Kelly: 49ers deserve no credit for not giving up

Kelly: 49ers deserve no credit for not giving up

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Down by 17 points in the fourth quarter on Sunday, there was little question the 49ers would end up on the losing end once again.

The 49ers rallied but came up 2 yards short of potentially sending the game into overtime. The team's 31-24 loss to the Miami Dolphins set the San Francisco franchise record with a 10th consecutive loss.

“The mentally we had as a team was, ‘Let’s go get this win,’” 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said. “I thought our guys did a great job fighting until the very end.

“At the beginning of the game I asked them to go four quarters with me and they did. Our defense did a great job at the end to give us the opportunity to get the ball back and go score. We have to be able to finish these with touchdowns to give us an opportunity to win the game.”

Kaepernick threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns. He rushed for a 113 yards. But he was stopped short of the goal line when he took off running after failing to spot anyone open in the end zone as time expired.

“It’s tough, because you work all week just like any other week,” 49ers center Daniel Kilgore said. “We had a good week of practice and first drive we marched down the field, score. A couple of drives later, a turnover. It never felt out like we were out of it. We just have to make the plays when we’re called on.

“That’s a good defensive front. I felt like we handled them pretty well, but the ball didn’t bounce our way, and we got to come back and get better the next week.”

The 49ers lost by at least 12 points in six of their first seven games along their record-setting streak. The 49ers lost to the Arizona Cardinals 23-20 on Nov. 13. Last week, they hung tough for a while in a 30-17 loss to the New England Patriots.

“This is the third week now where we were getting closer and closer to getting out of the hump,” 49ers tight end Vance McDonald said. “All you can ask for as an offense is a chance to win the game at the end. Again, it’s just frustrating the three weeks in a row where we’ve been right there, really close.”

In a rarity this season, the 49ers outgained Miami in total yards and first downs. The 49ers ran 15 more offensive plays and controlled the ball for only one minute less than the Dolphins.

“Honestly, I don’t think this one hurts no more than New England or the Dallas game, but they all hurt,” 49ers receiver Jeremy Kerley said. “To get that close and come up short, you just think back on all the things you could have done better.”

Two turnovers proved costly for the 49ers. Garrett Celek fumbled after reaching the Dolphins’ 15-yard line. And Torrey Smith had a Kaepernick pass deflect off his hands on the first play of the third quarter. The Dolphins turned those takeaways into 10 points.

“There are no moral victories,” Smith said. “But I think it doesn’t help when you know that you are capable of it. We’ve known that forever. We’ve just got to go out there and consistently do it and finish. That’s why we’ve lost so many games. We’ve been in every game, for the most part, and we haven’t been able to finish.”

Coach Chip Kelly and the 49ers flew to Orlando after Sunday’s game and will take part in practices this week at the University of Central Florida before traveling to Chicago. The 49ers return to action Sunday against the Bears.

Players up and down the roster remarked about how the team continues to approach every week with the same commitment toward getting back in the win column. Kelly said the 49ers should not be credited for merely not giving up.

“They’re professionals and I think they’re all competitors so I don’t know what they’d gain from packing it in,” Kelly said. “Is that going to make them feel better? They want to straighten this thing out so they’re going to go out and compete and we’ve got a bunch of competitors in there that want to go win.

“I don’t want anybody to pat them on the back and tell them that ‘Hey, you did a good job. You were close.’ They’re grown men, they want to win and they’ll continue to work that way. They’ve practiced great all year long. They’ve had great attitudes in terms of what they’ve got to do when we go out to the practice field and I don’t think that’s in anybody’s mindset. I think it is questions that are asked from the outside, but there’s never been a question about that from the inside.”

49ers set aside cap space with an eye to the future


49ers set aside cap space with an eye to the future

The first wave of free agency is over, and the 49ers struck quickly.

The club identified two players coach Kyle Shanahan tabbed as fits for his offense and they paid the money it took to get them.

General manager John Lynch said there were five teams seriously interested in free-agent running back Jerick McKinnon. Even more teams were going after center Weston Richburg, he said.

That drove up the prices on McKinnon and Richburg to the point that they rank behind only quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo ($37 million) as taking up the most cap space among the 72 players currently under contract to the 49ers.

McKinnon and Richburg account for $10.5 million and $9.26 million, respectively, on the 49ers' salary cap. Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman's deal takes up $6.175 million on the 49ers' cap this season.

