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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Tuesday, December 20, 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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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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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

49ers Fall Short on Final play in Miami

Week 12 - With a trip to Miami in store for Week 12 to take on the red-hot (6-4) Dolphins, winners of five straight, the upset-minded (1-9) 49ers would come out swinging in what would end up being a close game that came down to the wire. Having shown improvement week by week with the exception of last week's rain-filled loss to the Patriots, Niners QB Colin Kaepernick had arguably his best game of the season on Sunday against a dominant Miami defensive-line. Kaepernick would lead both teams in passing and rushing yardage on the day as he finished with 296 yards thru the air and another 113 yards on the ground to go along with 3 touchdown passes including one on San Francisco's opening-drive which put them ahead early on.

After forcing a three and out on Miami's opening possession to start the game, Kaepernick would help march the team down the field before dumping the ball off to Carlos Hyde who found the end zone to score his first receiving touchdown of the year and first touchdown overall since Week 5 vs Arizona. It would be a long time coming for the 49ers running back who started the season with six touchdowns scored in the first five weeks of the season but has since then cooled off while nursing a shoulder injury and sharing the load with fellow backs Shaun Draughn and DuJuan Harris. The early lead would be short-lived however, as San Francisco quickly found themselves trailing 14-7 heading into the half after back-to-back touchdown scoring drives by the Dolphins, the second of which set up by a Garrett Celek fumble which halted a 49ers drive inside enemy territory at the Miami 31 yard-line. It would also be San Francisco's 11th lost fumble of the season (most in the NFL). An equally disastrous start to the second half for the 49ers would put even more points on the board for the opposition as Kaepernick's pass intended for receiver Torrey Smith was intercepted on the first play of the second half which led to a Miami field goal.
Though the interception wasn't necessarily his fault as Smith should've came up with the catch, both Kaepernick and tight-end Garrett Celek who fumbled earlier would get to redeem themselves with a 4-yard touchdown, the first of Celek's career. Kaepernick wasn't the only one who had a fine performance on Sunday though, as Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill logged a solid outing with three touchdown passes of his own, including a 43-yarder late in the third quarter to receiver Kenny Stills and another from 15-yards out to Leonte Carroo to start the fourth quarter. Trailing 31 to 14 in the fourth, the 49ers would march all the way down to the 1-yard line before punching it in on a one-handed touchdown grab by Torrey Smith. In need of some help from the defense, the Niners would get just what the doctor ordered as they forced back-to-back Miami three and outs. Following a Phil Dawson field goal to bring them within a touchdown, San Francisco would be given one last chance to tie it late.

With the game clock a factor and no timeouts remaining, Kaepernick and company would march their way down to the 6-yard line with 5 seconds remaining. After an incomplete pass intended for Torrey Smith inside the end zone, the 49ers would have one final chance to score the game-tying touchdown. In a last-ditch effort and nobody open to throw to, Kaepernick scrambled and was stuffed by the collective effort of Ndamukong Suh and Kiko Alonso at the 2-yard line as time expired. San Francisco's late-game heroics would fall just short as Miami held on for the 31-24 win. With both teams going in complete opposite directions right now following Miami's first six-game win streak since 2005 and San Francisco on their worst losing-streak in their 70-year existence, the game that came down to the final play just goes to show that anything can happen on any given Sunday. While the 49ers secondary was picked apart time and time again by Tannehill, the San Francisco defense managed to stop the run quite well and held Dolphins rusher Jay Ajayi to only 45-yards on 18 carries, but one of those carries wound up being a touchdown. Having allowed a season average of 180 yards rushing which is the worst in the NFL, the 49ers D held Miami to less than a hundred yards rushing and forced their opponent to beat them thru the air which they did.
Week 13 Preview - After becoming the first player in franchise history with 3+ touchdown passes and 80+ rushing yards in the same game, QB Colin Kaepernick will now direct his attention to the (2-9) Chicago Bears as he gets set to face off against his former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Chicago, the only other team in the NFC with fewer than four wins, will hope to avenge the walk-off loss suffered at home to the 49ers in overtime a season ago. And with the 49ers leading the league this season in points allowed off turnovers, Fangio will be dialing up all he can in hopes of throwing Kaepernick off his game as the two were unable to face each other in last year's 49ers-Bears bout as Blaine Gabbert was under center for San Francisco. As for the Bears quarterback situation, Chicago will be without Jay Cutler who was recently placed on injured-reserved and will have surgery on Saturday to repair a torn labrum, thus opening the door for QB Matt Barkley. Barkley, a former QB of Chip Kelly's while with the Eagles, threw for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns in a six-point loss to Tennessee last week and will try duplicating those numbers against the 49ers and the head coach who drafted him out of USC.


