49ers

Kaepernick's 'hot hand' tipped scales, Harbaugh says

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Kaepernick's 'hot hand' tipped scales, Harbaugh says

SANTA CLARA -- Jim Harbaugh made the announcement Wednesday to go with the "hot hand" of second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick as the 49ers' starter over Alex Smith.

NEWS: Harbaugh going with Kaepernick
Here is some of what Harbaugh had to say about making the decision:Do you have a quarterback announcement?
"Yes, Colin Kaepernick, It's our plan to start Colin, and we're preparing him to make that start this week against the Rams."What's the rationale behind that?
"Well, the rationale is you got two quarterbacks that we feel great about as the starting quarterback. Both have earned it. Both deserve it, and, uh, Alex over a long period of time, Colin by virtue of the last two games. What tips the scales is Colin we believe has the hot hand, and we'll go with Colin. . . And we'll go with Alex. Both are our guys."Do you seek input from the veteran players or was this your decision?
"First of all, I talk to players all the time -- every day, all players, whoever wants to talk with me on any topic. But, yeah, this is one of those decisions you make as the head coach."When you have two guys very capable, would you consider having a bullpen situation, a guy having a bad half or is struggling . .
"No. (I'm not) going to start talking about speculation or every permutation that you could get into. We're not going to speculate on it. We'll worry about everything and fear nothing."Just to clarify, you're saying Colin Kaepernick is the starting quarterback moving forward. It's not a one week thing. . .
"I wouldn't assume anything. I know you probably will, but I'd assume nothing."With a young quarterback like Colin, do you have to be prepared for some bumps in the road?
"Like I said, we worry about everything as a coach. That's a part of my job. But as a coach and as a team, we don't fear any moment or circumstance or other man."Emotionally for you, how difficult was it to make this decision?
"All these decisions are difficult. And you think through them the best you possibly can."How did Alex handle the news?
"Alex is a class act all the way. He'll prepare as he is the starter. And that's what we'd expect, and be ready to go in and play and contribute to this football team."Is it something you see from practice or games from Kaepernick?
"I've seen it both in practice and in games that Colin is playing good. I've seen it both in practice and in games that Alex is a very good player."How did Colin get to become a more accurate passer?
"Like any football player, practice. You don't get to Carnegie Hall without practicing."Have you seen that, too, that his accuracy has improved even since training camp?
"Yeah, he's been improving. He's getting better every single day."How much of that is related to knowing the offense better and just going out and playing without thinking?
"He does a great job studying. It's both. It's physical and it's mental. He does a great job studying."

49ers veteran expected to play in Pro Bowl thanks to Eagles

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49ers veteran expected to play in Pro Bowl thanks to Eagles

UPDATED: The 49ers announced Monday morning that Joe Staley has accepted a spot on the NFC Pro Bowl team. He will replace Dallas offensive tackle Tyron Smith.

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Veteran 49ers left tackle Joe Staley is expected to benefit from the Philadelphia Eagles’ trip to the Super Bowl.

Staley, originally chosen as an alternate, is expected to be named to his sixth Pro Bowl to take the place of Eagles Pro Bowl tackle Lane Johnson.

The Pro Bowl will be played Sunday, Jan. 28, in Orlando, Florida. Members of the Super Bowl participant Eagles and New England Patriots will not play in the all-star game. The Eagles advanced to the Super Bowl on Sunday with a 38-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

The other Pro Bowl offensive tackles representing the NFC are Dallas’ Tyron Smith and Los Angeles’ Andrew Whitworth, who replaced Washington’s Trent Williams.

Staley got off to a rough start last season as the 49ers opened on a nine-game losing streak. The idea of his career coming to an end began to creep into his mind, he said recently on the 49ers Insider Podcast.

But Staley said he had a talk with coach Kyle Shanahan that got him refocused for the remainder of the season. The 49ers finished with a five-game win streak to finish with a 6-10 record, and Staley played well down the stretch.

“I’m so far gone from where I was in that moment early in the year that I’m just focused on next year and, hopefully, years after that,” said Staley, 33, an 11-year NFL veteran. “I feel like I can still play.