The big spending to attract free agents to the team is likely over. The 49ers have $45.1 million in cap space, according to the NFL Players Association. That figure does not include a projected $8.3 million to sign their 2018 rookie class, according to overthecap.com.

The major spending for this offseason is over because the 49ers have apparently looked to the future and set aside cap space with the idea of retaining some of their own players whose contracts are winding down.

The first decisions for the future must occur by May 3, the deadline for picking up the fifth-year options on first-round picks from the 2015 draft. The 49ers have decisions to make on defensive lineman Arik Armstread and left guard Laken Tomlinson, who was acquired from Detroit in a trade just prior to the start of the 2017 regular season.

It is still unclear how or if Armstead’s skills fit into the 49ers’ defense. He opened last season at the team's pass-rush end before moving to the "big end," which also appears to be first-round pick Solomon Thomas' best position.

Tomlinson showed reasons for the 49ers to be optimistic about his future as his play got better as he acclimated to the offense. Among the guards already on the 49ers’ roster, Tomlinson appears to be the most likely to be a starter in 2018.

Presumptive starting safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents next offseason. Ward’s fifth-year option deal of one-year, $8.526 million became fully guaranteed last Wednesday. But in order for the 49ers to make a multi-year commitment, Ward would likely have to prove he can remain healthy and available for a full season.

DeForest Buckner is likely the target for the next blockbuster contract extension. Buckner has emerged as one of the top young defensive linemen in the league. Next offseason will be the first time the 49ers are permitted to negotiate a multi-year extension with him.

With a scarcity of offensive linemen available in the draft and free agency, right tackle Trent Brown could be set to cash in with an enormous deal next offseason – either with the 49ers or some other team.

DL Arik Armstead
FS Jimmie Ward
SS Jaquiski Tartt
RT Trent Brown
LB Eli Harold
LG Laken Tomlinson
K Robbie Gould
P Bradley Pinion

DL DeForest Buckner
LT Joe Staley
OG Joshua Garnett
DL Ronald Blair
TE Garrett Celek
RB Matt Breida (RFA)
WR Kendrick Bourne (RFA)

Deepest position in the NFL Draft? 49ers VP of Player Personnel weighs in


Deepest position in the NFL Draft? 49ers VP of Player Personnel weighs in

The 49ers concluded the first wave of the free-agent signing period with the signings of players to fill the team’s biggest offseason needs.

--Cornerback. Aqib Talib would have been the answer in a trade with the Denver Broncos, but he wanted to play elsewhere. Instead, the 49ers signed veteran Richard Sherman, whom the Seattle Seahawks cut a day earlier.

--Interior offensive line. Center Weston Richburg was the player the team had rated as their top target in free agency, and they signed him to a lucrative five-year deal.

--Running back. The team decided Jerick McKinnon was a better fit than Carlos Hyde. They wrapped him up with a four-year contract.

--Edge rusher. Lacking many options in free agency, the 49ers signed Jeremiah Attaochu to a one-year contract in hopes he will earn a spot on the team and make a contribution at the “Leo” position.

The 49ers can still use more help at a number of different positions, including cornerback, wide receiver, offensive line, linebacker and edge rusher. While the 49ers might add some role players in the second wave of free agency, most of the major acquisitions at this point are likely to come in the draft.

On the 49ers Insider Podcast, 49ers vice president of player personnel Adam Peters addressed what positions he believes are strong in this year’s draft.

“I think running backs, absolutely. It’s a deep position,” Peters said. “Quarterbacks at the top is deeper than it was last year. Secondary, corners, it’s not deeper than it was last year, but it’s a strong class of corners. Those are the main ones. The offensive line class is a little better than last year, too.”

The 49ers got major contributions from their rookie class last season. Tight end George Kittle, receiver Trent Taylor, quarterback C.J. Beathard, running back Matt Breida, defensive lineman Solomom Thomas, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, linebacker Reuben Foster and safety Adrian Colbert each played more than 300 snaps.

The 49ers feel good about Witherspoon, a third-round draft pick, as a starter with Sherman on the other side. Peters said a lot of the team’s rookies played larger roles than expected in 2017, but Witherspoon might have been at the top of the list.

“I don’t think he was active for the first four games,” Peters said of Witherspoon. “And he ended up playing at a high level at the end. Really driven, conscientious player who wants to be great. 

"We were lucky we got a chance to play a lot of rookies because that’ll help us moving forward.”