storm upon winning the starting role at QB, the firing comes off as unfair given what 49ers brass was asking of Kelly in such little time. Known as an offensive mastermind, the talent on offense simply wasn't there for Kelly to attempt to work his magic and the defense was equally as bad following the injury to All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman, giving up the most rushing yards in a season in NFL history. And with Kaepernick most likely the next to go as he has a 2017 player option and can opt out of his contract, next year's 49ers team figures to be an entirely different crop of players as they possess the No. 2 overall pick in April's Draft.

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Monday, December 26, 2016

A Rivalry Renewed as 49ers Edge Rams in Epic Comeback

Week 16 - With the (1-13) San Francisco 49ers on the road for the final time in the 2016 NFL season, Chip Kelly's 49ers would pay a visit to the L.A. Coliseum to face the (4-10) Rams, the one and only team San Francisco has had any luck against this season. But since their dominant 28-0 victory over the Rams to begin the season, a lot has changed for both teams. While the 49ers have yet to win a game since the Monday Night opener and entered Sunday's game suffering a 13-game losing streak, their worst losing skid in franchise history, the Rams have also had their fair share of ups and downs, including the firing of head coach Jeff Fisher less than two weeks ago which came just days after the team announced they signed him to a 2-year extension. Both teams would also have a different quarterback under center since their Week 1 meeting.

In the house that witnessed the first NFL completion of 49ers all-time great QB Joe Montana, San Francisco would face off against the number one overall pick Jared Goff who grew up a Niners fan and wears No. 16 in honor of Montana. But on Christmas Eve in front of a predominately pro-49ers crowd, Goff would want nothing more for Christmas than to earn his first career NFL victory against the team he grew up rooting for in a match-up between two struggling NFC Western Division foes. Unfortunately for the Cal Berkeley alum, the 49ers would have other plans as Colin Kaepernick and company would plan to play the role of the Grinch who stole Christmas. On Los Angeles' first drive, Goff would be greeted by 49ers cornerback Tremaine Brock who jumped out in front of Rams receiver Kenny Britt for his first interception of the season and returning it 39 yards to put San Francisco in striking distance. Just two plays later, Kaepernick would find his running back Carlos Hyde across the middle who then found the end zone for a 19-yard score. But the Rams would have no problem answering on their ensuing possession as a 51-yard kick return by Pharoh Cooper ignited Los Angeles' offense to score 21 unanswered-points, including their first seven on a 1-yard run in by Todd Gurley.
The 49ers offense would run into some problems of their own as their ensuing possession went into flames much like L.A.'s first possession as Kaepernick overthrew his intended target and was picked off by defensive back Cody Davis. The Rams would pull ahead just one play later as Tavon Austin took the hand-off to the house for a 30 yard touchdown. The run would be the longest rush of the season for the Rams and gave them their first set of back-to-back touchdown-scoring drives since Week 6. An uneventful stretch on either side of the ball from both teams in the second and third quarters would set up a roller coaster ride in the fourth. One play into San Francisco's first drive of the fourth quarter would end in disaster as Carlos Hyde caught a pass and was struck in his left knee by E.J. Gaines immediately after turning his head and planting his foot. With the ball squirting out and recovered by a Rams defender, the ruling on the field was an incomplete pass but would later be reversed to a fumble as L.A. challenged the play. While the 49ers would turn the ball over, the worst news would be that of Carlos Hyde's health as he was forced to leave the game with what was later revealed to be a serious MCL sprain that wouldn't require surgery but would put an end to Hyde's 2016 campaign.

