SANTA CLARA -- Where has the 49ers' pass rush gone?It seems the opposition has been quick to do something about slowing down the 49ers' four-man pass rush through the first six games of the season.The 49ers' sacks and interceptions are down -- cut in half from a year ago. That's the bad news for the 49ers.But the 49ers' pass defense is also better than a year ago, as they have also cut in half the number of big plays allowed this season.Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio does not seem concerned with the pass rush. The reason, he said, is because he has seen quicker passes and the opposition is keeping in more backs and tight ends to serve in pass protection."At times, they'll be chipping us, keeping extra guys in, or throwing it quicker," Fangio said. "I think it (the 49ers' pass rush) is on their mind. I think that plays into the pass defense, which is what we're all concerned about here. When they do that, they limit themselves also a little bit."The numbers seem to support Fangio.If quarterbacks have all day to throw, then why have they connected on only 11 passes of 20 yards or more? The 49ers have given up only three pass plays of 30-plus yards, and one came on a screen pass to a running back.A year ago through six games, the 49ers gave up 22 pass plays of 20 yards or more, including eight plays of 30-plus yards."Now, we didn't have a good rush on one of the passes they (New York Giants) completed for good yardage," Fangio said. "But that's going to happen some. But I dont see our pass rush as being an issue right now."The 49ers must be doing something right with their pass defense. They have already faced Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Eli Manning, and the 49ers rank second-best in the league in passing yards allowed."Pass rush is a part of pass defense," Fangio said. "So although we don't have the sack numbers, which a lot of people want to sink their teeth into, fantasy players want to sink their teeth into sacks. That's not the only measure of a good pass rush. And right now to this point, I haven't seen pass rush as being a weakness for us."The 49ers have surrendered only 1,162 passing yards (193.7 per game), compared to 1,689 yards (281.5 per game) at this same point a year ago. On third downs, the 49ers have been the best in the league, allowing the opposition to convert on just 35 percent of their opportunities.Conversely, the 49ers rank 26th in the NFL in sacks per opponent pass play. They are also tied for 26th with nine sacks in six games. Aldon Smith leads the 49ers with 4.5 sacks. Ahmad Brooks has three sacks. They have intercepted four passes.A year ago, the 49ers had 17 sacks and eight interceptions through six games.The opponent passer rating is nearly identical. It was 77.7 last season at this time, and it's currently 77.8.It goes to reason that opposing offenses are trying to slow down the 49ers' pass rush, but it comes at a price. Shorter pass routes are going to cut down on sacks and interceptions. In doing so, teams are limiting their own ability to hit big plays down the field.Outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who recorded 14 sacks as a rookie, leads the 49ers with 4.5 sacks through six games. He also has 14 hits on the quarter, according to statistics kept by the team's coaching staff.Justin Smith, who had 7.5 sacks, does not have any while facing regular double-teams. But Justin Smith leads the 49ers with 19 hits on the quarterback.Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks has three sacks and 17 quarterback hits, while defensive tackle Ray McDonald has a half-sack and 18 hits on the quarterback.The 49ers have not felt compelled to blitz more than usual because the ball is coming out quickly and it would only serve to weaken the coverage. Cornerback Carlos Rogers has the only sack by a non-traditional pass-rusher. Inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman have combined for no sacks and just four quarterback hits.And even though the 49ers will be facing a rookie quarterback Thursday night against the Seattle Seahawks, it does not mean Fangio will dial up a wide array of blitzes.Last November, the 49ers did not send more than four pass rushers -- and many times rushed only three -- in a 23-7 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Fangio later explained that sometimes against young quarterbacks, such as Arizona's John Skelton, it's best to try to confuse them with coverages in the secondary, rather than force them to get rid of the ball quickly on hot reads against a steady diet of blitzes.Seattle's rookie quarterback, Russell Wilson, will make his seventh NFL start on Sunday. He said he welcomes the challenge of blitzes."The main thing is just getting rid of the ball quickly," Wilson said Tuesday on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. "Once they do pressure, there's a lot of green grass behind it, too. If you can capitalize on those blitzes, it gives you opportunities to make big plays down the field."
LeBron James is an avid football fan. He's now an even bigger Colin Kaepernick fan than the sport. Following the Cavaliers' practice on Sunday, James opened up on Kaepernick and his absence from the NFL.
"I've commended Kap, and for him to sacrifice everything for the greater good for everyone, for what he truly believed in, the utmost respect to him," James said to ESPN. "Obviously he had a vision like Martin Luther King and like some of our all-time greats that people couldn't see further than what they were doing at the point and time. And Muhammad Ali and things of that nature."
James believes the masses don't truly understand what Kaepernick was doing when he first took a knee as a protest against social and racial injustices in America. For his actions, James respects Kaepernick choosing his beliefs over his sport.
"When it's something that's new and it's something that people are not educated about or don't understand what your beliefs are all about, people are so quick to judge and people are so quick to say that what you're doing is wrong," James said. "For him to sacrifice the sport that he plays and to sacrifice the things he's done his whole life because he knew what he believed in, I salute him. I salute and respect that."
Add James to the list of those who believe Kaepernick is being blackballed by the NFL for taking a knee last season. The more games he watches, the more James sees the evidence on the wall.
"I don't represent the NFL. I don't know their rules and regulations. But I do know Kap is getting a wrong doing, I do know that," James believes. "Just watching, he's an NFL player. He's an NFL player and you see all these other quarterbacks out there and players out there that get all these second and third chances that are nowhere near as talented as him. It just feels like he's been blackballed out of the NFL. So, I definitely do not respect that."
Kaepernick, who recently turned 30 years old, appeared in 12 games for the 49ers in the 2016-17 season. Through the air he completed 59.2 percent of his passes and ended the year with 2,241 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. Kaepernick also added 468 yards and two more scores on the ground.
"The only reason I could say he's not on a team is because the way he took a knee," James said. "That's the only reason. I watch football every Sunday, every Thursday, every Monday night. I see all these quarterbacks -- first-string, second-team, third-team quarterbacks -- that play sometimes when the starter gets hurt or are starters that play. Kap is better than a lot of those guys. Let's just be honest."
For his career, Kaepernick has thrown for 12,271 yards and 72 touchdowns to 30 interceptions. With his speed as a dual-threat quarterback, Kaepernick has also gained 2,300 yards rushing and 13 more touchdowns.
TEMPE, Ariz. — Blaine Gabbert will get his first start for the Arizona Cardinals when they play the Texans in Houston on Sunday.
Coach Bruce Arians announced the decision after Friday's practice.
Drew Stanton, the starter the last two games, bruised his knee early in the Thursday night loss to Seattle last week. He stayed in the game but has been limited in practice all week.
Arians said it will be a game-time decision as to whether Stanton or recently signed Matt Barkley would be Gabbert's backup.
Gabbert will be making his 41st NFL start. He has a 9-31 record. He signed with Arizona last offseason and was the third quarterback until Carson Palmer broke his arm against the Los Angeles Rams in London and was lost for the season.