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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

49ers Fall to Patriots in Brady's Homecoming

Week 11 - With Tom Brady and the 7-2 New England Patriots in town to face the 1-8 San Francisco 49ers, many Pats fans would be on hand despite the poor weather to witness Brady's homecoming to the Bay Area. And in their first ever game at Santa Clara's Levi's Stadium, New England would rebound from a disappointing loss to Seattle the week before. San Francisco wouldn't go without a fight, however, as they stuck around virtually all game long until the Patriots pulled away in the fourth quarter. Growing up just a stones throw from Santa Clara in nearby San Mateo and a big 49ers fan as a kid, Brady, the one who's often been compared to Joe Montana, his boyhood idol, felt right at home on Sunday afternoon.

Even without his Pro-Bowl tight-end Rob Gronkowski who sat out of Sunday's game with a lung injury, Brady managed to throw for 280 yards and four touchdowns on the afternoon in New England's 30-17 win, including the first touchdown reception of rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell's career, a 56-yarder in the fourth quarter. As for 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick who logged another turnover-free performance by throwing for 206 yards and 2 touchdowns, it would be his offensive-line that let him down early on in this one. After being sacked twice on San Francisco's first drive on offense and five times in the first half alone, the 49ers missed out on an opportunity to take the lead early on. With New England on top following a touchdown from Brady to Julian Edelman on the Pats' first possession, Kaepernick led the Niners down the field where they would set up shop at the 3-yard line, but they would fail to sniff the end zone and were forced to settle for a Phil Dawson field goal. Because of a missed extra-point attempt by Pats kicker Stephen Gostkowski, New England's lead would be 6-3. The usually automatic Gostkowski wasn't the only one who struggled with the PAT on Sunday as it would be a forgetful day for kickers all around the league.
At the time of Gostkowski's missed PAT attempt, there had already been nine missed extra-points on the day and that number would continue to rise. By day's end, there would be a record 12 missed PAT attempts on Sunday, further proof that the rule change the NFL implemented a season ago which moved the extra-point from the 2-yard line to the 15-yard line has made a huge difference. One kicker that wouldn't contribute to the dubious record and had himself a day worth remembering, however, was 49ers kicker Phil Dawson who put San Francisco on the board in the first quarter by drilling a 33-yard field goal. What may have seemed like any other field goal would be a special one for Dawson as it was the 400th made field goal his career, making him just the 10th kicker in NFL history to reach that mark. Also worth noting is that Dawson's career field goal percentage of 84.7 is the best among all kickers in the 400 FG club as the 41-year old has been successful on 14-of-15 field goal attempts this season.