Already in field goal range after recovering the fumble, Goff would complete his one and only touchdown on the afternoon, a 2-yard pass to rookie tight-end Tyler Higbee to make it a 21-7 game. Though the 21 points scored by the Rams would be their most points at the Coliseum this season, it wouldn't be enough. While we've seen the 49ers squander a handful of 14-point leads this season, we've never seen them come back from one. At least not until Saturday as Kaepernick worked some late game magic with his team trailing 21-7 with 10:32 remaining. After making it beyond mid-field and facing a fourth and 8, Kaepernick would keep the drive alive by finding his receiver Rod Streater along the sideline for a 10-yard gain. Following two consecutive incompletions, Kaepernick would decide to do it himself, dodging tackles and scrambling for a 13-yard touchdown to pull his team within seven. In need of a stop, the 49er defense would come through after forcing a Rams three and out to give Kaepernick and co. one last chance.
With just over three minutes to march down field and two timeouts remaining, the 49ers would make their way into enemy territory after a series of short passes. And with 36 seconds remaining, Kaepernick would find Streater streaking down the middle for the touchdown. But instead of going for the game-tying point after, Niners head coach Chip Kelly kept Kaepernick and the offense on the field to try and go for the win. And after solid coverage by the defense and with nobody to throw to, Kaepernick would take it in himself, soaring into the air and extending the ball past the pylon for the successful two-point conversion. Despite the 49ers taking a 22-21 lead with under a minute remaining, the game wouldn't be over just yet as a taunting penalty by San Francisco would give the Rams an extra 15-yards from the spot of the ensuing kick. With the ball at the 42 yard line, Goff would be picked off by Rashard Robinson, sealing the victory and stealing a win from Goff who was left still seeking his first career victory. San Francisco managed to pull off the epic comeback without their bell cow in Carlos Hyde who ran for 38 yards on the afternoon and fell just 12 yards short of his first career 1,000 yard season. The 22-21 victory was San Francisco's first over the Rams at the L.A. Coliseum since 1976.

For a team that has struggled mightily on defense this year, San Francisco managed to hold Goff to only 90 yards passing on 11 of 24 attempts and contained Todd Gurley to just 67 yards on the ground (23 carries), logging another solid performance against the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year. Meanwhile, Kaepernick tossed for 266 yards passing, 24 of which went to Hyde.
Week 17 Preview - Coming off only their second victory of the season, the (2-13) 49ers will look to closeout the 2016 season with a winning streak as they return to Levi's Stadium to face the bitter rival Seattle Seahawks who are coming off a 34-31 loss at home to the Arizona Cardinals. Having already clinched the NFC West Division at 9-5-1 and not much to play for in this one, I'm guessing Seattle will most likely rest a majority of their starters for a good portion of this game, giving the Niners somewhat of a chance to defeat Seattle for the first time since December 2013. In their first meeting earlier this year, Seattle ran away with the 37-18 blowout victory at home as running back Christine Michael scored two touchdowns on the ground and rushed for over 100 yards. But with Michael now on the Packers and the Seattle run game not quite what it used to be, it's been the passing attack that has led the offense. And with defensive studs Earl Thomas out for the season with a broken leg and Kam Chancellor nursing an ankle injury, the Seahawks defense isn't quite as stout which could be alarming heading into the playoffs. Not to mention how much better the Seahawks are at home opposed to on the road which they'll be come playoff time.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Falcons have their way with 49ers in Atlanta

Week 15 - Heading into their Week 15 match-up in Atlanta with the (8-5) Falcons, the (1-12) 49ers knew they had a tall task ahead as Atlanta entered the game averaging over 30 points per game and coming off a 42-14 road shellacking of the Rams. And with San Francisco still seeking its first road win of the season, it was unlikely it would come against a high octane offense like Atlanta's who would be without their star receiver in Julio Jones. With Jones nursing a toe injury, the Falcons would rely heavily on their dominant run game as their trio of backs would pile up over 200 yards rushing on the afternoon, carving up a 49ers defense that is more than ready to call it a season.

With San Francisco starting things on offense, they would open the game by going three and out for the 47th time this season, second in the NFL only to the rival Rams. They would then be taken to school by Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense as they made their initial drive look effortless while taking over near midfield. After marching into the red zone and setting up shop inside the 5-yard line, running back Devonta Freeman would take it into the end zone for his first of three touchdowns on the day as Atlanta recorded their league-leading seventh touchdown-scoring drive on their first possession this season. Looking to answer with a scoring drive of their own, San Francisco appeared to be on track to do just that after a 41-yard kick return by JaCorey Shepherd put the Niners at midfield. Two plays later, however, the 49ers would suffer their one and only turnover of the game. Coming off a career day against the Jets, running back Carlos Hyde would fumble at the 49-yard line, giving Atlanta great field position once again to follow up a performance in which the Falcons recorded a season-high five forced fumbles against the Rams the week before. As for San Francisco, the woes continued as it was their 12th lost fumble of 2016.
Atlanta would add to their lead by scoring touchdowns in each of their next two possessions to give them three straight scoring drives to open the game. While it would be a somewhat of a quiet day for QB Matt Ryan considering what he could've done against the Niners' anemic secondary if he wanted, his touchdown passes to Taylor Gabriel and Austin Hooper would make it a 21-0 ballgame in only the first quarter. The second quarter would be much more kind to the 49ers than the first, as they would score a pair of touchdowns to attempt to make it a ballgame in the first half. Their first score would be on a dart pass to backup tight-end Garrett Celek from 16-yards out. With Atlanta looking to answer back, they would march all the way down the field to the 1-yard line where they would suffer their first turnover by a running back this year (381 carries) as middle linebacker Michael Wilhoite forced and recovered the fumble by Freeman at the goal-line. Unfortunately for San Francisco, the break would only be temporarily as the Niners were unable to do anything with the takeaway and allowed Atlanta to score on their very next possession.

