Big brother's Ravens beat up on little brother's 49ers


Big brother's Ravens beat up on little brother's 49ers

BALTIMORE -- The 49ers' eight-game win streak came to an unceremonious end Thursday night to the Baltimore Ravens.And the ultra-competitive 49ers coach, Jim Harbaugh, was transformed into a gracious loser.Big brother John's Ravens pummeled the 49ers, 16-6, on Thanksgiving night to win the NFL's first encounter that matched brothers as head coaches.The Ravens sacked quarterback Alex Smith nine times and forced an intentional grounding in a game in which the 49ers were outschemed and, simply, outplayed."There's a saying that 'As iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another,'" Jim Harbaugh said. "And let's say my brother John is the sharpest iron I've ever encountered.
"This game was about the players. It was highly competitive and it didn't go our way. We're disappointed about it. But our team has steel in our spine, and this will make us stronger for our ultimate goal."The 49ers (9-2) lost for the first time since a Week 2 defeat to the Dallas Cowboys. And they will have to wait at least another week to clinch the NFC West title."To the 49ers, I just can't say enough," John Harbaugh said. "The job that he's done building that football team. That's a good football team. When you try to figure out a way to play those guys and beat those guys the way they're built, it's pretty hard."It didn't look so hard, as the Ravens dominated key areas on both sides of the ball.Smith completed 15 of 24 passes for 140 yards and one interception for a season-low passer rating of 61.1. He was sacked nine times for minus-44 yards. And running back Frank Gore managed just 39 yards rushing on 14 attempts.
Coincidence or not, the 49ers offense struggled as they reverted back mostly to their lineup of the first two-and-a-half games of the season when Chilo Rachal played right guard and Moran Norris was at fullback. Guard Adam Snyder sustained a hamstring strain that knocked him out of action in the first half. And rookie fullback Bruce Miller was not active due to a concussion he sustained Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.The Ravens (8-3) were playing without future Hall-of-Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, who missed the game with a toe injury. But it didn't seem to matter. Rush linebacker Terrell Suggs recorded three sacks and defensive tackle Cory Redding added 2.5 to lead a defense that limited the 49ers to 170 total yards.
The 49ers converted just two of 12 third-down opportunities, and they never drove into the red zone. The deepest finishing point of a 49ers drive was the Baltimore 27-yard line. David Akers made field goals of 45 and 52 yards to account for the only 49ers points."First and second downs, we weren't very good," Alex Smith said. "And on third downs, we were worse."Meanwhile, the 49ers' defense wasn't so hot on third downs, either.Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio decided to play coverage, in much the same fashion as the 49ers had success Sunday against Cardinals quarterbacks John Skelton and Richard Bartel.Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco made the 49ers pay the price for their inability to record a sack -- or much pressure.Given ample time to throw, Flacco converted all six of his second-half pass attempts on third downs. The Ravens finally broke into the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter when Flacco tossed an 8-yard scoring pass to tight end Dennis Pitta.The 49ers' best offensive and defensive plays on this night never happened.Smith hit receiver Ted Ginn on an apparent 75-yard touchdown early in the second quarter. But the play was wiped out when running back Frank Gore was called for a chop block on blitzing safety Bernard Pollard.Gore's portion of the play, a cut block, was legal. But what drew the penalty was when Rachal got his hands on Pollard after Gore made the block. That high-low action is illegal, and a call that Jim Harbaugh did not dispute."It certainly was a chop block and a good call," Harbaugh said. "You had one guy going low and then Chilo put his hands on the defender, which turned into a chop block. (That) took away a big play and that was unfortunate."Another big play occurred on the next series when cornerback Tarell Brown appeared to intercept a deep pass intended for rookie Torrey Smith. But Brown, instead, was called for a 50-yard pass interference penalty.The Ravens converted that huge chunk of yardage into a field goal for a 6-3 lead.Before returning home with his team late Thursday, a clearly disappointed Harbaugh spoke with his parents, Jack and Jackie, outside the 49ers locker room for several minutes."I think it will harden up our club," Jim Harbaugh said. "I know our guys to be a resilient, tough bunch. And I think it will make us stronger even more."Said 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, "Tonight, I don't see it as anything bad. We lost tonight. But I don't think it's anything detrimental. It only breaks us down to build us up stronger for what we have ahead of down the road. I feel like we're a good football team."Who knows, maybe we'll get to see them again this season."

