49ers

Maiocco's Instant Replay: 49ers 27, Dolphins 13

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Maiocco's Instant Replay: 49ers 27, Dolphins 13

SAN FRANCISCO -- The 49ers' offense sputtered for most of three quarters in Colin Kaepernick's fourth start at quarterback.

But the 49ers maintained their 1 1/2-game lead in the NFC West on Sunday due to a strong performance from the defense and a key takeaway on special teams.

The 49ers don't get many style points for their 27-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins at Candlestick Park

The 49ers (9-3-1) can clinch a spot in the NFC playoffs next week with a victory over the New England Patriots. The 49ers finish the season at the Seattle Seahawks and at home against the Arizona Cardinals. The Seahawks remain 1 1/2-games behind the 49ers in the division standings with a blowout victory over the Cardinals on Sunday.

Kaepernick had a solid statistical day, completing 18 of 23 passes for 185 yards and adding a 50-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. But the 49ers had a difficult time converting on third downs and the game remained tight into the second half.

But the Dolphins had a lot more difficulty moving the ball against the 49ers.

The 49ers' big break came early in the third quarter when Dolphins return man Marcus Thigpen muffed an Andy Lee punt. C.J. Spillman recovered at the Miami 9-yard line.

Anthony Dixon gained 8 yards around the left side. Then, Frank Gore carried it into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown to give the 49ers a 13-3 lead with 11:17 remaining in the third quarter.

Gore tied the franchise record of 50 rushing touchdowns, a mark he now shares with Hall of Fame running back Joe Perry and Roger Craig. Perry had 68 rushing touchdowns with the 49ers, but 18 came when the 49ers played in the All-America Football Conference. The team does not recognize statistics in the non-NFL games that 49ers played from 1946 to 1949.

Gore also eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the sixth time in his eight-year career.

Gore's 19-yard gain on the first play of the fourth quarter set up Anthony Dixon for a 1-yard touchdown run to give the 49ers a 20-6 lead with 14:27 remaining. The play capped a 13-play, 83 yard drive that took 7 minutes and 26 seconds.

FIRST-HALF FIELD GOALS: A lackluster first half ended with a bizarre sequence of plays and the 49ers settled for David Akers' 37-yard field goal to take a 6-3 lead on the final play before the intermission.

The 49ers had a first down at the 11-yard line, but a mix-up in protection left Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake with a clear path to Kaepernick for his third sack of the game.

LaMichael James was stopped for a 2-yard loss on second down, and with the clock winding down, Kaepernick's incomplete throw out of bounds barely left enough time for Akers' kick.

Earlier, Akers hit from 30-yards out. The Dolphins scored their only points of the first half on Dan Carpenter's 28-yard field goal. Later in the third quarter, Carpenter nailed a 53-yard field goal.

SMITH SETS MARK: Outside linebacker Aldon Smith took over sole possession of the 49ers' single-season sack record. Smith ran over Miami Dolphins rookie left tackle Jonathan Martin to pick up sack No. 18.5 of the season. Smith previously shared the 49ers franchise record of 17.5 sacks with Hall of Famer Fred Dean (1983).

Smith leads the NFL in sacks. He is four sacks behind Michael Strahan for the NFL single-season record, which Strahan set in 2001.

With 32.5 sacks in his first two seasons, Smith has more sacks in his first two seasons than any player since the NFL began keeping sack statistics in 1982.

ROOKIE DEBUTS: James and receiver A.J. Jenkins made their NFL debuts on Sunday. James got the call as an active player when the 49ers decided to deactivate veteran Brandon Jacobs, while Jenkins got onto the field for limited action with Mario Manningham out with a shoulder injury.

James carried the ball eight times for 30 yards and added a 15-yard reception, while Jenkins didn't record a catch.

Jacobs was not among the 49ers' active players. Jacobs has been outspoken in recent days via social media against 49ers coaches, his playing time and the team's fans.

Jacobs was seen prior to kickoff talking with 49ers general manager Trent Baalke on the field. The two men had a brief chat, and Baalke concluded it with what appeared to be an encouraging tap on Jacobs' chest.

THIS 'N' THAT: Defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs sustained what appeared to be a serious right knee injury in the second quarter. He was carted into the locker room and was immediately ruled out for the game. Dobbs is the only 49ers player who has a role on each of the 49ers' special-teams units. He returned to action after missing a game for being arrested on suspicion of DUI and alleged marijuana possession. . . The 49ers entered the game with six consecutive victories at home against AFC opponents. The 49ers outscored the opposition 146-44 in those games and did not surrender a touchdown in four of those games. . . . In the five previous games in which the 49ers lost the previous game in the Jim Harbaugh era, the 49ers did not allow a touchdown. The 49ers lost to the St. Louis Rams last week. The Dolphins got into the end zone on tight end Anthony Fasano's 3-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Ryan Tannehill with 7:55 remaining in the fourth quarter.

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