Facing a 28-7 deficit, Niners QB Colin Kaepernick would toss his second touchdown of the quarter just before halftime as he connected with Rod Streater from 5-yards out to make it a 15-point game following a missed point-after by kicker Phil Dawson. The score would be the first for Streater in a 49ers uniform and his first touchdown since 2014. By halftime, Atlanta had totaled 319 first half yards, their most in a first half all season, San Francisco on the other hand would have only 272 yards in total through all four quarters. Facing a large second half deficit, San Francisco would be forced to desert the run game and rely on the arm of Kaepernick who would fail to throw for 200 yards for a third consecutive game, despite completing 20 of 33 pass attempts. With Atlanta producing big play after big play including 10 plays of 20+ yards, something they lead the league in this season, their lead would reach 41-13 after Freeman's third and final touchdown and a pair of Matt Bryant field goals. It would mark the second time this year that the Atlanta offense put up 40 points in a game in back to back weeks and only the third time in team history. As if the blowout loss wasn't painful enough for Chip Kelly's 49ers, Devonta Freeman's 139 yards rushing would mark the 11th time this season that the Niner defense allowed a 100-yard rusher, second most all-time to only the 2008 Detroit Lions.
With two games remaining, the 49ers defense has already allowed the most rushing yards in franchise history at over 2,400 yards and that number continues to climb. With Atlanta looking to stave off division-rival Tampa Bay for the NFC South title, the Falcons improved to 9-5 on the season and were helped by a Bucs loss on Sunday night. The 41-13 loss by San Francisco drops them to 1-13 on the year as their forgetful season continues to pile on.

Week 16 Preview - With the 49ers heading to southern California to renew rivalries with the one and only team they've beaten this season -- the 4-10 Los Angeles Rams, they'll look to repeat the same dominance they accomplished in a Week 1 Monday Night blowout in hopes of pulling off their one and only road win of the season. With the Rams currently on a 5-game losing skid of their own, they'll look to bounce back on Christmas eve at home where they've only won one game all year compared to the three victories they've achieved on the road away from the Coliseum. The Rams are dead last in the NFL with only 21 touchdowns scored all season and the 49ers will look to keep that trend going versus the first overall pick in the 2016 Draft Jared Goff who played his collegiate ball just a stones throw away from San Francisco at Cal Berkeley. It'll be the 49ers first crack at Goff who grew up a 49ers fan and wears the number 16 in honor of the great Joe Montana. If San Francisco can cause trouble for the rookie QB and manage to contain running back Todd Gurley like they did in their Week 1 match-up (47 yards on 17 carries), the 49ers just might return home with an early Christmas present in the form of their second win of the season. Also, with 50 yards on Sunday, Carlos Hyde can become the first 49ers RB to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season since Frank Gore in 2014, but it won't come easy as the Rams still own one of the toughest run defenses in the league despite their struggles.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

49ers Blow Late Lead, Fall to lowly Jets in OT

Week 14 - With the (1-11) San Francisco 49ers hosting the (3-9) New York Jets in a battle of two struggling teams, we'd bare witness to a tale of two halves as one team went from scalding hot in the first half to ice-cold in the second half , meanwhile, the other team managed to do the complete opposite. Hoping to get a glimpse of the future and solve their prolonged quarterback situation, Jets head coach Todd Bowles decided to give the ball to QB Bryce Petty who in his second year would make only his second career start while facing the 49ers. And in a first half dominated by the home team, Petty's inexperience would show early on.