Mailbag: Are 49ers trying to win or develop players?


Mailbag: Are 49ers trying to win or develop players?

After five consecutive close losses and some reason for optimism, it all came crashing down for the 49ers on Sunday.

Rookie Trent Taylor fumbled a punt just one minute into the game. Ninety seconds later, the Dallas Cowboys scored.

And it was over.

The Cowboys steamrolled the 49ers, 40-10, providing a slap across the face to anyone who believed this rebuild of the franchise was trending consistently upward without any complications.

The team appeared to be moving along harmoniously. But on Sunday, there was an incident in which Jaquiski Tartt, Ahkello Witherspoon and Ray-Ray Armstrong were seen jawing at each other. Things got heated. The optics in a home blowout loss were not good.

There are plenty of questions, and here are some of the questions from The Day After that were submitted on our Facebook page:

What is the philosophy? Are we trying to win or develop players? Cause it seems you can't do both? (Frank Vega)
The 49ers are definitely trying to develop players. They are also trying to evaluate players. They are looking to the future, and they are not deploying a win-at-all-cost approach this season. They do not want to win an extra game or two this season at the expense of possibly making the team worse for the future.

That is why the 49ers, almost invariably, went with younger players at any position in which there was competition . . . Eli Harold over Ahmad Brooks; Trent Taylor over Jeremy Kerley; Raheem Mostert over Tim Hightower; etc.

It’s why the 49ers made the decision two weeks ago to part ways with NaVorro Bowman, who had expressed dissatisfaction over his reduced role. Bowman was still the 49ers’ best linebacker at the time. But he would not have been on the team next year, so the decision was made to release Bowman now and go with the other less-accomplished players. (The Raiders, by the way, say 'Thank you.')

Rookie C.J. Beathard is now the starting quarterback. Cole Hikutini has moved into the No. 2 role at tight end behind fellow rookie George Kittle. Ahkello Witherspoon is being weaved into the action at cornerback, splitting time with Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson.

The 49ers did not want to create a mirage. They did not want to win any games this season that would be the result of a veteran rent-a-player approach. In that respect, the 49ers have succeeded. The 49ers will be picking near the top of every round in the 2018 draft.

The risk, of course, is that the young players get beaten down so badly that they lose their confidence and their edge.

What do you make of Eric Reid’s move to LB? Is his time with Niners nearing the end? (Peter Chan)
The 49ers no longer use a “nickel” defense. They go straight from their base defense to six defensive backs whenever the opposition puts more than two wide receivers on the field. It’s not a true linebacker position Reid is playing. It’s considered more of a “big nickel," designed to give the 49ers more speed on third downs to cover and run to the ball.

Reid is no longer a starter. What it shows is that the 49ers are sold on Jaquiski Tartt being a long-term answer for the 49ers secondary. The 49ers view Tartt and Jimmie Ward as the starters for 2018. All things being equal, Reid will have a chance to go somewhere else next season and be a starter.

The 49ers are not committed to re-signing him on a deal that extends beyond this season.

Is it a coincidence that the two worst teams in the NFL have the most cap space? (Gary Staebler)
That is no coincidence at all. It is the very reason the Cleveland Browns and 49ers are the only two winless teams in the NFL.

The Browns have $61.6 million in cap space. The 49ers are currently $61 million under the cap. Next year, with carryovers of unused space, the 49ers and Browns are projected to both have more than $117 million in cap room, according to Overthecap.com.

Bad teams do not draft well.

Teams that do not draft well, do not sign their draft picks to lucrative second contracts.

Therefore, teams that do not draft well cannot spend a large portion of their cap space to retain their own players because they have no good players worth retaining.