Sadly, it would be one of the few highlights San Francisco would see on Sunday as New England continued to score touchdowns instead of field goals. The Patriots' second possession would end much like their first as Brady found another target who found the end zone, this time to running back James White who scored from 9-yards out. The 49ers would manage to make a game out of it before the half as Kaepernick connected with tight-end Vance McDonald for an 18-yard touchdown that made it a 13-10 game and pulled San Francisco within three. Both teams would exchange punts in a scoreless third quarter before New England found the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter, a 5-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola. After the big play by Mitchell a couple possessions later and a Gostkowski field goal, the 49ers would soon find themselves down 30-10 after trailing by a field goal for nearly 20 minutes. San Francisco would find the end zone once more before it was all said and done as a garbage time touchdown pass from Kaepernick to Shaun Draughn on a wheel route inched the 49ers closer, but a failed onside-kick attempt would seal it as New England pulled off the 30-17 victory.
It would be sweet redemption for the Patriots who both bounced back from their Sunday Night loss a week ago and redeemed themselves from a loss at the hands of Kaepernick  and the 49ers in their most recent match-up in 2012, a 41-34 San Francisco victory in Foxborough on Sunday Night Football. The win for New England also catapulted Tom Brady in a tie with Brett Favre for the second most wins all-time with 199, trailing only Peyton Manning who has 200. As for the home team, it would be the ninth straight loss for the 49ers who are still in search of their first victory since their 28-0 shutout of the Los Angeles Rams in the season-opener. The 49ers lackluster run defense also made its return, allowing Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount to rush for 124 yards on 19 carries, this after holding Cardinals running back David Johnson to only 55-yards a week ago.

Week 12 - Hoping to shake off their 9-game skid, the 49ers will take to the road where they'll face the red-hot Miami Dolphins (6-4), winners of five straight. While the 49ers have been on a free-fall since their blowout Week 1 victory, the Dolphins have done the exact opposite, and now sit two games above .500 and in the playoff hunt after a disappointing 1-4 start to the season. Coming off a hard-fought win on the road in Los Angeles which saw Miami QB Ryan Tannenhill and the Dolphins erase a 10-0 deficit into a 14-10 victory with a last-minute touchdown to get the win. With run defense being the glaring weakness of this year's 49ers team, they'll have to keep close tabs on Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi who logged consecutive games of 200-yards rushing this season and has been a huge reason his team is riding a 5-game win-streak. If they can do that and contain Miami's run game, I like San Francisco's chances of putting an end to both Miami's win-streak and the 49ers' skid. The 49ers will also be hitting the field vs Miami without Pro Bowl safety Eric Reid who's been ruled out with a season-ending injury as he suffered a torn biceps in the loss to New England.


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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

49ers Rally late but Fall short in Arizona

Week 10 - In Glendale, Arizona to face the (3-4-1) Cardinals, Chip Kelly's 49ers (1-7) were hoping to build off a nice game offensively against the Saints in Week 9 and escape the desert with their first win since Week 1. However, the third time would be a charm for Cards kicker Chandler Catanzaro who fell short on two other tries to kick a game-winning field goal this season, but came through when needed on Sunday vs the 49ers. After having the daylights beaten out of them last year in Arizona by a final score of 47-7, San Francisco kept things much closer this time around, but were unable to leave the desert with a victory as they fell short by a last second field goal as time expired. Coming off back-to-back hard fought games that resulted in a tie and a loss, the Cardinals who were returning from a BYE, got back on track in the win column with a close win over San Francisco that didn't come easy.