After receiving the ball to start the game, Petty would make his first mistake on only the second play of the game as a pass intended for receiver Quincy Enunwa was picked off by cornerback Jimmie Ward who read Petty like a book and jumped the route to set his team up inside the red zone. 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick would waste no time to capitalize on the turnover as he found Carlos Hyde for the early touchdown on a 7-yard dump off on their very first play. For Hyde, it would be the start of what would end up being a career day for the Niners running back who entered the game seeking his first 100-yard performance since Week 3. And versus the fourth best rushing defense in the NFL entering Sunday, he would eclipse the century mark in less than two full quarters in this one as he broke off big gain after big gain, including a 47-yarder on San Francisco's next possession which set up backup running back Shaun Draughn who scored on the very next play with a 4-yard rushing touchdown of his own.
Looking to tack on more and take a commanding lead, the 49ers relied on their dependable kicker Phil Dawson who came into Sunday's affair having made 17 of his 18 field goal attempts this season. But not even San Francisco's Pro Bowl kicker would be perfect in this one as he missed back to back field goals on 44 and 48 yard tries on consecutive possessions. After watching Jets kicker Nick Folk make one from 36-yards out to put New York on the board in the second quarter, the third time would be a charm for Dawson who split the uprights with a 47-yarder to give the 49ers a 17-3 lead that they would take with them into the half. But like they've done so often this season, San Francisco would forget to bring their offense with them in the second half as yet another 14-point lead would soon be evaporated. Leading 17-6 with 5 minutes remaining in regulation, a combination of poor tackling and predictable play-calling would be the Niners' demise and allowed the Jets to get right back in it as Petty followed up a Bilal Powell rushing touchdown with a successful two-point try to pull his team within a field goal.

Even with the worst two minute offense in the league entering Sunday for the Jets, San Francisco's lackluster defense would once again let us down as Petty managed to march his team down the field and in position to set up his kicker for a game-tying field goal. And from 51 yards out, Folk would do just that, sending the game into overtime. Though 49ers running back Carlos Hyde would feast with a career-high 193 yards rushing and 7 yards receiving to give him 200 total yards on the day, the most by a 49ers RB since Frank Gore's 207 yard performance on September 20, 2009, his team would fail to ride his big game into victory as the Jets completed the comeback and won in overtime, 23-17, on a 19-yard touchdown by Powell. Powell would also finish with an impressive afternoon, compiling 179 total yards (145 rushing) and a pair of touchdowns. Petty's first career win would hand San Francisco their franchise-worst 12th straight loss. The quarterback the Jets are hoping will solve their woes at the QB position threw for 257 yards compared to the 133 yards by Colin Kaepernick who struggled to get anything going offensively in the second half, as has been the case virtually all season long for both Kaepernick and Chip Kelly's 49ers who've been unable to closeout games week after week.
Week 15 - After failing to come out with a win on Sunday at home to the lowly Jets, the 49ers will have their hands full with a trip to Atlanta next to take on the NFC South-leading Falcons. Sitting at 8-5 on the year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers also at 8-5 and breathing down Atlanta's neck for first place, the Falcons are coming off a 42-14 road shellacking of the Los Angeles Rams and are looking to extend their lead in the division which is bad news for a 49ers team still seeking its first road victory of 2016. Led by quarterback Matt Ryan who began the season as an MVP candidate, Ryan helped hang a 42-spot on the road against the Rams by throwing for 3 touchdowns, all without his best receiver in Julio Jones who was unable to play due to an injured toe. The Niners figure to dodge a bullet as Jones is expected to also be out in Week 15, but the 49ers will still have plenty on their plate as they look to stop all the other play-makers Atlanta has on offense, including the 1-2 punch of running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Another big day by Carlos Hyde would be a nice counter for the 49ers, but unless Kaepernick and company can contribute through a full four quarters and the defense can show up, this one could get ugly in a hurry.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

49ers Lose to Bears in NFC Suckfest

Week 13 - In a match-up between the NFC's two worst teams -- the (2-9) Chicago Bears and the (1-11) San Francisco 49ers, the struggle would continue at damp and snowy Soldier Field. The poor conditions with slush-like snow falling from the sky helped make for an even uglier brand of football than we've grown accustomed to seeing from both teams this year. With the 49ers still seeking their first road win since a meeting with the Bears last December, neither team would complete a pass in the opening quarter as it was the ground game that both teams relied heavily on in the early going. That would be especially true for San Francisco as nearly every passing play was either incomplete or ended in a quarterback sack as QB Colin Kaepernick spent much of his time either on the turf or struggling to find the open man on Sunday. As if the elements weren't enough for the 49ers signal-caller to deal with, he had his former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio on the opposing side, dialing up plays that proved to be a headache for Kaepernick and coach Chip Kelly's 49er offense.