“I think this last half of the season I played some of the best football of my career. I feel very confident in what we’re doing schematically with the people surrounding us, and it shows in my own play.”

Staley would join fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who was the only 49ers player named to the Pro Bowl when the teams were announced last month.

Foles frenzy: Eagles fly over Vikings to meet Patriots in Super Bowl LII

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Foles frenzy: Eagles fly over Vikings to meet Patriots in Super Bowl LII

BOX SCORE

PHILADELPHIA -- Hey Philly, maybe it's time to forget Carson Wentz. Nick Foles might be good enough to win the Eagles their first Super Bowl.

Foles was on fire Sunday night against the stingiest scoring defense in the NFL. Philly made big play after big play on both sides of the ball in a stunning 38-7 rout of the Minnesota Vikings for the NFC championship.

Next up after their most-lopsided playoff victory: the Eagles' first Super Bowl appearance since 2005, against the team that beat them then, AFC champion New England.

Foles replaced the injured Wentz in Game 13 and finished off a rise from last place to first in the NFC East. There were plenty of doubters entering the playoffs, but the former starter in Philadelphia (15-3) under another regime has been brilliant.

His best work might have come against Minnesota (14-4) and its vaunted defense that was torn apart in every manner. Foles threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns, showing poise, escapability and moxie in going 26 for 33.

In doing so - helped greatly by the Eagles' domination on defense and a spectacular weaving 50-yard interception return TD by Patrick Robinson - Foles ruined the Vikings' hopes of being the first team to play in a Super Bowl in its own stadium

Instead, the Eagles will seek their first Super Bowl crown in Minnesota on Feb. 4; their last championship came in 1960.

OVER AT HALFTIME: Minnesota made it look easy at the outset, driving 75 yards on nine plays, each of which gained yardage. The payoff was a 25-yard throw from Case Keenum to Kyle Rudolph well behind linebacker Najee Goode as Philadelphia's defense looked confused on the play.

That didn't happen again for Philly.

Defensive end Chris Long had a huge hand in Robinson's 50-yard interception return. Long burst in from the left side and got his arm on Keenum to disrupt the throw for Adam Thielen. The ball went directly to Robinson, who sped down the left side, then made a sharp cut to the right and got a superb block from Ronald Darby to reach the end zone.

Inspired, Philly's D forced a three-and-out, the Foles led the Eagles on a 12-play, 75-yard masterpiece of a drive. LeGarrette Blount showed all his power and escapability on an 11-yard surge up the middle for a 14-7 lead.

Turnovers, something Minnesota rarely committed with an NFC-low 14 during the season, hurt again and not only ended a solid drive, but set up more Philly points. On third down from the Eagles 15, Keenum was blindsided by rookie Derek Barnett, and the ball bounced directly to Long.

It was only the second strip-sack the Vikings have been victimized by all season.

A blown coverage - another rarity for Minnesota - on third-and-10 allowed Alshon Jeffery to get wide open for a 53-yard TD, and Philadelphia tacked on Elliott's 38-yard field goal to make it 24-3 at halftime.

DANCING IN THE LINC: Fifty seconds into the final quarter, with the score 38-7, Eagles players on the sideline and waiting to kick off on the field were dancing up a storm and fans were chanting "We want Brady."

They get Tom Brady and company in two weeks.

BACK TO THE BIG GAME: Long won the Super Bowl last year with the Patriots, as did Blount. Now they return on the other side.

QUICK DRIVE: Philadelphia got the ball with 29 seconds remaining in the first half at its 20. Foles hit passes of 11 yards to Jay Ajayi, 36 to Ertz and 13 to Ajayi before Elliott's field goal to end the half.

THIRD DOWNS: Minnesota was the league's best team defending third downs and was third in converting them. Yet Philadelphia went 10 for 14.

NEXT UP: Minnesota returns home to watch two other teams play at its stadium for the Lombardi Trophy.

With the entire stadium singing "Fly Eagles Fly" during the NFC trophy ceremony, Philadelphia can look forward to facing New England in Super Bowl 52 on Feb. 4