After falling into an early hole which saw Arizona take a 14-0 lead on a pair of touchdowns both thru the air and on the ground by running back David Johnson, the 49ers were able to rebound late following a shaky start as QB Colin Kaepernick and company failed to get a single first down in each of their first three offensive possessions. But a 17-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Jeremy Kerley in the far right corner of the end zone would put the Niners on the board in the second quarter. It would be sweet redemption for Kerley who fumbled a punt return on the possession prior which set up Johnson's second touchdown. Catanzaro and 49ers kicker Phil Dawson would then exchange field goals to make it a 20-10 game at the half. Fairing much better on defense in the second half, San Francisco was able to force three Carson Palmer turnovers, including two interceptions and a fumble. From there the 49ers would cash in on two of those turnovers as an Eli Harold sack and forced fumble resulted in the second of Phil Dawson's long field goals on the afternoon and Gerald Hodges' interception led to a game-tying touchdown ran in by Kaepernick from 4-yards out.
With the game tied at 20-20 and Arizona taking over at their own 15 yard line with just under two minutes remaining in the 4th quarter, the Cardinals would need Carson Palmer and company to come alive for the first time since the first half as the 49ers defense had kept Arizona off the board in the second half. But a sprawling catch by Michael Floyd  for a 26-yard gain and a 14-yard reception by Larry Fitzgerald who each eclipsed the 100-yard mark and combined for 233-yards receiving, would help the Cardinals get into field goal range where Catanzaro split the uprights from 34-yards out to kick Arizona to a 23-20 victory as time expired. Kaepernick would log another solid performance and was able to rebound from arguably the worst game of his career when the 49ers last visited Arizona a year ago, but it wouldn't be enough. Finishing with 210 yards passing and two total touchdowns, Kaepernick tied Arizona's David Johnson for a game-high 55 yards rushing as Niner running backs Carlos Hyde and DuJuan Harris were virtually shutout and combined for 28-yards on the ground. As for Carson Palmer, the Cardinals QB would total 376 yards through the air and added a 16-yard rush in the second quarter, the longest rush of his 14-year career, out-running both 49er running backs.

After torching the 49ers defense for 157-yards in their Thursday Night meeting just over a month ago, Cardinals running back David Johnson was held to a fraction of that on Sunday as the San Francisco defense held Johnson to only 55-yards on 19 carries and saw their NFL-record of allowing a 100-yard rusher finally come to an end at seven games. However, he would add another 46-yards receiving to account for 101 total yards, registering yet another stellar performance against SF. After seeing his production in the passing game diminish with Kaepernick taking the QB reigns over Blaine Gabbert in Week 6, receiver Jeremy Kerley finally found the end zone and got things going with Kaepernick as his quarterback as he hauled in a team-high 7 receptions for 71-yards. Hopefully, just hopefully the 49ers can use this game to build off of as Kaepernick continues to slowly shake off the cobwebs and the defense can string together consecutive games where they aren't dismantled by the run.
Week 10 - As if wins haven't already been tough to come by for the (1-8) 49ers this year, they'll now have to face the daunting task of playing Tom Brady and the (7-2) New England Patriots who will be making their first trip to Levi's Stadium. For what it's worth, the 49ers defense won't have to worry about Pro-Bowl tight-end Rob Gronkowski as he's been ruled out of Sunday's game with a perforated lung injury suffered in Sunday night's loss at home to the Seahawks. But we can all expect Brady and company to play with a chip on their shoulder when they hit the field again as they plan to avenge their heart-breaking loss to Seattle which ended on a goal-line stand as the Pats were unable to score from the 1-yard line. With a 49ers win at New England the last time these two teams met, all we can do is hope San Francisco comes out to play and makes it a competitive game, unless Colin Kaepernick is able to turn back the clock and throw for four touchdowns again like he did in that memorable win at Foxborough back in 2012.


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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

49ers Fall to Saints in First Half Shootout

Week 9 - What do you get when the two worst defenses in the league face one another? How about the highest-scoring first half of the 2016 NFL season. Coming off a BYE in Week 8, the 49ers returned to action in Week 9 with a meeting with Drew Brees and the visiting (3-4) New Orleans Saints. In a match up of two struggling defenses which have given up an average of 30 points per game, it would be no wonder that the score would be 31-20 at the half. And with first half leads in five of their six losses this season entering Sunday's game, Chip Kelly's 49ers would get off to a similar start in this one.