49ers snap count: Reid no longer starter; rookies see more time on offense


49ers snap count: Reid no longer starter; rookies see more time on offense

Veteran safety Eric Reid returned from a knee injury that kept him out three games to discover he lost his starting job.

Strong safety Jaquiski Tartt has continued to serve as an every-down player for the 49ers’ defense. On Sunday, Reid played 48 snaps (64 percent) as the 49ers employed six defensive backs against the Dallas Cowboys three-receiver sets.

The 49ers had to adjust their sub package after nickel back K’Waun Williams sustained a hip injury. Rookie Adrian Colbert entered the game at safety with Jimmie Ward taking over Williams’ role. Colbert played 29 snaps.

Newly signed defensive linemen Leger Douzable and Tony McDaniel saw a lot of action in their 49ers debuts. Douzable played the third-most of any defensive lineman (behind Solomon Thomas and DeForest Buckner), seeing action on 47 of the team’s 75 snaps. McDaniel played 25 snaps.

On offense, the 49ers appear to be making a point to go with younger players. Rookie Cole Hikutini played 21 snaps, taking over as the No. 2 tight end over Garrett Celek and Logan Paulsen.

Wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, another undrafted rookie, played a season-high 23 snaps. On fourth-and-4 from the Dallas 28 early in the third quarter, coach Kyle Shanahan decided to go for it instead of kicking a 46-yard field goal. Bourne was the intended target. But he stumbled after a spin move from the slot, and C.J. Beathard’s pass was incomplete.

“As I was throwing the ball he tripped,” Beathard said. “If he hadn’t tripped on a DB’s feet or whatever happened there, it would’ve been a big play.”

Here is a look at the 49ers’ playing time on offense, defense and special teams:

(66 plays)
Quarterback – C.J. Beathard 66
Running back – Carlos Hyde 51, Matt Breida 15
Wide receiver – Pierre Garçon 46, Trent Taylor 46, Marquise Goodwin 39, Aldrick Robinson 30, Kendrick Bourne 23
Tight end – George Kittle 31, Cole Hikutini 21, Garrett Celek 18, Logan Paulsen 11
Offensive line – Joe Staley 66, Daniel Kilgore 66, Laken Tomlinson 66, Brandon Fusco 52, Trent Brown 45, Garry Gilliam 20, Zane Beadles 14

(75 plays)
Defensive line – Solomon Thomas 61, DeForest Buckner 50, Leger Douzable 47, Earl Mitchell 38, Xavier Cooper 26, D.J. Jones 25, Tony McDaniel 25, Elvis Dumervil 15
Linebacker – Reuben Foster 53, Eli Harold 31, Ray-Ray Armstrong 27, Brock Coyle 22, Dekoda Watson 9
Cornerback – Dontae Johnson 63, Rashard Robinson 51, Ahkello Witherspoon 35, K’Waun Williams 20
Safety – Jaquiski Tartt 75, Jimmie Ward 75, Eric Reid 48, Adrian Colbert 29

(24 plays)
Elijah Lee 21, Coyle 21, Raheem Mostert 16, Celek 15, Colbert 16, Witherspoon 15, Breida 14, Harold 12, Hikutini 12, Armstrong 10, Tartt 10, Bradley Pinion 9, Jones 8, R.Robinson 8, Ward 8, Johnson 7, Kyle Nelson 6, Buckner 6, Thomas 6, Paulsen 6, Reid 5, Mitchell 5, Douzable 4, A.Robinson 3, Taylor 3, Robbie Gould 2, Foster 2, Staley 2, Kilgore 2, Gilliam 2, Beadles 2, Tomlinson 1, Fusco 1, Brown 1, Dumervil 1, Watson 1, Williams 1

QB Brian Hoyer

WR Victor Bolden
DB Dexter McCoil
FB Kyle Juszczyk (back)
LB Mark Nzeocha
LB Pita Taumoepenu
DL Aaron Lynch (calf)
OL Erik Magnuson