With 23 run plays to 10 passing plays for San Francisco in the first half, we would get a steady diet of Carlos Hyde who tallied 92 rushing yards on the afternoon and helped the 49ers dominate in the time of possession department in the first half as they held the ball for 20 of the games first 30 minutes. Somewhat of a surprise considering San Francisco entered the game ranked last in the league in time of possession. Sadly, they would manage to score only six points in all that time as a pair of Phil Dawson field goals was all San Francisco had to show for despite the time advantage. With Chicago pinned back in their own end zone on fourth down, 49ers backup running back Shaun Draughn would get a hand on a Pat O'Donnell punt attempt which helped put the Niners in position to kick their first field goal. Draughn would come up big yet again on special-teams as he stripped Bears return man Deonte Thompson of the ball on the ensuing kick, thus setting up another 49er field goal to make it a 6-0 San Francisco lead.
With just under two minutes to go before halftime and Bears quarterback Matt Barkley still without a completion, the former USC Trojan would begin completing pass after pass as he stringed together four completions on the ensuing drive. Following a controversial pass interference call in the end zone which put the Bears in business at the 1-yard line, Barkley handed the ball off to his rookie running back Jordan Howard who did the rest by punching it in for the go-ahead touchdown. The go-ahead score would be the start of 26 unanswered-points scored by Chicago and the first of three rushing touchdowns on the afternoon by Howard. Adding to his busy afternoon, Howard finished with 117 yards rushing, becoming the ninth back to eclipse the 100-yard mark against the 49ers defense this year. Putting that dismal number into perspective, no other team has allowed more than four 100-yard rushers this season. Sadly, that wouldn't be the most woeful stat of the day for San Francisco as that dubious honor would belong to Colin Kaepernick who was replaced by Blaine Gabbert with 12:55 remaining in the fourth quarter after throwing for only 4 yards on 1-of-5 pass attempts.

Making matters worse for Kaepernick who has had somewhat of a roller coaster campaign in 2016, he would watch Gabbert log more passing yards on his first play of action (an 18-yard completion to Jeremy Kerley) than Kaepernick had in the entire three quarters he spent on the field. Gabbert would finish with 35 yards passing on 4 of 10 attempts before being taken down in his own end zone for a safety in the final minutes of San Francisco's 26-6 loss. After factoring in the six total sacks that the 49ers quarterbacks would suffer, San Francisco combined for a total of 6 net passing yards, the second lowest mark in franchise history. It would also be the fewest yards allowed by a Bears team since the 1985 Monsters of Midway Chicago Bears team that won the franchise's one and only Super Bowl. As for their offense, the 26-points scored by Chicago would be a season-high in what would end up being the first career win for Matt Barkley who finished the game with 192 yards passing on 11-of-18 attempts. The 49ers will now at least have a top-4 pick in next year's NFL Draft as their franchise-worst losing-skid has now reached 11 games. Meanwhile, Chicago improves to 3-9 on the year.
Week 14 Preview - With the 49ers returning home to face the 3-9 New York Jets who are coming off a 41-10 blowout loss at home to the Colts on Monday Night Football, San Francisco will find themselves in rare territory as odds makers have them favored by 3 points, something we've seen very little of this season. Currently suffering a four-game losing streak of their own, the Jets have been one of the most disappointing teams of the season and are likely to press the reset button at seasons end with speculation regarding the potential firing of head coach Todd Bowles. Like Chip Kelly, Bowles has had a quarterback carousel of his own to deal with with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith and now Bryce Petty who will make his second career start on Sunday. Petty, drafted last year out of Baylor, started in a Week 10 loss to the Rams in which he threw for 163 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. With Jets fans hoping they've got their quarterback for the future, a game against the lowly 49ers defense might not be a very good gauge to figure out if Petty is in fact the solution to their problem. As for their defense, New York's strong D-line might cause problems for San Francisco's run game, forcing them to rely through the air which isn't very promising considering their most recent performance. Thankfully, there won't be any snow or subzero temperatures to worry about in this one.

Noteworthy: 49ers Pro Bowl offensive tackle Joe Staley will miss his first game of the season on Sunday with a hamstring injury, snapping a streak of 92 consecutive games started. 

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