After celebrating his 29th birthday over the weekend, Colin Kaepernick would throw for close to 400 yards on the afternoon as he tallied 398 on Sunday, more than his first two starts combined this season. A 31-yard gain on a short hitch to receiver Quinton Patton would help set up his big day and put the 49ers in position to take an early lead as they would have to settle for a 49-yard field goal from kicker Phil Dawson. But the Saints would follow that up with four consecutive scoring drives of their own to take the lead as Tim Hightower started things off with a 4-yard touchdown run. With turnovers costing San Francisco on several opportunities, the first would be an interception by Kaepernick as the Saints quickly turned their 4-point lead into an 11-point lead with a 1-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Michael Thomas. In an early hole at the start of the second quarter, coach Kelly would decide to go for it on a 4th and 1 call which would prove to be costly as the 49ers came up short on the attempt. Once again the Saints would turn San Francisco's turnover into points as Mark Ingram capitalized a 76-yard drive with a 5-yard receiving touchdown.
But this time, the 49ers would answer with a big play of their own. In only his second start with the 49ers, DuJuan Harris would have himself a nice day while filling in for the injured Carlos Hyde. Though he would only compile 59 yards on the ground, Harris would tally 83 yards thru the air on five receptions, including a 47-yard catch and go touchdown that made it a 21-10 game. Unfortunately, the Saints would waste no time to answer right back as Ingram ran for a 75-yard touchdown on the first play of the ensuing drive, making it the second-longest touchdown run in Saints franchise history. After being benched last week in favor of Tim Hightower, Ingram made quite the impression for getting his starting job back by rushing for 158 yards on Sunday. Ingram's big day would also mark the seventh straight game in which the 49ers have allowed an opposing player to rush for 100 yards for the first time in NFL history. After a 48-yard field goal by Dawson, the 49ers would strike with their biggest play of the afternoon as Kaepernick found a wide-open Vance McDonald who raced to the end zone untouched for a 65-yard touchdown to pull within 8-points. However, it would be the closest the 49ers would get as Brees was able to march the Saints down the field with less than a minute to go to add a field goal to their lead, making it a 31-20 ball game at the half.

After a nice kick return to open the second half by Jacorey Shepherd, the 49ers appeared to be in business and on their way to making it a 4-point game as Kaepernick and company marched their way into enemy territory and set up shop inside the New Orleans 8-yard line. But a 7-yard run to the 1-yard line would end in disaster as second-year running back Mike Davis fumbled at the goal-line, recovered by the Saints. Though the Saints would fail to cash the mistake into points and were forced to punt, the 49ers would only be able to score a field goal on their next possession. It would also be their last scoring opportunity on the afternoon as the Saints added another 10-points in the fourth quarter to pull away with the 41-23 victory.
Despite the loss, Colin Kaepernick threw for the second-highest passing total of his career with 398 yards and became the 15th player in 49ers franchise history to rush for over 2,000 career yards after adding anther 28 yards on the ground on Sunday. Quinton Patton would haul in 106 of those yards on 6 receptions as the 49ers fell to 1-7 on the season. As for the Saints who improved to 4-4 on the year and have bounced back after an 0-3 start, quarterback Drew Brees who threw for 323 yards and a trio of touchdowns is on the doorstep of becoming only the third QB in NFL history to reach the 450 touchdown mark as he currently sits at 449 career touchdown passes. With the Saints still very much alive in the NFC South and in contention for the division, they trail only the Atlanta Falcons who sit at 6-3 on the year. 

Week 10 Preview - On the road in Week 10, the 49ers will make a stop in the desert as they visit the (3-4-1) Arizona Cardinals. In what's been a disappointing season for the Cardinals -- last year's NFC Western division champions, Bruce Arians has seen his guys play some ugly football as of late and is hoping they can return to form after coming off a BYE in Week 9. With a 30-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers in their last outing and a 6-6 tie at home to division rival Seattle in the game before that, Arizona has the perfect match-up in place to take out some anger and get their fourth win of the season. Though I don't expect a repeat of last year's visit to Glendale -- a 47-7 shellacking of the 49ers, I do expect another Cardinals victory. With a 33-21 win at San Francisco earlier this year back in Week 5 on Thursday Night Football, the teams exchanged blows in the first half in what was a relatively close game until late when the Cards pulled away, Arizona will have their starting quarterback around this time as QB Carson Palmer was sidelined with a concussion in their last meeting. And with Carlos Hyde questionable to play on Sunday, the 49ers might have to rely on another big game from DeJuan Harris in hopes of pulling off the upset.


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